Competency-based education (CBE) is a rapidly growing pedagogical model that requires a clear understanding of student needs and allows students to progress through academic content at their own pace given their understanding of a concept. The Measuring Success through Competency-Based Learning Research Alliance with the Regional Education Laboratory (REL) Southeast defines CBE as follows:

As a personalized learning approach, CBE provides a flexible and engaging learning environment in which progression is based on mastery of explicit learning objectives, or competencies, as demonstrated through evidence of student learning, rather than the time spent in a course/topic.

Young girls at school desk

The Center for Education Services focuses CBE support with schools and districts on Structure, Culture, Teaching, and Learning, modeled after the CBE Mastery Framework. Structure refers to the systems in place—such as assessment systems, course credits, physical infrastructure, scheduling—that enable CBE at the school or district level. Culture is defined at the district, school, and even classroom levels, ensuring that the atmosphere in each of those spaces encourages innovation, engagement, and relevance. Teaching and Learning primarily focus on classroom-level changes around things like personalization, curriculum, flexible learning environments, and student ownership.



Flex scheduling and choice hubs give students options to earn credits outside of the traditional day. Students personalize their schedules to advance their academic and career goals at a pace that works for their learning style.



Learner profiles provide all Students with up-to-date information on their progress towards mastery. Every student takes ownership of their learning by providing evidence of what they’ve absorbed and getting feedback through one-on-one meetings with teachers



Project-based learning and performance tasks create custom learning paths for students. Teachers and students work together to adapt these learning plans based on student needs, interests, and goals.


Student performance is assessed based on specific and observable skills to ensure readiness

Project Examples

RTI partners with innovative schools, districts, states, and organizations to address education challenges. Here we highlight two of those partnerships.

New Hanover County Schools: SEA-Tech High School, Wilmington Early College, Career Readiness Academy.

One entry point for schools to start with competency-based education is through inquiry-based learning and project-based learning. These personalized learning approaches center student voice and choice and make teachers facilitators of learning, all of which fall into the Teaching and Learning categories of the CBE Mastery Framework. All teachers learned about the fundamental components of inquiry and developed project-based learning units to implement in their respective classrooms.

Johnston County Public Schools: Innovation Academy

Innovation Academy has spent a considerable amount of time focused on building culture across the school to encourage innovation, equity, and student ownership. Students lead their own parent-teacher conferences and teachers facilitate learning through project-based units that incorporate social-emotional skills. Additionally, the school has started rethinking their grading and reporting practices to align to a competency-based system. Listen to audio files from the REL Southeast to learn more about how Innovation Academy fuses CBE instructional practices and equity and how a culture for CBE promotes equity.

Competency-Based Education Experts

Our Education Services team is led by former teachers, principals, administrators, policy experts, and strategists who have the practical experience to translate ideas into action.

Kayla M. Siler

Kayla M. Siler

Education Consultant

Center for Education Technical Assistance

Kayla M. Siler has more than 16 years of experience in education policy, strategic planning and project management. Prior to joining RTI in 2016, Ms. Siler held...

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Expert in Competency-based Education

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Expert in Education Policy and Data Systems

Frank McKay

Frank McKay

Education Consultant

Center for Education Services

Frank McKay brings more than 25 years of experience in U.S. public education and international settings to his work as an education consultant at RTI...

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Expert in Stem Education

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Expert in Inquiry and Project-based Learning