Presents competency-based education as a strategy to address the needs of nontraditional, overage, and under-credited students, examines competency-based education policies in four states—Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, and Ohio—and provides policy recommendations for states seeking to support this education approach.

“This brief provides an overview of one strategy aimed at addressing the challenges faced by…[non-traditional, overage, and under-credited] students: competency-based education (CBE)” (p.1). It provides state policies using CBE, as well as programming examples showcasing how a CBE approach can support non-traditional students.

“[T]he K–12 education system is increasingly turning…toward ensuring that all students are prepared for college and careers. Despite these efforts, approximately 2.6 million youth between 16 and 24 years of age are off track for even graduating from high school….One of the biggest challenges is that students may not be able to complete high school in a traditional setting, or they may not be motivated to do so. This is particularly true for students who are overage and behind in credit hours…. CBE may improve college and career readiness outcomes for overage, under-credited (OA/UC) students by allowing them to develop at their own pace the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed in the workforce. This brief highlights state policies and emerging CBE strategies for helping OA/UC students graduate from high school better prepared for postsecondary education and work, and it includes policy actions that states can take” (p.1).

“CBE is a student-centered strategy that relies on the core elements of mastery, pacing, and personalized instruction to meet the needs of OA/UC students” "OA/UC students are students who do not have the appropriate number of credits for their age and intended grade and who are at risk of falling behind, dropping out, or aging out of school” “In CBE settings, students progress at their own pace to the next level or grade level once they have demonstrated mastery of specified content knowledge and/or skills. Learning objectives are measured through…assessments aimed at determining proficiency in a particular area” (p.1).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)


Major Findings & Recommendations

“The following recommendations are derived from the state policy and programmatic examples highlighted in this brief, along with other important considerations for utilizing CBE to support OA/UC students. Developing Knowledge and Capacity States may want to consider completing…policy and programmatic scans of their state to learn what current policies exist for meeting the needs of OA/UC students” (p.5). “[S]tates may need to search for policies on dropout prevention, credit recovery, or alternative graduation requirements…to find relevant policies that utilize CBE….States may also want to scan for effective programs in their state that serve OA/UC youth and/or utilize elements of CBE…in their local context….[T]hey may want to collect demographic data on OA/UC students….States may also consider ways to support school leadership and teacher professional development and capacity building…at the state, district, school, and program levels…to provide CBE” (p.6). “Seat-Time and School Design Flexibility States may explore supporting a variety of learning and assessment options that use elements of CBE that allow students to advance…based on mastery of academic goals or competencies….States can support flexible school designs to encourage ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning for OA/UC students. These school designs may include blended and online learning opportunities…concurrent and dual enrollment…and schools that are open throughout the day, evening, weekend, and summers…to accommodate diverse learning needs and nontraditional schedules” (p.6). “Student Retention and Credit Recovery…. States can also change accountability parameters for schools regarding graduation rates, by extending them beyond the traditional 4 years of high school….[S]tates can create incentives for school districts to retain or reenroll OA/UC youth in school….In cases in which students have not met the traditional proficiency requirements, states may explore the development of opportunities for credit recovery and alternative graduation criteria, including proficiency examinations…online courses…or essays, senior projects, or portfolios of work…to receive a high school diploma” (p.6). “Targeted Support….. States may also consider incorporating social and emotional, college and career planning and exploration…and other wraparound supports…that specifically target OA/UC students, truant students, dropouts, or those at risk of dropping out” (p.7). (Abstractor: Author)