What is Competency-based Education?
The primary–and the crucial difference between a competency based system of assessment and the traditional grading model, is that students begin a learning pathway (traditionally referred to as middle school or high school) based on assessed skill level in each content area, and not on arbitrary placement in grades (based on age). In a CB system, students are placed in Humanities, Math, and Science classes that are right for them instead of in a “grade” where the Math content might be far above their capability at the time, and Humanities content might be so easy that the student becomes bored and unengaged. Then, as students make progress in their class, they demonstrate what they have learned when they feel ready to do so. Once they demonstrate all of the benchmarks related to that class, they are rated “competent” and move on to the next class in that subject area.
Each content area (i.e. Humanities, Math, Science, Technology) is divided into modules, which correspond to an academic semester, quarter, or trimester (see ROADMAP). After being assessed for their knowledge in each content area, students are placed into the module which puts them at their “learning edge” i.e. challenging, but not overwhelming. Students progress from module to module in each content area, based on their ability to show what they have learned multiple times, independently, and using the correct vocabulary. If students finish a trimester without demonstrating competency in an area, they repeat that module–and that module only–while moving ahead in other content areas.