'Competency-Based Pathways' Necessary to Preparing Students for Twenty-First Century Workforce, Report Finds

Young people should be assessed and advanced through the K-12 education process based on their own timeline of achieving pre-determined competencies, rather than the current policy of advancing learners based primarily on seat time, a new study from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) finds.

Sponsored by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the report, When Failure Is Not an Option: Designing Competency-Based Pathways for Next Generation Learners (42 pages, PDF), argues that current K-12 policy is outdated and expensive. Moreover, it doesn't help students who need extra time to master concepts or those who are ready to accelerate, according to iNACOL president and CEO Susan Patrick, co-author of the report.

To promote a deeper understanding of K-12 policies and practices, the report also outlines a variety of explorations into next-generation learning taking place nationwide as well as the technological advancements that are opening up new student-centered, performance-based, "anytime, anywhere" educational opportunities.

"We must, as a nation, begin dramatically increasing the number of young people from all populations who possess the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in today's world," said NMEF director of policy Charles E. Toulmin. "To do that, we must begin to ensure that we are appropriately and thoroughly measuring whether students have learned what they need to know. The pathways described in this report meet students where they are, provide them the supports necessary to master competencies before moving on, and allow them the flexibility to do so at their own pace."