In Competency-based System, Educator Preparation and Support Must Evolve

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KnowledgeWorks and iNACOL release policy guide to support next generation educator workforce

As the education system begins to embrace competency education, schools, teachers and staff will need to be prepared for a more personalized environment that focuses on students’ mastery of academic content and skills instead of seat time.

As a growing numbers of states and districts adopt competency-based models and practices, they must also plan to engage and adequately prepare the workforce to excel in these new learning environments. KnowledgeWorks and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) recently released “Laying the Foundation for Competency Education: A Policy Guide for the Next Generation Educator Workforce” to help the education system prepare the shift to highly personalized, competency-based models.

“The shift to competency-education must begin with the educator workforce,” KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy and co-author Lillian Pace said. “A competency-based system will require educators to take on different roles and develop new skill sets. We must overhaul our educator preparation and development systems to give these educators the support they need to thrive in next-generation teaching environments.”

The paper provides recommendations for policy improvements in the nation’s pre-service preparation programs, state credentialing policies, professional development programs and educator evaluation systems. The paper also outlines the barriers that policymakers must address as they develop new legislation to support transformation of the education system. Pace and Worthen provide early adopter case studies, featuring Western Governors University Teachers College and New Hampshire’s approach to teacher evaluation.

"A system that prepares future educators for classrooms of the past does a disservice to teachers, students and communities," said Maria Worthen, iNACOL's Vice President for Federal and State Policy. “We must prepare aspiring educators and support those already in the profession to facilitate student-centered, personalized learning pathways for every student."

Focusing on mastery of academic knowledge and skills instead of seat time, competency education allows students to learn in highly personalized environments while ensuring they gain the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers.

“If we’re envisioning a future that supports every student’s best chance at success, competency education is a viable option,” KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler said. “Competency education will put students at the center of learning by providing personalized learning opportunities throughout their educational experiences. This paper outlines the policies that will make this transformation possible.”

Pace and Worthen shared this paper at the Grantmakers for Education annual conference in October, as well as the iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium in early November. Both Worthen and Pace are available for interview. If interested, contact Mary Kenkel at 513-929-1310.

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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.


The mission of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) is to ensure all students have access to a world-class education and quality blended and online learning opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success. iNACOL is a non-profit organization focused on research; developing policy for student-centered education to ensure equity and access; developing quality standards for emerging learning models using online, blended and competency-based education; and supporting the ongoing professional development of classroom, school, district and state leaders for new learning models.

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Mary Kenkel
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