District and State Considerations for Incorporating Expanded Learning into Competency-Based Systems

District and State Considerations for Incorporating Expanded Learning into Competency-Based Systems
District and State Considerations for Incorporating Expanded Learning into Competency-Based Systems


Education systems across the country are beginning to experiment with competency-based models in which students advance based upon mastery. As schools, districts, and states pursue these innovations, it is important to remember that many expanded learning providers have been implementing competency-based models for many years and expanded learning stakeholders should be considered key partners in this work. Those in the expanded learning community should see a shift to a competency-based system as an opportunity for schools to validate the learning happening in non-formal settings and as a valuable tool for promoting school-community partnerships.

While much of the work to move toward a competency-based system happens within schools and programs, district and state level stakeholders can play an important role, both in developing an encouraging policy context and through guidance and technical assistance. Previous webinars have showcased promising competency-based expanded learning opportunities and discussed some local considerations. This final webinar in our series highlighted the role districts and states can play in facilitating this shift and discuss the policy barriers and opportunities at play.


Presenters Included:

Stephanie Krauss, Senior Fellow, Forum for Youth Investment

Sharon Lee, Director, Office of Multiple Pathways, Rhode Island Department of Education

Kate Nielsen, Senior Policy Analyst, National Governors Association

Michelle Un, Project Manager, Research & Data, Rhode Island After School Plus Alliance.

Presenter Biographies

Stephanie Krauss formattedStephanie Krauss began her career as a fifth grade teacher at age 18, serving a migrant community in Phoenix, Ariz., through Teach For America. She has since dedicated herself to working with and on behalf of disconnected youth in the United States and East Africa (where she trained teachers in rural and slum communities). At the Forum, Stephanie focuses on competency-based education and expanded learning opportunities – researching the experiences of educators and leaders across the country, and using those findings to create tools to help schools get young people ready for life. She came to the Forum after serving as president and chief executive officer of Shearwater Education Foundation.

Stephanie holds a Master of Education degree in curriculum and instruction from Arizona State University, and a Master in Social Work degree in social and economic development of youth from Washington University in St. Louis.

Sharon Lee formattedSharon Lee, Director of the Office of Multiple Pathways in the RI Department of Education, has responsibilities that include supervision of Adult Basic Education and GED, Career and Technical Education, Secondary Education (grades 6-12) and Virtual Learning initiatives in RI. Dr. Lee’s work involves developing a strong policy framework and facilitating implementation of those policies that ensures all learners have access to quality learning experiences including virtual learning.

Dr. Lee has extensive state and regional experience in implementing state policies and processes that support college and career readiness of all RI learners through a comprehensive system of pathways.

kate nielson formattedKate Nielson is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Education Division of the National Governors Association, Center for Best Practices. In this role she supports states in their work to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) through research, data analysis and technical assistance. She also assists states in aligning the K-12 CCSS standards to early childhood learning standards.

She is the author of several reports on state progress with CCSS implementation. In addition to her CCSS work, Nielson leads NGA’s competency-based education initiative and serves on the board of CompetencyWorks. She also supports the Division’s human capital and resource reallocation projects. Prior to joining NGA, Nielson worked as a law clerk for the Center for Law and Education where she analyzed federal legislation, and as an Education Fellow in the U.S. Senate. Additionally, she has experience in the consensus-building field working with Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, where she led the education policy program. She holds a Juris Doctor and Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts from Bowdoin College.

Michelle Un formattedSince moving to Rhode Island, Michelle Un has been involved in working with youth, with an interest in policy and strategies that supports access to educational opportunities. Prior to joining RIASPA, Michelle worked for two years at Mount Pleasant High School in s high school credit project as well as her knowledge of data and research. Michelle received her B.A. in Public Policy & American Institutions from Brown University.

Click here to view the presentation slideshow

Presenter Information:

Stephanie Krauss

Senior Fellow

Forum for Youth Investment

7064 Eastern Ave NW,

Washington, DC 20012


Sharon Lee


Office of Multiple Pathways

Rhode Island Department of Education

255 Westminster Street

Providence, RI 02903


Kate Nielsen

Senior Policy Analyst

National Governors Association

Hall of the States, 444 N. Capitol St.,

Suite. 267

Washington, D.C. 20001-1512


Michelle Un

Project Manager, Research and Data,

Rhode Island After School Plus Alliance

50 Valley Street

Providence, RI 02909





The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.