Recently Released State Policy Framework Provides Guidance to States to Advance Competency-Based Pathways

Achieve has released a new state policy framework, Advancing Competency-Based Pathways to College and Career Readiness, to support state education policymakers in envisioning and planning for policies that encourage student-centered approaches designed to help all students learn the full scope of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The framework focuses on helping states reach a definition of competency at a level of rigor that equates with college and career readiness, which requires them to address three major policy areas: graduation requirements, assessment and accountability. Within each of these areas, it clarifies the unique purpose each has in a competency-based learning environment, identifies key policy questions, and suggests potential options and policy levers for states. It also lays out several approaches that states can take to envision what competency-based pathways (CBP) will look like within their states and how it will take root in schools and districts.  The framework suggests several characteristics of CBP that can help all students reach the CCSS:

  • Students advance upon demonstrated mastery.
  • Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  • Assessments are meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  • Students receive rapid, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include the application and creation of knowledge.

These characteristics were adapted from a working definition of CBP, developed by Susan Patrick, President and CEO of iNACOL and Chris Sturgis, Founder of MetisNet - both members of Achieve's Competency-Based Pathways Working Group, which provided extraordinary guidance and feedback in the development of the framework. Launched in August 2012, the Working Group includes a number of states and organizations with strong interest in CBP as a mechanism for helping far more students reach college and career readiness. Member states include Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin. Organizations include Advance Illinois, Alliance for Excellent Education, Business Education Compact, Carpe Diem, CCSSO, Data Quality Campaign, Digital Learning Now, iNACOL, MetisNet, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Nellie Mae Education Foundation and Western Governors University.

In the fall, Achieve will release more resources on CBP, including a school-level report card and policy brief particularly designed to support state policy that advances CBP with an emphasis on ensuring equity for all students.

For more information on the state policy framework and/or Achieve, please contact Cory Curl, Senior Fellow for Assessment and Accountability at or Anne Bowles, Senior Policy Associate at or call 202-419-1540.

Anne Bowles is a Senior Policy Associate at Achieve.

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