Promote skills-based teaching and learning models that deliver and measure uniquely human skill development. The need for increasingly higher-skilled employees in the workplace demands innovations to the delivery of K-12 and postsecondary education, including learning assessments, online learning and competency-based education. Competency-based education offers a flexible way for students to earn credit based on demonstration of subject-matter knowledge learned either through personalized guided instruction or examinations based on mastery of competencies. Traditionally, this education model awards adult learners with competencies determined by industry leaders and local workforce representatives. Disruptive innovation in teaching and learning has the potential to serve as a game changer in the affordability and delivery of secondary and post-secondary education.

State Program Examples

  • Vermont

    Flexible Pathways Initiative

    Vermont enacted the Flexible Pathways Initiative, created by Act 77 of 2013 and found in statute under 16 V.S.A. § 941, to encourage and support the creativity of school districts as they develop and expand high-quality educational experiences that are an integral part of secondary education in the evolving 21st-century classroom. Flexible pathways promote opportunities for students to achieve postsecondary readiness through high-quality educational experiences that acknowledge individual goals, learning styles, and abilities. Flexible pathways also increase the rates of secondary school completion and postsecondary continuation in Vermont. The Flexible Pathways Initiative provides for expansion of the existing statewide Dual Enrollment Program and Early College Program; increases access to work-based learning, virtual/blended learning opportunities and Career and Technical Education; and requires that students in grades 7-12 complete personalized learning plans (PLPs).

  • Oregon

    State Higher Education Commission Scales Competency-Based Learning

    Passed in 2017, House Bill 3289 requires the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission to submit annually a report to the legislature on progress made in providing competency-based education at public postsecondary institutions. The report must identify issues and barriers of expanding competency-based education, evaluate competency-based models to determine best practices and recommend specific policy actions institutions can implement to expand competency-based education.

  • Kansas

    Community College Degree Qualifications Profile

    Kansas City Kansas Community College (KSKCC) created an alternative system for documenting student achievement of Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) proficiencies. KCSCC now requires that every course develop a Degree Profile Index (DPI) specifying which of the 21st Century Outcomes the course will assess. This enables educators to put 21st century skills, including proficiency of technology and digital tools, problem-solving skills, creativity, and socio-emotional awareness, at the center of curriculum development.

  • Oklahoma

    Allows Competency Based Learning to Qualify for Financial Assistance

    In 2015, Oklahoma introduced Senate Bill 504 to add institutions which offer online, competency-based degree programs to the list of eligible institutions which students participating in Oklahoma Promise (formerly Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program) may attend. Like similar last-dollar scholarship programs, Oklahoma’s assistance program allows students whose families earn $50,000 or less to earn a college tuition scholarship to public institutions.

  • Multi-State

    Western Governors University (WGU)

    Western Governors University (WGU) is a competency-based, online university catering specifically to the adult student population looking to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The university was created in 1995 by 19 U.S. governors wanting to break the mold of traditional higher education and is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU). There are six state-affiliated universities including Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, though which WGU enrolls students from all 50 states. WGU’s unique curriculum offers students the opportunity to earn degrees through demonstration of competencies, and at a personalized learning pace, and to receive credit for prior learning. 

  • West Virginia

    Simulated Workplace

    The West Virginia Department of Education has worked with committee experts from numerous businesses and industries throughout West Virginia to design the Simulated Workplace. This new educational initiative has been created to assist schools in implementing workplace environmental protocols that align with West Virginia workforce requirements, including professionalism, attendance and safety. Simulated Workplace has not only enhanced instructional delivery of career education but has created a more engaged career and technical student. The simulated workplace environment permits students the opportunity to take ownership of their individual performance as it impacts the overall success of their education, while thriving in an authentic workplace culture. Simulated Workplace also encourages local business and industry experts to join onsite review teams to assist schools in meeting their workforce needs and expectations.

