Competency-based education is gaining traction in states

iNACOL report provides case studies of eight states’ funding strategies and outlines additional steps to fund innovation and change.

Almost every state in the U.S. has taken action to encourage schools and districts to move to personalized, competency-based education, according to a new report from iNACOL, a national nonprofit focused on transforming education systems to ensure high-quality learning for all students.

The challenge, as is common in K-12 education, is finding the funding.

“Effectively planning, launching and scaling high-quality, personalized, competency-based learning often requires a focused approach to fund statewide initiatives to build educator capacity for student-centered learning,” the report notes.

To help states accomplish this, the report provides an overview of federal funding sources available through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The congressional spending bill appropriated funding for fiscal year 2018 “and will allow states and districts to access significantly more funds for innovation” than in the previous fiscal year, including portions of Title I, Part A grants; Title II, Part A funds; and Title IV, Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, according to the report.


Just as states are realizing that one-size-fits-all is not a good model for K-12 education, iNACOL does not suggest a single set of “best practices” for funding the transition to competency-based learning. Instead, the report lays out a five-step plan for a state to build its own approach:

Action step No. 1 — Learn about how other states are funding innovation pilots, professional learning communities, professional development, technical assistance and other state initiatives to build educator and school leader capacity for transforming K-12 education;

Action step No. 2 — Engage districts, communities and state stakeholders to identify the areas where funding is needed to increase capacity;

Action step No. 3 — With stakeholders, identify existing sources of funding that could be repurposed for capacity building and whether additional funds should be requested;

Action step No. 4 — Identify the funding levels needed, the funding targets and the purposes and uses of those funds; and


Action step No. 5 — Create and engage with a working group composed of a diverse cross-section of education and community leaders to study innovative funding approaches to school finance from other states and countries. Convene the group to design education funding formulas to align with student-centered learning models and ensure equitable funding for all students.

The report includes case studies of eight states’ funding strategies — Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Arkansas, South Carolina, Utah, Idaho and Georgia — to support capacity-building activities to achieve personalized, competency-based learning.

“These case studies demonstrate the diverse approaches states have taken to fund initiatives to build educator capacity for personalized, competency-based education,” the report states. “Few states rely on a single funding source to support these initiatives. Many states leverage multiple governmental and third-party funding sources to enable the work. In addition, many states harness partnerships with education stakeholders and nonprofit organizations to provide professional development and technical assistance, and to create professional learning communities. Dedicated appropriations and state funding sources, however, are effective tools to create momentum in a state and more quickly scale personalized, competency-based learning models.”

Reach the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @edscoop_news .

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