Competency Based Education  

November 28, 2016

Last winter, the State Board of Education tasked the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) with exploring competency based education. Subsequently, NDE invited each school district in the state to participate in a Competency Based Education Exploratory Project. During the 2016-17 school year, those schools who indicated interest will be participating in exploratory and developmental activities to build understanding in the area of competency based learning and the related areas of standards-driven instruction, mastery learning, and the personalized learning systems needed to support it in Nebraska schools.

What does competency based learning look like? Competency based learning can be described as a system where: 
  • Students move on to the next level within a subject area only after they have demonstrated proficiency at the current level.
  • The time required to learn content is not a factor in judging students’ competencies.
  • Students have multiple opportunities and ways to learn specific content.
  • Students have multiple opportunities and ways that they can demonstrate proficiency with specific content.
  • Students have choice in the teaching and learning process.
  • Students have voice in the teaching and learning process.

Important to note are the similarities between competency based learning and what we now commonly refer to as blended learning. In recent months, NDE has partnered with the ESU Coordinating Council and the BlendEd initiative to work toward an integrated approach for continued development of the Competency Based Education Exploratory Project. In the future we should see both of these initiatives moving forward in concert with one another which would be essential to systemic implementation in schools.

In September, the Competency Based Education (CBE) Exploratory Project got underway at ESU 10 in Kearney.  Dr. Ryan Foor, the NDE project leader, arranged a two-day session on Designing Competency-Based Education facilitated by associates at Regional Educational Laboratories Central and Marzano Research. The focus for day one was to define CBE and detail the design of a CBE framework. Day two included a focused look at the first steps to implementing CBE in a school. Teams of teachers and administrators from secondary school districts, as well as post-secondary, NDE, and ESU representatives from across Nebraska attended this two-day session and began discussing the feasibility of such an initiative in the state and in local school districts. Three ESU 10 schools participated in this initial exploration of Competency Based Education:  Ansley, Central Valley, and Grand Island Public Schools.

It will be interesting to see how this project continues to develop and which school districts decide to continue exploring, and potentially implementing Competency Based Education in the future. The Nebraska Department of Education will be reaching out to those schools who participated in the September learning opportunity for input regarding how they would like to be supported moving forward.

-by Kelly Clapp, T & L Coordinator