State Policy Resources

General Resources

New! Policy and Implementation Tool (attached below) developed by the Hewlett Foundation and Introduced at February 2013 Innovation Lab Network Meeting.

Check Out!  A Snapshot of Competency Education State Policy Across the United States

From Cracking the Code: Synchronizing Policy and Practice for Performance-Based Learning

At the Summit, Gene Wilhoit offered a historical perspective on how “good” state policies are defined very differently today from the way they were even five years ago.

Historically, state policy would be considered “good” because it was very clear. It would help the state departments of education administer rules and regulations usually set outside the agency. A primary function of a state department of education was to be a keeper of established policies. Policies were often stated as institutional priorities or adult needs in the system. Policies defined how adults and students would act and the procedures to follow. States measured success by how well everyone was complying in carrying out policies in the same way.

Wilhoit explained how state departments of education have redefined themselves as “on a mission for transforming the system to meet a set of higher expectations.” Marginal improvements are inadequate under the global challenge to simultaneously lift academic standards, eliminate the achievement gap, personalize instruction, and discover greater cost-effectiveness. The traditional approach emphasizing compliance “becomes suspect as state departments of education strive to encourage innovation.”

Within the context of next generation learning, what makes “good” state policy is going to be very different. He outlined a new set of principles as a framework for state policy.

  • Drive Policy by Student Learning Outcomes: Focus on student learning and student learning outcomes. First and foremost, policies should be made to support the needs of students.
  • Guard High Academic Standards: States will need to be vigilant to ensure that academic expectations do not slip, resulting in lower achievement for groups of students. Focus on equity with high expectations for all students.
  • Expand Student Options: State policies should expand, not limit, the options that students have to reach learning outcomes.
  • Create Shared Vision: Policy development cannot be top-down. It will be important to keep communication open, inviting stakeholders to contribute to the vision and the steps to get there.
  • Offer Districts and Schools Flexibility: Be clear about desired outcomes and then provide incentives for educators to take different pathways to achieve the goal. Remove process rules and regulations in order to allow and encourage innovation.
  • Commit to Continuous Improvement: Policy will need to evolve as we learn more about the dynamics of next generation learning, requiring ongoing improvement efforts.


A Closer Look at State Policy


 A few states are racing ahead, designing policies that boldly advance competency-based learning. They provide excellent building blocks in the nascent field of competency-based systems for designing comprehensive state policy frameworks. Drawing upon the lessons learned from the most advanced states, an initial starting point for aligning the policy infrastructure include: 
  • Eliminate seat-time and redefine awarding credits based on competencies.
  • Require districts to offer competency-based credits so that students have competency-based options. 
  • Provide support mechanisms including technical assistance providers to create competencies, train teachers, and establish information management systems.
  • Establish quality-control mechanisms to safeguard equity and to ensure that higher expectations for student learning are not compromised. 
  • Expand learning options in the community, after school, and in online courses.
  • Align higher education with K–12 competency-based efforts. Teacher training, college admissions, and streamlining budgets to support accelerated learning are all critical elements to creating a sustainable competency-based approach.
  • Design balanced assessment systems and accountability systems that provide valuable information for improving student learning and school performance. 

States include


Those states with pilots of competency education, credit flexibility policies or advanced next generation policies. Increasingly, states are creating policies that create opportunities for innovation through pilots or credit flexibility.  These policies provide districts with the ability to use competency-based learning instead of seat-time. There are two drawbacks to promoting innovation through credit flexibilty. First, it relies on districts taking advantage of the enabling policy. Experience in other states suggests that there is rarely much uptake unless the state provides supportive mechanisms such as training, technical assistance, peer networks, or pilots. Second, there is a risk of districts implementing credit flexibility with inconsistent attention to quality and the level of academic standards. States may need to establish quality-control mechanisms.

States include

States with seat-time waivers or task forces exploring competency education.

States include

Not Yet Advancing Competency-Based Education
(* indicates competency-based school/district has been identified within the state)

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chris sturgis,
Apr 9, 2013, 8:10 AM