How Career and Technical Education Can Inform Competency-Based Learning

Contributed by Sam Brooks

Competency-Based Education — a flexible approach that allows students to pursue personalized learning pathways and demonstrate mastery in authentic contexts — has been fundamental to Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs for years, but it is still a relatively new and challenging practice in the context of general education that has yet to take hold in any large-scale way. Competency-Based Education (CBE) can sometimes also meet resistance from those who prefer to see traditional measures of progress such as grades and test score, and district and state accountability systems as well as college entrance requirements often need to be updated to allow for this model of learning and assessment to thrive. Despite these challenges, many in the field view it as the best way to move toward a system that better prepares all students for the future of work, and the Putnam County School System in Tennessee has set out to discover how Competency-Based Education can benefit students in the context of our district’s new personalized learning program, currently in its second year of district-wide implementation.

This school year, Putnam County is one of 11 districts participating in Tennessee’s Competency-Based Education pilot program, which aims to explore how best to leverage CBE to create a more student-centric learning experience, offer more flexibility in how students learn, and identify the supports needed for successful implementation. In Putnam County, we are rolling out this pilot with our CTE Agricultural program at the helm. In addition, we have included two middle schools in the pilot so that we can experiment with a competency based-learning model starting in the middle grades and extend that model right through high school. Read more.

Featured FETC Speaker:

Sam Brooks

Personal Learning Supervisor
Putnam County VITAL (Virtual Instruction to Accentuate Learning) (Tenn.)


Sam Brooks has been very honored to work for the Putnam County VITAL program for the past 8 years. The VITAL program in Putnam County has grown to include digital credit advancement/credit recovery, dual enrollment, IVC (live) distance learning, K-12 personalized learning, as well as providing professional development for the 21 schools within his district. VITAL has hosted over 75 site visits the past three years from districts interested in the operation of our personal learning program.
Mr. Sam Brooks was recognized by the Center for Digital Education as a Top 30 Technologists, Transformers, and Trailblazers in 2014 and is a Google Certified Trainer with over 150 events completed.