Virtual School Meanderings

March 13, 2017

Reports Look at Policies and Measuring Student Knowledge in Competency-Based Education

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Reports Look at Policies and Measuring Student Knowledge in Competency-Based Education

 has released two reports on competency-based education. In competency-based education—also known as proficiency-based, mastery-based, and performance-based education—students must demonstrate mastery of course content to be promoted to the next class or grade, rather than spending a required number of hours in a class and meeting minimum course requirements to earn course credit.

Measuring student progress and teachers’ assessment of student knowledge in a competency-based education system
This report examines the amount of time elementary and middle school students took to complete competency-based math and literacy classes when they were in classes below, at, or above their traditional age-based grades. It also examines the relationship between student performance on a state achievement test and teacher judgments of student competency. The study found that a majority of students took four academic quarters to complete a class. On average, students who were below grade level took less time to complete their courses than students who were in courses corresponding to their traditional grade level. Teacher ratings of student competency showed a positive, but small association with student academic achievement. Teacher ratings of student competency accurately predicted the academic proficiency level of 40 percent of students on the state math achievement test and 59 percent of students on the state literacy test.

Overview of selected state policies and supports related to K–12 competency-based education
This report provides an overview of state laws and regulations that can have implications for competency-based education. Policies are summarized for the seven states in the REL Central Region (Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming), as well as five states outside the region identified as being advanced in aligning their policies to support competency-based education (Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, and Oregon). The report also categorizes the different types of supports these states have provided to facilitate competency-based education. State-provided supports for competency-based education include information and technical assistance, support for education collaboratives, and funding for pilot programs and demonstration sites. The report provides a description of each policy category and related supports, as well as a discussion of how each may be relevant to competency-based education.

The Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) build the capacity of educators to use data and research to improve student outcomes. Each REL responds to needs identified in its region and makes learning opportunities and other resources available to educators throughout the United States. The REL program is a part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) in the U.S. Department of Education. To receive regular updates on REL work, including events and reports, follow IES on Facebook and Twitter. To provide feedback on this or other REL work, email

The Institute of Education Sciences, a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the nation’s leading source for rigorous, independent education research, evaluation and statistics.
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