Implementation and Outcomes of Competency-Based Education in Three Community Colleges: Findings from the Comprehensive Evaluation of a TAACCCT Grant (Executive Summary)

Publisher: Oakland, CA: Mathematica Policy Research
Sep 30, 2016
Ann E. Person, Jaime Thomas, and Lisbeth Goble

Key Findings:

  • The consortium colleges successfully implemented their programs as planned, meeting most implementation milestones and outcome targets, and laying a foundation for scaling and sustaining the programs after the grant period.
  • Consortium-wide, 35 percent of participants completed a grant-funded program of study; their employment rates started and remained high, and wages for employed participants increased after program enrollment at a higher rate than the national average.
  • Gatekeeper course completion rates were slightly lower for participants than for comparison students while, differences in participants’ and nonparticipants’ credential completion rates varied by college and may reflect unobservable differences between the groups.
  • CBE models should be one of multiple options for college students, especially since they appear best suited for those who are mature and academically well prepared.
Competency-based education models allow students to move through material independently, advancing when they demonstrate content mastery. Proponents of competency-based approaches view them as a potential solution to student demand for flexible, career-relevant programs and to employer demand for skilled workers. This executive summary presents findings from the comprehensive evaluation of online, competency-based information technology programs offered by a consortium of three community colleges under a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program. The document summarizes findings on program implementation and outcomes. It concludes with a discussion of the implications of the evaluation findings for the ongoing public conversation around competency-based education, especially its application in community college contexts.