The competency-based educational (CBE) model has been used successfully in higher education for the past two decades, and it is starting to gain national traction at the P-12 level. Several states, particularly on the east coast, have already come to appreciate its benefits. The Marzano Academy at Lomie G. Heard Elementary School, a new magnet charter school focusing on STEM will open its doors this fall under the CBE model. The state of Illinois currently has 10 school districts that will begin a pilot in academic year 2018-19 under the Illinois’ Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program.
Within CBE, learners must demonstrate what they know and are able to do through carefully designed and calibrated assessments. Expectations are clear and well-defined, and there is thoughtful, purposeful alignment between curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
It’s All About Learning
This model is truly learner-centered: Seat time becomes less important than learning time. Students are able to drive their own learning and work at their own pace within structured guidelines. They are supported through meaningful feedback and mentoring.
Parents and caregivers feel more informed about their child’s progress under the CBE model. They know what their student is learning, their learning goals, progress, and their level of proficiency in each skill set. This helps them to partner with teachers to provide additional support at home.
Teachers recognize the positive impact the CBE model has on student learning and development. They are able to easily track the progress of each student on a daily basis, and they know exactly when a learner needs additional support.
School leaders are able to support teachers more effectively when they know exactly what their needs are. With the CBE model, they can provide strategic assistance through forming a mentoring network to support struggling students; through building school-community partnerships; through offering targeted professional development support, and the like.
Before making a decision to develop one or more programs based on the CBE model, educators must consider the following major questions:
- Would CBE align with our school’s mission and vision?
- What are the benefits of CBE for our students?
- What are the challenges and caveats of CBE?
- What are the basic steps needed to convert our current curriculum to the CBE model?
- How can we train and support our faculty and staff so they could implement the CBE model successfully?
- Could our school commit to a pilot lasting at least five years so we can fully measure the impact CBE has had on our learners?
The Bottom Line
Competency-based education is NOT a shortcut nor an easy fix to serious school challenges. However, if built correctly and maintained properly, the CBE model can prove to be a powerful way to increase student learning, achievement, and satisfaction.
Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national expert in quality assurance, educator preparation, and empowerment-based learning. She supports educational institutions in areas such as accreditation, institutional effectiveness, competency-based education, and virtual teaching & learning. Roberta can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com).
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