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Competency-Based Education in Three Pilot Programs

Competency-Based Education in Three Pilot Programs: Examining Implementation and Outcomes

Jennifer L. Steele
Matthew W. Lewis
Lucrecia Santibañez
Susannah Faxon-Mills
Mollie Rudnick
Brian M. Stecher
Laura S. Hamilton
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Competency-Based Education in Three Pilot Programs
    Book Description:

    Competency-based education meets students where they are academically, provides students with opportunities for choice, and awards credit for evidence of learning, not for the time students spend studying a subject. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation asked RAND to evaluate three competency-based education grants in terms of implementation, students’ experiences, and student performance.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8960-1
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The movement toward proficiency-based or competency-based education is gaining momentum in both kindergarten through 12th grade (K–12) and postsecondary education settings, spurred in part by advances in digital learning technologies (Priest, Rudenstine, Weisstein, and Gerwin, 2012; Soares, 2012). These approaches allow students to progress at their own pace through a sequence of personalized learning experiences. In a competency-based system, students receive credit not as a function of how much time they spend studying a subject but based on demonstrations and assessments of their learning. Instruction is tailored to students’ current level of knowledge and skills, and students are not...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Evaluation Settings and Methodological Approach
    (pp. 13-22)

    This report describes the implementation of the three Project Mastery pilot programs undertaken in five school districts during the 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 academic years. It also describes the student performance outcomes associated with the inception of competency-based education in each of the sites, though some sites had adopted competency-based models that predated the Project Mastery grants themselves. As noted in Chapter One, each pilot program was multifaceted and distinctive. In addition, each incorporated technology in ways designed to enhance student engagement and learning.

    This chapter discusses the implementation contexts in each site, including the size and demographic characteristics...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Intervention Development and Implementation
    (pp. 23-40)

    As part of its Project Mastery proposal, each grantee committed to build or purchase curriculum materials and instructional tools that would facilitate competency-based instruction. In the timeline of the project, the 2011–2012 school year was designated primarily for intervention development, and 2012–2013 was designated for implementation of the newly developed tools. In practice, the activities of the two project years were somewhat less discrete, in that some of the sites began implementing their new tools during 2011–2012, and some of the product development and refinement continued into 2012–2013.

    In the first part of this chapter, we...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Tensions in the Implementation of Competency-Based Models
    (pp. 41-50)

    This chapter focuses on key tensions and questions that arose across sites as competency-based education was being implemented. We offer a brief description of each of these tensions and examples of how they were manifested in the Project Mastery sites. The tensions converged around the kinds of student work that could be counted for credit and who judges that evidence; how to hold students to a common definition of proficiency; how to make personalized, choice-enabled learning experiences sustainable at scale; and how to promote equitable outcomes within highly personalized systems.

    One key tension that emerged in the study revolved around...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Students’ Experiences in the Project Mastery Pilot Classes
    (pp. 51-62)

    In this chapter, we discuss students’ self-reports from each site about their learning experiences in their Project Mastery classrooms. As discussed in Chapter Two, surveys were distributed in May 2013, near the end of study Year 2, to students in classrooms that the sites reported to be most closely affiliated with the Project Mastery pilot, or (in Asia Society sites) to competency-based approaches. Students were surveyed during class time with assistance from the classroom teachers and project leaders, though participation was optional. Parents received passive informed consent documents in advance of the survey administration, but none chose to opt their...

  14. CHAPTER SIX Student Outcomes in the Project Mastery Sites
    (pp. 63-94)

    This chapter describes our findings on student outcome in each of the Project Mastery sites. As described in Chapter Two, we vary our analytic approach for each site due to marked variation in the scope and timing of each intervention. Each of the sections that follows focuses on one of the three Project Mastery initiatives: Adams 50, Asia Society, and Philadelphia. Each discussion of the outcomes is preceded by a detailed discussion of our particular data and methods for that analysis. We conclude the chapter with a cross-site summary of the outcome findings.

    In Adams 50, we estimated the effects...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Conclusion
    (pp. 95-102)

    This report presents findings from a mixed-method, multisite study of competency-based education in three pilot programs. The pilots, which were funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Project Mastery grant initiative, were carried out in the 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 academic years. They included 11 schools distributed across five school districts in four states. The pilot initiatives were heterogeneous in terms of both their scope and emphasis, but they shared two main features. First, all focused on technology-enriched models in secondary schools. Second, nearly all focused on urban or suburban schools that served a large share of low-income...

  16. References
    (pp. 103-106)