Standards vs. Competencies - Mastery-Based Learning


Standards are the responsibility of the State Board of Education. Standards are proposed by the Connecticut Department of Education and adopted by the State Board of Education.

Competencies are the knowledge, skills, and/or behaviors students must master in specific content or performance areas according to the OLD Foundation. Kim Carter, Executive Director of the OLD Foundation describes a well-designed competency as having the following characteristics:

  • A competency describes knowledge and skills that can be applied to novel, complex situations. 
  • The skills described in a competency will be valuable ten years from now even if the content knowledge has changed. 
  • Learning objectives are accompanied by clear performance criteria that help students identify their performance level(s) and what they need to do to improve. 
  • Learning objectives are accompanied by effective rubrics that help students understand themselves better as learners. 
  • The competency and the learning objectives allow for personalization and opportunities for deeper learning. 
  • A leader in the field, Boston Day and Evening Academy, defines competency as “The enduring understanding of content and skill a student needs in a specific discipline.” Each competency is relevant and necessary for future learning. 
  • In New England, through the leadership of the New England Secondary School Consortium (NESSC) of which Connecticut is a member, further refinement of terms has evolved. 

Read More: Definitions of Different Types of Competencies