Federal ESEA conversations support shift to competency education

Senate Chairman's ESEA reauthorization discussion draft would enable states to implement competency-based assessment systems
Washington, D.C.

As a growing number of states and districts adopt competency-based models and practices, federal policy must evolve to support education systems that focus on students’ mastery of academic content and skills instead of seat time.

Today, KnowledgeWorks commends Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) for recognizing the growing interest in a competency-based education system in his discussion draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

“Competency education will require a new approach to assessment, enabling states to build systems that ensure all students master the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in college and career," said Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy. "The current system’s time-based barriers make it nearly impossible for states to advance competency education, giving them no other option but to build two systems simultaneously."

Alexander’s discussion draft proposes to give states the option of implementing competency-based assessment systems, as well as permission to use federal assessment funds to build these systems. It also upholds the federal commitment to annual, transparent data.

While the discussion draft raises many key issues, it creates opportunity to consider input from a wide range of stakeholders.

“There’s proof around the country that competency education can be an effective option in creating a highly personalized environment focused on driving student success,” said Matt Williams, KnowledgeWorks Vice President Policy and Advocacy. “We look forward to working with Sen. Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), as well as all members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and all stakeholders to advance an ESEA reauthorization that upholds rigorous accountability while supporting states in the design of next-generation competency-based education systems.”

KnowledgeWorks and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) have created joint ESEA recommendations for competency education. Pace and Williams will be available for interview. If interested, contact Mary Kenkel at 513-929-1310.


KnowledgeWorks is a social enterprise focused on ensuring that every student experiences meaningful personalized learning that allows him or her to thrive in college, career and civic life. By offering a portfolio of innovative education approaches and advancing aligned policies, KnowledgeWorks seeks to activate and develop the capacity of communities and educators to build and sustain vibrant learning ecosystems that allow each student to thrive. Our portfolio includes EDWorks and StriveTogether.   http://knowledgeworks.org/


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