Build capacity for educators to teach digital skills. In order for technology to offer students the learning experiences to empower and inspire them for the future, schools need to increase access to technology education and training. A 2016 report on trends in computer science cites “a lack of teachers available in [my] district with the necessary skills to teach computer science'' as one of the two most common barriers to integrating disruptive technologies into the classroom. State funding for K-12 computer science professional learning is an essential policy for expanding access to technological skills. When governors focus funding on high-quality professional training to support the existing teaching workforce (rather than hiring new computer science teachers) states are able to keep costs lower and scale more affordably. 

State Program Examples

  • Utah

    Computing Partnerships Grant Program

    In order to grow Utah’s computer science and information technology talent pipeline, SB 0190 (2017) authorized new funding for a grant program available to local education agencies, postsecondary institutions, and consortiums of regional partnerships to design and implement a comprehensive K-16 computing partnership. Applicants are required to submit a professional development plan, engage industry, build toward stackable credentials and promote a competency-based learning strategy, among others. To ensure consistency, the bill authorized a continuing stream of funding of $1.2 million for both Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. Because of the growing interest in computer science course offerings, the Community Foundation of Utah, in partnership with the Utah’s high-tech industry, Silicon Slopes, created the Silicon Slopes Computer Science Fund dedicated to building a perpetual funding stream to improve K-12 computer science education for teachers and students across the state.

  • Virginia

    Micro-credentialing Program for Teachers to Acquire STEM Endorsements

    States, including Virginia, continue to explore micro-credentials as an alternative way to earning and renewing certifications and endorsements. In March 2019, Virginia enacted SB 1419 authorizing the Department of Education to allow teachers to earn micro-credentials specifically in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) endorsement areas, including computer science. The credential program is available to all public elementary and secondary school teachers who hold a renewable or provisional license.

  • Virginia

    Elementary Computer Science Coaches Academy

    Because digital literacy is a foundation skill for all 21st century jobs, integrating computer science competencies not only increases technology skills but also enhances critical and logical thinking. In Virginia, computer science and computational thinking are mandatory subjects for every student in K-12. To aid in curriculum development and implementation, Virginia allocates additional funding for professional development, resulting in the creation of the Commonwealth’s K-5 Computer Science Coach Academy. In order to support this work beyond K-12 education, Virginia Governor Northam signed memorandums of understanding with eleven state universities to create 31,000 graduates in computer science over the next 20 years. Universities are incentivized to participate through a bonus for each graduate.

  • Indiana

    Statewide STEM Specialist

    In 2018, Indiana lawmakers passed a priority bill for Governor Holcomb that required every Indiana school to offer computer science courses and created a grant program to help train teachers in computer science. Part of this initiative requires every school, by 2021, to incorporate computer science in the school's curriculum for students in grades K-12. Indiana currently has computer science standards in place for grades K-8 and has a variety of computer science course offerings available for high schools. As part of the effort to boost computer science in Indiana schools, Indiana partnered with Nextech and to bring nationally recognized K-12 curriculum and professional development to elementary, middle and high school classrooms throughout Indiana.

  • Idaho

    STEM Action Center

    In 2015, Idaho passed House Bill 302, creating the STEM Action Center. The Center is responsible for aligning state STEM goals with industry needs, informing the state’s STEM curriculum and training, coordinating STEM education across the K-12 and higher education systems, and providing STEM professional development to fuel Idaho’s talent pipeline. The Center also operates a grant program for school districts, educators, and nonprofit organizations to pilot innovative ideas to build a competitive workforce and economy. The Center has established a Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, which receives generous support for a wide range of corporate sponsors and statewide employers. Approximately one-third of the Center’s funding comes private contributions and grants.

Prioritize equitable skill development by directing investments toward communities of color and traditionally under-resourced schools. Gaps that already exist in digital literacy for communities of color will be exacerbated as technology becomes even more common place. For example, a 2020 brief by the National Skills Coalition found that one-third of Americans lack digital skills, including half of Black Americans. To avoid locking out millions of Americans from economic opportunity, states must consider how to target teaching and learning resources to students who are at greatest risk of low performance outcomes. These targeted resources can improve skill development, and ultimately increase participation and persistence in education and the workplace.

