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#AskExcelinEd: How Can States Transition to Student-Centered Learning?

• Karla Phillips

ExcelinEd recognizes the need to support the continuing evolution of student-centered models and programs in schools across the nation. This is why we promote and support the adoption and implementation of innovation and pilot programs. The primary purpose of our support is to identify state policies that hinder full implementation of new, student-centered learning models as well as the policies that can provide better support.

Our work with states spans a diverse array of programs in different stages of implementation. Examples include broad innovation zones and grants to very specific competency-based pilots. Some states have been administering these programs for several years while some are just beginning.

What have we learned?

The proliferation of innovative, personalized and mastery-based models in schools, districts and states across the country demonstrates that completely prohibitive policy barriers, thankfully, do not exist. Our work has shown us that most states already have policies in place, (e.g., waivers) that can help schools implement new models—though we have also seen these opportunities remain largely underutilized or misunderstood.

However, there are a significant number of policies in states that serve to disincentivize change as well as various obstacles schools must navigate to ensure successful and efficient implementation. Discovering and proactively addressing these stumbling blocks is the only way we can hope to see innovative models at scale and true systemic change.

What can we do?

ExcelinEd is launching a new series of policy briefsTransitioning to Student-Centered Learning: Policy Options for Statesthat will identify the most frequently heard issues and offer practical solutions for states to consider. Solutions will require an intentional, state level response that will send clear signals of support to educators and parents alike.

States will eventually need to consider evolving big policies like assessment, accountability and school funding policies, but right now we can help schools solve the immediate and more practical challenges they are facing and help clear the path for innovation.

Transitioning to Student-Centered Learning will be comprised of short policy briefs designed to address the most common challenges educators face when attempting to transition to new, more student-centered models. Topics will include, but are not limited to:

  • Higher education requirements;
  • Assessment flexibility; and
  • The effects of seat-time.

Though states may not be prepared for sweeping overhauls of these areas, we will present concrete steps to begin the transition to broader systemic changes necessary for the implementation and sustainability of innovation.

About the author

Karla Phillips

Karla is Policy Director for Next Generation Learning at ExcelinEd. Previously, she served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Superintendent of Policy and Programs at the Arizona Department of Education. Karla also served as the Education Policy Advisor for Governor Brewer and as the Vice-Chair of Arizona’s Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. Her experience includes serving as Director of State Government Relations for Arizona State University (ASU) and as a senior policy advisor for Arizona’s House of Representatives. Karla received her B.A. from Indiana University and an M.P.A from Arizona State University.