Kern, Diane, E

Advisor Department





Competency-based; education; high school


Recent government-backed programs such as Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind have increased competition in schools in an effort to improve student and teacher performance. However, these programs have not had as drastic an impact as many had hoped, and the United States continues to toil in the middle of the pack educationally when compared with the rest of the world.

As many students have continued to struggle in school, many different ideas have been introduced into different levels of the education system in an attempt to raise scores and boost performance. One such idea is competency-based education (CBE), which is an alternative to the traditional time-based system of public education. Rather than receiving a diploma for completing four years of high school, CBE focuses on individualization for students. Semester-long and year-long classes are replaced with a list of competencies in which students must demonstrate mastery in order to earn their diplomas.

As with any other educational concept, there is just as much criticism toward CBE as there is praise. Through a literature review, I aim to describe the benefits and drawbacks of the CBE system. I lay out the advantages CBE has that the current education system lacks while simultaneously pointing out potential flaws. In addition, student and teacher survey results from a local high school are analyzed to help determine the pros and cons of the current education system. The analysis aims to overview both students' and teachers' receptiveness to a possible shift toward CBE. The Institutional Review Board process is also explained to display the process of getting into a school to do field work. With all of the aforementioned information being pulled together, a final letter to the high school's principal and superintendent is created which outlines the final synthesis and analysis of the data. Policy recommendations are made in an attempt to help the school achieve future success.

It remains largely unknown whether CBE could make a lasting positive impact on high school students. However, by extrapolating from the data presented, it is possible to begin to draw a picture of the current state of affairs as well as the possible implications and changes of a CBE system.