Douglas Crets


Giving Credibility to the Shadow Education System

Chris Sturgis, Metisnet: From Seat-Time to Child Learning

We asked Chris Sturgis, a consultant, to write about a few central tenets of competency-based learning. In part two of the series, Chris addresses the question of the Carnegie-based seat time system and explains whether it is a barrier to learning for under-credited and kids who face a real imbalance in work and life obligations. Chris and iNACOL President Susan Patrick are authors of a wide ranging series of studies on digital learning and student centric learning, like this one they wrote last year.

After the jump, the seat time vs. real learning debate:

Let’s start with understanding what it means to be over-age and under-credited.  We used to use the phrase “drop out” but we have found that term to be ineffective in understanding the dynamics that lead to schools losing connection with their students and the persistence and resiliency of so many teens.

Our high schools are designed that students need to complete a certain number of credits to get their high school diploma.   Students become over-age and under-credited for a number of reasons. Some students fail a number of courses in ninth or tenth grade because they are missing high school level skills.   Others fail because of hyper-punitive school cultures that repeatedly suspend students to the point they have missed so much school they can’t recover. Others progress through school but in 11th or 12th grade something disrupts their lives, such as needing to work to support their family or becoming a caregiver,  failing courses simply because of attendance policies .  There is another group that may stop going to school altogether for specific reasons such as having a baby, working full time, illness or detention in the juvenile justice system.

No matter how they got there, over-age and under-credited students are at-risk of aging out of the K-12 system.  States and districts differ on the age that students may continue to work towards their high school diploma.  If you are 18 or 19 years old and missing 50 percent of your credits it is nearly impossible to sit your way through enough semesters to get your diploma.   A competency-based system, focused on learning not seat-time, allows students to focus on the specific skills they need. They can progress quickly when they are motivated and have adequate supports.


Filed under: Digital Learning, Tech

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