Competency-based education bill clears committee

Published: Tuesday, March 5 2013 1:05 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill allowing schools to move toward competency-based education narrowly cleared the House Education Committee on Tuesday in a 6-5 vote.

HB393 would require the State School Board to return to the Legislature next year with recommendations for a competency-based funding model. It would also allow schools to set competency-based curriculum standards for granting school credit to students who are competent in a particular subject.

Competency-based education is a system in which a student receives course credit after demonstrating appropriate mastery of a subject rather than at the end of an academic year or grade level. The idea behind competency-based education is that motivated students would be able to advance at an accelerated pace, while struggling students receive the additional assistance they need to learn skills and material.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, said the state's new computer adaptive testing makes it easier to determine competency. He said the state should move away from grade-level thinking that is costly and can leave both gifted and struggling students frustrated at the pace of classroom learning.

"This is a tool. This is a possibility. This is something that would allow for our duly elected school boards to decide if they wanted to pursue this course," Hughes said.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Martell Menlove said there are already instances where a student can receive school credit for competency, such as fine arts credit for musicians or physical education credit for athletes.

The State School Board has not taken a position on the bill, Menlove said, adding that he is concerned with the idea of school districts setting their own, potentially inconsistent curriculum standards.

"I believe it's the responsibility of the State Office (of Education) and State Board of Education to establish what competency is," he said.

Several lawmakers expressed concern that the bill does not yet include a fiscal note, including the bill's sponsor who said he had hoped the cost estimate would be ready before HB393 came up in committee.

The committee ultimately voted to move the bill to the House, but one lawmaker, Rep. Daniel McCay, R-Riverton, said he would reserve judgment on the fiscal note and, depending on the cost, could potentially oppose the bill on the floor.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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