State Program Examples

  • Washington

    STEM Education and Innovation Alliance

    In an effort to prioritize equity and diversity in technological skill development, Governor Inslee has led the Washington STEM Education and Innovation Alliance since 2012. The Alliance aims to develop policies and strategies for meeting the state’s STEM needs from early learning to higher education, including the removal of educational opportunity gaps in STEM fields.

Ensure that all students have access to high-quality computer science courses. As of 2018, only 13 states require schools to offer computer science, although 39 allow for it to satisfy as a core requirement for high school graduation. To meet the demands of the workforce and prepare today’s students for the jobs of the future, it is essential that all students have access to baseline digital skills in the K-12 education system. Some states have achieved this by setting minimum learning requirements for students at various grade levels, such as those outlined by the Governors4CS Partnership.

State Program Examples

  • Multi-State

    Multiple States: Adoption of Governors4CS priorities

    Seventeen governors have signed on to the Governors’ Partnership for K-12 Computer Science, committing to making computer science education a priority. Ten states have enacted policies that meet all three key policy priorities to support computer science education: 1) enable all high schools to offer at least one rigorous computer science course,  2) fund professional learning opportunities so teachers can be prepared to teach these courses and,  3) create a set of high-quality academic K-12 computer science standards to guide local implementation of courses.

  • Arkansas

    Declared a Computer Science State of Emergency

    Arkansas Governor Hutchinson made computer science a priority in his campaign, and in 2015, he signed a bill that declared that the digital competencies of Arkansas students was in a state of emergency. He set a goal to increase the number of students enrolled in computer science to 7,500, and in 2015 allocated $5 million for schools to rehabilitate facilities and train teachers to implement the new computer science programs, in addition to $2.5 million annually thereafter for teacher training. For districts unable to afford computer science classes, the law also provided funding for online classes to be offered by Virtual Arkansas, an organization formed through a partnership between the Arkansas Department of Education and the Arkansas Education Service Cooperatives to provide digital courses to public schools. As a result of this commitment, Arkansas now has the second greatest percentage of high schools teaching computer science and one of the most rapid rates of growth in computer science education in the nation.

  • Wyoming

    “Boot Up 2022”

    In Wyoming, the legislature enacted SF0029 in 2018, replacing the keyboarding core standard with a computer science and computational thinking skill requirement for all schools. All districts are now required to offer all students computer science in K-12 by 2022. To support this mandate, the Department of Education launched Boot Up Wyoming and conducted a statewide needs analysis to inform new teacher training programs and statewide standards. To ensure that all districts are prepared to successfully implement the new requirement, the Wyoming Department of Education partnered with Microsoft to implement Strategic CSforALL Resource & Implementation Planning Tool (SCRIPT) training to school districts throughout the state.

  • Hawaii

    Integrated Design Thinking and Coding in Middle and High School Curricula

    In 2018, the Department of Education was directed via Act 168, SLH (18) to develop a comprehensive plan to integrate design thinking and coding in middle and high school curriculums throughout the state. The plan also required the Department to report on benchmarks to show progress of the implementation of design thinking and coding to the Legislature and the Governor.

Expand access to work-based learning (WBL) by granting credit for experiential learning, youth apprenticeship and dual enrollment. Governors can create opportunities for learners to engage in education that builds in-demand skills throughout their careers by investing in on-the-job training. These opportunities help to ensure that students are prepared for a specific job upon completion of their training and signal to employers that training is directly applicable to the tasks required. Expansion of work-based learning opportunities should be especially prioritized in high-demand, high-wage occupations that emerge due to technological disruption.

State Program Examples

  • Idaho

    Work-Based Learning Becomes a High School Graduation Requirement

    High-school students in Idaho have the opportunity to gain credit towards graduation from an approved work-based learning experience. Eligible work-based learning experiences include a training plan, training agreements, approved work sites, and supervision by appropriately certificated personnel.  Students who want to use work-based learning to gain credit towards graduation include it in their high-school learning plan and receive instruction that helps them to incorporate what they learn into their academic studies and into future career opportunities. States can expand the types of learning experiences that they count towards high-school graduation requirements in order to incentivize and recognize work-based learning opportunities. 

