No longer is it necessary for students to spend four years in high school or four years in college to earn the right to say they graduated. Schools and colleges across the country are giving students the opportunity to demonstrate what they know at their own pace, whether or not that fits into the traditional four-year graduation timeline. This allows students more schedule flexibility, and they can also tailor what they need to learn based on what they already know.
The U.S. Department of Education notes that some of the strategies high school-level institutions are using “include online and blended learning, dual enrollment and early college high schools, project-based and community-based learning, and credit recovery, among others.” The Department of Education also explains that “[t]his type of learning leads to better student engagement because the content is relevant to each student and tailored to their unique needs. It also leads to better student outcomes because the pace of learning is customized to each student.”
School districts and states throughout the country have established competency-based learning models to help their students succeed. For example, Adams County School District 50 in rural Colorado instituted 10 learning levels that students work through as quickly or as slowly as they want. This system takes the place of grade levels. Additionally, Ohio’s Credit Flexibility Plan adopted in 2009 enables students to get credit by showing what they know, sitting in the classroom, or combining the two. They can demonstrate competency in internships, community service, online learning, studying on their own, and traveling with an educational purpose.
Imagine the potential competency-based learning could have on students who want to earn science or technology credits through study of computer science, coding, or web or app development. Online coding courses and after-school coding clubs are two examples of opportunities that students could take advantage of to earn high school credit. They would gain 21st century career and life skills like critical thinking, perseverance, and the ability to build websites and software, all without being limited by high schools that may not have access to the latest technology in their computer labs or teaching faculty.