Competency-Based Education Bill Heard in the Senate

March 1, 2019 • Krista Kaput

On February 27, the Senate’s E-12 Finance and Policy Committee had a hearing on Senate File 485, a bill that would legitimize and create the opportunity for competency-based education in Minnesota. Alongside Education Evolving, two national organizations—KnowledgeWorks and iNACOL—and the Minnesota Association of School Administrators testified in support of the bill. You can listen to the full hearing here.

The Need for Senate File 485

This bill was borne from the voices of Minnesota educators and their students. Throughout 2017 and 2018, Education Evolving spoke with over 100 educators, administrators, students, and organizational leaders around the state about policy barriers they face as they implement student-centered learning in their schools.

EE Policy Director Krista Kaput provides testimony.

A common theme we heard about these innovative school models is that they reorient their school programs to focus on mastery of critical knowledge and skills that are aligned to state standards instead of moving students along based on their time in a seat.

Importantly, in these competency-based education environments, students, families, and educators have a shared understanding of the knowledge and skills each student is expected to learn. Students understand and can articulate the competencies they have mastered, as well as their goals and plan for how they are going to master the remaining competencies, giving them more ownership and agency over their learning.

We also heard from these schools that it was important for statute to definitively permit their work—namely, make it explicit that district and charter schools can certify standards and award credit to students who demonstrate mastery of competencies that are aligned to state standards, regardless of their time in classroom instruction.

This message was reiterated by districts that had been and still are considering moving towards competency-based education, but have been hesitant to do so because statute does not explicitly permit it.

Senate File 485 meets this need.

What’s In SF485?

Senate File 485 explicitly permits competency-based education in statute and allows a school district or charter school to adopt a locally-developed competency-based education plan. Each plan must include a description of the following in its World’s Best Workforce long-term strategic plan and/or annual public report:

  • How learning outcomes emphasize mastery of competencies, including required state​ standards, and align with the goals in its World’s Best Workforce plan.
  • How competencies include explicit and measurable student learning objectives that​ provide transparency.
  • How students master competencies along a personalized and flexible pathway.
  • How local assessments are used to personalize learning experiences​ for a student.
  • How students receive timely and personalized support based on their individual​ learning needs.​

Importantly, this bill does not mandate districts or public schools to implement competency-based education, but rather legitimizes it and creates the opportunity for those who are ready. Further, it does not waive MCA requirements or allow districts to collect revenue for students in excess of 1.0 ADM.

Thank You.

We want to thank Chief Author Senator Nelson and authors Senator Anderson, Senator Wiger, Senator Clausen, and Senator Hoffman for their leadership on this issue.

Senators Nelson and Wiger with staff from Education Evolving, KnowledgeWorks, iNACOL.