By Katrina Schwartz
In 2005, New Hampshire’s Department of Education set a policy requiring schools to implement a competency-based system, but didn’t define the specific skills each school would be expected to master. State education leaders hoped that the policy would push schools towards a system in which students would not advance unless they could demonstrate proficiency in every core competency. But schools across the state have interpreted the directive in very different ways and set those competencies both broadly and narrowly.
“There wasn’t any training nor was there funding for it,” said Ryan Kaplan, Principal of Windham High School in New Hampshire.” Every school had to figure it out on their own.” Windham is in its fifth year of existence and is still working for official accreditation from the state. While it might seem easier to start an alternative teaching and assessment practice like competency-based learning in a new school, Windham educators have focused efforts elsewhere. The school has interpreted competencies broadly and has maintained a traditional grading system based on the 100 point scale, averaging scores on various assignments to get a passing grade.