As I continue to think about competency-based education and the structural changes that go along with fully supporting it, I am concerned about its impact on the current special educational system. For students to receive special education services, they must have a disability – medical or learning. If a student is to be designated as having a learning disability, then the student must demonstrate discrepancy from his/her peers. As we work through the suspected disability process, the team must look at exclusionary factors, such as lack of instruction.
I am concerned that in a competency-based system (“anytime, anyplace, any how, any pace”) where each student could be involved in different learning experiences, there will no longer be any peer comparisons. If students no longer are accessing the same academic content at the same time, I do not think that special education can make any peer academic comparisons.
And if there cannot be any peer comparisons, what happens to special education? Do those students who do have at least some difficulty in understanding the material no longer have access to support services? Do those support services take on a different focus and expectation? And for district leaders, what happens to the weighted funding that supports those services?
Competency-based education provides a new paradigm for student learning, teacher effectiveness, and district leadership; as such, many current systems, such as special education, will clearly be changed by its implementation. I believe we need to strongly consider the system structures we currently have in place and how competency-based education may change them, so we can be mindful of the implications.