The development of an effective assessment system begins with the question of what benefits learners will get. The present design of the K-12 assessment has so far delivered the desired progress. National Research Council (2012) states that after decades of alterations of various policies, the current K-12 education and assessment system has improved on-time rates of high school graduation inching up to 82%. However, despite these improvements there is clear inequity for Latinos, Native Americans and African Americans who continue to graduate at much lower rates of 64, 76, 70, and 73 percent respectively. Of these numbers, the majority who do not graduate, about 25% of the number are from all socioeconomic groups requiring a remedial course in college which is costly. Graduates are entering the employment industry directly from high school fare no better an indication that high schools are not doing better to prepare these individuals to meet workplace expectations. These are indications that the current K-12 system does not deliver to students what they need and such implications ripple through their lives, family, community, and the overall economy. This research proposes the incorporation of competency-based assessment within the current K-12 assessment in order to produce graduates who are adequately skilled for college and career.
To begin, it is worth question the purpose of the current K-12 system and what are the results that should be delivered? Since the inception, of public education, there has been much evolution, and today, each district has its own understanding of the purpose of education and assessment. Increasingly, the purpose of education has been to prepare learners for college and be career ready or a variation of so thereof and assessment is what measures it (Peregoy, Boyle, & Cadiero-Kaplan, 2013). However, despite this clear definition of purpose, the real meaning of being career and college ready is not evident within the contemporary K-12 system. Studies conducted to measure the job readiness of senior high school graduates have shown that a good number of them are not skilled in working without prior training. Such discovery points at the duds of the current K-12 assessment that only focuses on knowledge rather than practicality. In yet another study, Venezia, Kirst, and Antonio (2008) after evaluating whether K-12 national standards discovered that majority of high school graduates showed little college readiness confirming that these students are not well prepared. Although there can be a difference in the terminologies used, there is a uniformity among districts in the issuing of academic credits, district graduation exams, and the accountability exams to gauge outcomes of learning. For the majority of these tests, the elements that are given much priority are content knowledge rather than skills with the focus on a narrow set of concepts majorly related to English language and Mathematics. It is for such reason that when such graduates enter the work industry lack competency to perform well. Subsequently, there is a need for the restructuring of the current K-12 system of assessment to a higher quality system which is competency based.
The competency-based system of learning and assessment starts with what the community aspires from a student. What K-12 delivers after 12 years of learning is of insufficient outcome to these learners. Students can articulate their visions and use such visions as the guide in finding the path towards their future. This is a vision that should be made available for all students including those from a limited set of background. While college and career readiness are essential in an educational system, the definition of such in most district schools is somewhat limited something that competency-based education is out to correct. For this reason, it is essential to discuss the intended purpose of competency-based education.
Unlike the traditional model of the K-12 system, competency-based design place emphasis on the lifelong skills that will be vital after completion of learning. Such skills such as a growth mindset, metacognition, advocacy, problem-solving, creativity, collaboration alongside academic content knowledge and skills. Districts that are considering incorporating competency-based systems in their K-12 model shares hold the belief that such change can facilitate the process of learners going through high school and graduating with lifelong skills to be societal leaders and agents of their success. This should be achieved regardless of being in a career job, furthering their studies or navigating the complex world outside school. The emphasis of assessment in competency-based is different as compared to that of K-12. The K-12 assessment is considered part of the learning cycle and more of a quality control method. Competency-based programs emphasize on credentials of skills including such aspects of direct evaluation to recognize the skills these students have developed (Cheng, Wang, Yang, & Peng, 2011). The competitive assessment equally involves other ways of aggregating credits that goes beyond degrees. There are badges and other stackable credentials especially in line with technology as a field. Once the core concepts of competency assessment are grasped, there is the enormous potential of creating an entirely new way for high school learners to build their skills in colleges as well as their career.
Even though it is more than a decade since the inception of competency-based assessment, it has not been implemented because of some reasons that are political and legal. The main implementers of this model will be teachers, and it will be required that they be trained. Critics have objected this move citing the costs associated with the recruitment and preparation of the teachers. The basis for practicing competency-based learning and assessment requires that the teachers have the necessary practical skills, knowledge, and pedagogic experience. In addition, the government requires that its education system follow the K-12 system which is the official one and until the government approves the competency-based assessment little can be done. Educators against competency-based assessment question its effectiveness in determining the quality of learning. This is because the model requires the teacher to access the student and with their evaluation gauge whether the student has learned. Also, the model requires much practicality from learners that might interfere with their acquisition of knowledge that is also important in learning.
In conclusion, the incorporation of competency-based assessment within the current K-12 assessment can help produce graduates who are adequately skilled for college and careers. This is because the model promotes practicality that is crucial in the acquisition of necessary skills. The current K-12 model offers little training on such skills and only gives grades on knowledge acquired in the classroom. However, it is practicality and skills that are important at work and college. In light of the above discussion, it would be worthwhile to redesign the current assessment model to a competitive based one to ensure future production of skilled graduates.
Cheng, B., Wang, M., Yang, S. J., & Peng, J. (2011). Acceptance of competency-based workplace e-learning systems: Effects of individual and peer learning support. Computers & Education, 57(1), 1317-1333.
National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. National Academies Press.
Peregoy, S. F., Boyle, O., & Cadiero-Kaplan, K. (2013). Reading, writing, and learning in ESL: A resource book for teaching K-12 English learners. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Venezia, A., Kirst, M. W., & Antonio, A. L. (2008). Betraying the college dream: How disconnected K-12 and postsecondary education systems undermine student aspirations.
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