  • Indiana

    Graduation Pathways

    Indiana’s 2018 update to the state graduation requirements, Graduation Pathways, requires that every high school student, beginning with the class of 2023, must demonstrate ‘Employability Skills’. Through a project-based, service-based, or work-based learning experience, students must apply essential academic, technical and professional skills into their academic careers and demonstrate the Department of Workforce Development’s Employability Skills Benchmarks (or similar benchmarks). The development of the student product must satisfy the five categories of employability skills: 1. Mindsets; 2. Self-Management Skills; 3. Learning Strategies; 4. Social Skills; and 5. Workplace Skills.  Demonstrations of employability skills may occur over the course of a student’s high school career, and schools and districts may choose how to structure their Employability Skills experiences based on student interests. There are not a set number of hours for an Employability Skills experience, but rather it is incumbent upon schools and districts to ensure the experience has quality, scope, and value for the student.

  • Iowa

    Clearinghouse for Work-based Learning

    In 2019, Executive Order No. 1 charged the Iowa Clearinghouse Advisory Board with establishing a virtual clearinghouse by to expand high-quality, real-world work-based learning experiences for K-12 students. Iowa Governor Reynolds appropriated $250,000 to support the development of this clearinghouse, which is intended to support the state’s goal to have 70% of the workforce participate in post-secondary education or workforce training by 2025. The clearinghouse allows employers to publicize opportunities for work-based learning and serves as a one-stop resource for students and educators to search for and apply to work-based learning opportunities. States can consider creating similar platforms to increase utilization of work-based learning opportunities, allow employers to easily share opportunities with potential participants, and for students and educators to access information about opportunities all in one place.  

  • Texas

    Linking Adult Education with Work-based Learning

    A number of community colleges are using the Pell Grant eligibility category, Ability to Benefit (ATB) provision to offer adults without a high school diploma or its equivalent a supported transition to in-demand career pathways. This type of dual enrollment for adult learners incorporates contextualized learning by delivering concurrently Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Adult Basic Education (ABE) courses. Adult participants must be enrolled in an eligible career pathway which matches the skill needs of local industry, and in return, receive Pell funding, career counseling, and training within a recognized industry cluster. These programs can help non-degree holders and non-traditional students to gain access to federal assistance to earn their degree, as well as gain recognized postsecondary credentials and work experience. In partnership with education institutions, state leaders responsible for the development of their WIOA plans could consider the application of the ATB provision, and the definition of state career pathways for adult learners which would most greatly benefit. Leaders overseeing community college institutions or college systems could also consider initiating the use of ATB across their existing career pathway programs. The Texas Workforce Commission credits the inclusion of ATB as part of its Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) title II investment strategy as a key tool in exceeding its 2020 goal of engaging 20,000 adult learners in career pathways two years early.

  • Colorado

    Concurrent Enrollment for Apprenticeship and Internship Programs

    Concurrent enrollment grants high school students flexibility to earn college credits while still enrolled in a local school or education agency. In order to broaden access to and improve the quality of concurrent enrollment programs Colorado expanded its concurrent enrollment program in 2015 to allow students to count apprenticeship and internship programs toward credit. The state also established a tuition assistance program for students in CTE certificate programs to promote advanced skills training across priority industries throughout the state. According to the 2017-18 Annual Report on Concurrent Enrollment, nearly 35% of all 11th and 12th graders in public schools participated in concurrent enrollment in the 2017-18 academic year.

  • New Hampshire

    STEM Dual Enrollment Program

    In 2017, New Hampshire passed legislation to establish the nation’s only STEM specific dual enrollment program. The law permits all juniors and seniors to participate in two STEM courses at the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH), costing the State approximately $500,000 in 2018 and $1.4 million in 2019. The law also directs the State to pay the CCSNH college $250 for each approved course completed, at no expense to the sending school or student. In addition, the bill requires local school boards to adopt policies governing concurrent enrollment, and that all policies comply with the National Alliance for Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships.

