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Competency-Based Education Takes Center Stage in Washington Discussion

November 20, 2013

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​Representatives from educational institutions, accreditation groups and the U.S. Department of Labor and other experts gathered Monday in Washington to discuss the growing field of competency-based education and community colleges’ role in its development and implementation.

Competency-based education, according to the groups’ definition, is a heightened emphasis on student learning through methods like dual-enrollment systems, work experiences and externships, and online and blended learning, rather than traditional credit hour and grading.

The event was hosted by the New America Foundation and cosponsored by ACE, the American Association of Community Colleges and Western Governors University.

As a kickoff to the event, Eric Seleznow of the Department of Labor welcomed participants, remarking on the promise of competency-based education to the nation’s economy. Sally Johnstone of Western Governors University then provided an overview of that institution’s model, widely regarded as a leader in the field.

Two panels followed: the first looked at the role of college leaders and featured Jerrilee Mosier, chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College, Northeast; Linda Howdyshell, provost of Broward College (FL); Dan Phelan, president of Jackson Community College (MI); and Mary Alice McCarthy of the New America Foundation. The four explored their experiences in implementing competency-based education initiatives on their campuses, including collaborations with faculty, local businesses and others critical for success.

Louis Soares, ACE vice president for policy research and strategy, moderated a second panel on implications for policy and practice, with Jay Box, chancellor of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System; Amy Laitinen, the deputy director of higher education at NAF; and Belle Whelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Among the topics that surfaced were applying competency-based learning principles beyond community colleges, the need to test these initiatives for quality, and the accreditor’s evolving role.

To watch an archived video of the event, visit the New America Foundation website

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