Organizations: Spotlight On Competency And Proficiency Based Learning

May 20, 2018

Has the competency-based, or proficiency-based education movement hit your school, district, or state yet? This movement has gained substantial prominence in the last decade based on the concept that our grades and transcript based system of capturing student learning doesn't quite fit the bill.


Based on this theory, the industrial-style of education is becoming more anachronistic to demands of the 21st-Century economy which values communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. A competency-based learning structure, they claim, aligns more with what students will be asked to when they enter college and the workforce.


Now, whether you call it competency- or proficiency-based, the definition is this: An instructional model designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of skills and knowledge shown through student-centered activities, as opposed to standard types of assessments currently the norm, and often with personalized learning embedded to provide flexible pacing for achievement.


The movement is still going strong and continues to gain traction. Here are some organizations that continue to innovate, implement, and take forward to promise of new learning models to help students advance and gain true mastery.


Did we miss an organization? Do you have more to add to the story? Contact us!







Building 21, http://building21.org/ 
Philadelphia, PA


Building 21 is non-profit that is taking on a different approach to secondary schooling to better address the needs of the 21st-Century student, run by Laura Shubilla and Chip Linehan. It was founded by three Harvard Doctoral candidates in February 2012. Its mission is Empowering networks of learners to connect with their passions and build agency to impact their world. 
Building 21 partners with school districts to design, launch, and operate schools using these models. They utilize an open-source curricular model that can be used by schools. This includes competencies in four clusters: Wayfinding Experiences, Habits of Success, Nextgen Essentials, and Academic Competencies; and five driving principles: Personalized Learning Pathway, Strong Relationships, Problem-based Learning, Real-World Learning Experience, and Competency-based Assessment.


Not only do they offer the open source resources and partner with districts around the country, Building 21 has implemented their model in two schools in Pennsylvania, Allentown and Philadelphia. Both school are non-selective enrollment public high schools that aim to create authentic school experiences that are designed to meet the needs of the young people they serve.









Great Schools Partnership, https://www.greatschoolspartnership.org/ 
Portland, ME


Great Schools Partnership (GSP) is a not-for-profit organization located in Portland, Maine focused on redesigning public education and working to improve learning for all students, run by David Ruff. The mission of GSP is to “[d]evelop and advocate for sustainable educational policies, effective school leadership, proven instructional practices, and student-centered learning models built on strong community connections.” This is done by working with stakeholders from the classroom to state legislatures. GSP offers coaching for districts and schools, technical assistance, and PD opportunities.


With a vision of “[a]n equitable, rigorous, and personalized education system that prepares every student for college, careers, and global citizenship.” GSP works to provide resources for those interested in using proficiency-based learning as a model for students to demonstrate mastery. Not only to have resources to help plan for implementing proficiency-based learning but also providing information for counselors to help navigate how proficiency-based learning models translate to college and career readiness, graduation, and college admissions. 









Mastery Transcript Consortium
Gates Mills, OH


Headed up by Stacy Caldwell, Mastery Transcript Consortium (MTC) is a group of high schools which focuses on developing and spreading an alternative model for crediting and generating transcripts. Through their vision “MTC “hopes to change the relationship between preparation for college and college admissions for the betterment of students.” “Students need to show mastery of skills, knowledge, and habits of mind in this model by providing evidence that is assessed using a standard of mastery in each area.”

MTC partners with universities and independent school to reimagine what it means to “graduate” from high school. They offer independent schools of like mind a chance to become members of the consortium in the hope of promoting change away from traditional assessment and Carnegie Units, to a mastery-based model. The base of this model centers on a technology platform that generates an electronic Mastery Transcript showing the specific standards that have been met by students. 








reDesign, http://www.redesignu.org/
Boston, MA


reDesign states their mission as such: “to support educators in the design and implementation of learning communities that will serve our most marginalized students.” reDesign offers a myriad of services to the education community. These services include School Model Design, Curriculum and Assessment Design, Instructional Coaching and Professional Development, Mastery Learning Systems Design, Network-Level Program Design, Leadership Coaching, and Knowledge-Building.


reDesign focuses on providing services to clients with a social mission as its driving force. They use design principles to reimagine teaching and learning for the most vulnerable and marginalized students in the country. This work centers on three key “levers of impact” which are strategic design, educator capacity-building, and knowledge-building.






Next Generation Learning Challenges, https://www.nextgenlearning.org/ 
Louisville, CO


Next Generation Learning Challenges is an organization created by Educause that aims to help teachers and educational leaders re-imagine the structure of learning. NGLC believes that learning should be personalized, flexible, interactive and engaging, relevant, organized around the learner’s progress, constantly, collaborative, agile and supportive, challenging but achievable, and equitable.


NGLC provides a platform for educators and leaders to address challenges in educations in a collaborative way. They challenges that NGLC focuses on are: Why School Need to change, Designing for Equity, New Designs for Schools, Building Community, Reimagining Assessment, Professional Learning, Technology Tools, and Enabling Change. Further, NGCL provides resources in the form of Next Gen Tools, Practitioner’s Guide, and School Profiles. These resources can be utilized to help promote the mission of NGLC:


“Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) supports the educators who are reimagining public education. NGLC helps them apply what we now know about learning to school design; we help them live next gen learning professionally; and we work with them to generate environments in which next gen learning can flourish.”


We'd love to hear more about how proficiency- or competency-based learning has impacted your thinking around education, especially around its utility in admissions. Share your thoughts and reach out to us!

Please reload

Our Recent Posts

Read More

Please reload

How Traveling Counselors Book Cheap Car Rentals

The Truth About Essays: Don't Be Afraid of Writing

Q + A with Jess | What Should I Do With My Senior Year?

Please reload