Integrate advanced technologies into K-12 and higher education teaching and learning. To close the technological and digital literacy gap, governors can facilitate the introduction, and guide the use, of innovative technologies such as robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the classroom. Governors have a unique platform to ensure that core curriculum offers – and in some cases, mandates – technological skills so that digital literacies are prerequisites for all learners. As states and local education authorities consider how to incorporate these competencies in their curricula, leaders should also prioritize increasing teaching capacity, and evaluating whether requirements have the potential to further burden some students, including those with disabilities. When done correctly, pursuing an access agenda to K-16 computer science offers policymakers a rare opportunity to address workforce, education and equity issues across party lines. 

State Program Examples

  • California

    Community College Maker Initiative

    In 2016, the California Council on Science and Technology issued a white paper promoting engagement of the California Community College System (CCC) with the maker space movement to prepare innovation-ready graduates. In response, the Chancellor's Office launched the Maker Initiative, a three-year grant program designed to increase interest in STEAM education and scale a pilot with Hacker Lab, a Sacramento coworking maker space, to the state’s network of 114 community colleges. CCC member institution Sierra College was awarded $17 million from the Chancellor and the California Workforce and Economic Division to launch the initiative which embedded making into college curriculum, funded work-based learning opportunities for students, and offered seed funding for the development of new maker spaces.

  • Tennessee

    Volkswagen eLabs

    In 2017, Volkswagen and the State of Tennessee announced the establishment of Volkswagen eLabs, a $1 million program available to middle and high schools to establish digital fabrication labs for their students. Each eLab grant supports grant administration, purchasing and equipment consultation, facility retrofitting, as well as more than 120 hours of professional development for teachers working to support the implementation of education programs. Each eLab also makes available training for the broader community in support of regional workforce development goals. The state is not responsible for maintenance costs and instead and school must raise a minimum of $5,000 annually in cash or contributed materials to ensure sustainability of each lab.

  • Tennessee

    STEM School Chattanooga & Fab Lab

    Tennessee’s Hamilton County School District announced in 2019 that Hamilton County Schools served as the global leader in the fab labs, with 17 fab labs throughout the district. STEM School Chattanooga pioneered the first district Fab Lab in Tennessee in 2014, which was recognized by the Fab Foundation as a national model for integrating advanced technology into the K-12 classroom. With support from the Volkswagen Group of America, the State of Tennessee, the Fab Foundation and the Public Education Foundation, Hamilton County, expanded this model to 16 additional schools. Graduating students earn digital badges to represent mastery of specific, industry-recognized, digital fabrication skills and competencies. 

  • Oregon

    AI Task Force and Annual Report

    Oregon’s Workforce and Talent Development Board (WTDB) is the Governor’s core leadership and advisory board for the interconnection and alignment of education, training, and talent development in Oregon. The WTDB Artificial Intelligence (AI) Task Force was officially established in 2019 by the Chair of the Oregon Workforce and Talent Development Board. One of the key goals from its inception was to produce a report for the Governor’s Office and Legislature on the impacts of AI, including recommendations on how to increase Oregon’s AI talent pool. The 2020 annual report takes a cursory dive into AI’s Sector-Based Impact within the context of COVID-19, climate change and ethical considerations, and offers policy recommendations on education and training to build the AI talent pool and develop AI users, as well as on societal and ethical considerations, equity, state government use of AI and more.

Develop onramps to technological resilience by offering all citizens access to technology training. In the same way that the Internet and cloud computing have lowered barriers to entry for digital startups, the democratization of the tools required to design and prototype physical products could be used by states to build digital and technical skills. States can consider ways to provide all individuals access to tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC machining outside of the traditional K-16 learning environment by investing in partnerships with public libraries and private industry.

State Program Examples

  • Pennsylvania

    PA Smart Initiative

    In 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf launched the PASmart initiative to prepare students and workers for good careers in emerging and high-growth industries. Over two years, PAsmart is providing $70 million to promote computer science and STEM education in K-12 schools, expand registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, and support Next Generation industry partnerships.  The governor’s office also launched the PAsmart website to help residents identify the tools and resources they need to make education, training, and career decisions. Like other states, Pennsylvania is also exploring strategies to prepare for the Future of Work building off its participation in the NGA On-Demand Workforce Consortium.

  • Washington

    Microsoft LinkedIn Learning Program

    The Microsoft LinkedIn Learning program (formerly known as the Microsoft Imagine Academy) provides online learning pathways for the most in-demand, future-forward IT careers with resources to build skills and knowledge that prepare learners for industry-recognized certifications. Operated by LinkedIn, this online learning platform offers video courses taught by industry experts in software, creative, and business skills. The Washington State Library (WSL), a division of the Office of the Secretary of State, funds a statewide subscription to LinkedIn Learning, underwritten by discounts from Microsoft, and made possible through Legislative appropriation. Resources are provided through the WSL’s Central Library and facilitated by the state’s Institutional and Correctional Center Libraries, as well as public and tribal libraries, and community and technical colleges across the state, ensuring accessibility for all residents. The program also allows individuals to test locally at library and other community center locations throughout Washington at no cost.

  • Arizona

    AZ LibTAP

    A team of librarians from five different libraries, with support from the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records launched a collaborative initiative, AZ LibTAP, to provide one-on-one tech support services over the phone. This approach is modeled after the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s Digital Navigators model, whereby navigators are equipped to address the whole digital inclusion process — home connectivity, access to devices, and digital skills — through one-on-one support and repeated interactions if needed.

  • Maine

    Digital Inclusion Initiative

    The Maine Digital Inclusion Initiative is a partnership between the National Digital Equity Center, University of Maine System and the Maine State Library and aims to expand digital literacy services to traditionally underserved populations and to provide employment-related education and technology training to older adults. The Maine Office of Adult Education uses Northstar Digital Literacy assessments to evaluate participants’ technological skills before and after participation in training programs.

  • Hawaii

    Workforce Resiliency Initiative Plan

    The Hawai'i Workforce Development Council (WDC) set a goal to  to upskill 200,000 people (approximately 30 percent of the total workforce) with basic digital literacy skills, problem-solving and other soft skills, and access to more advanced online training courses by 2022. To achieve this goal, the 2020 Workforce Resiliency Initiative Plan created a baseline training infrastructure, established statewide objectives for digital skill curriculum and a new, centralized repository of resources and information for digital training using WIOA funds. The state also launched new partnerships with local libraries, community colleges and credentialing platforms including Coursera, Microsoft Skilling Initiative, LinkedIn Learning and Amazon Web Services. The WDC plans to seek additional funding from private and public organizations over the next three years to sustain this effort.

  • Utah

    Talent Ready Utah - AWS Partnership

    In 2020 Talent Ready Utah Center, housed in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched AWS Education Programs for Utah Schools to provide AWS cloud computing courses and learning resources, funded by AWS, to 5,000 students in Utah by June 2022. This initiative responds to the high demand for computing skills in the Utah labor market as identified by data from Economic Modeling Specialists International. Utah will work with the AWS Academy and AWS Educate programs to facilitate training through K-12 and higher education institutions that prepares students for entry-level jobs in cloud computing.  

  • California

    Digital Upskilling for Recipients of Public Benefits

    In 2020, the California Department of Social Services launched a project that provides upskilling opportunities for state residents who currently receive certain public benefits including SNAP Employment and Training, TANF and refugee resettlement supports. The pilot provides online learning and coaching assistance through the Cell-Ed mobile learning platform. Through the online platform, participants can gain a range of critical skills from basic literacy to more advanced job readiness skills. Participation in the program can count toward welfare-to-work requirements and participants can earn badges and certificates to help them communicate their learned skills to employers.

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