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Seat Time: An Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone?

It's an idea that's drawn many grumbles over the years: restricting students' advancement to the amount of seat time they've put in. This well of discontent has deepened as the national dialogue about multiple pathways has taken shape. We need to customize schooling, the argument goes, to suit the widely varying needs and speeds of the young people who are partaking in it.

Many new approaches have sprouted from this thinking, including a proliferation of ideas about alternative education. A related mix of innovations shoots bullets through the idea that kids need to spend a specified number of hours in their seats in order to progress to the next grade, or to the next level of complexity in their work.

Into that mix, a new report arrives, arguing that the time has come to create next-generation modes of learning that allow students to move as, and when, they are ready. The study, by MetisNet and iNACOL, with support from the Quincy, Mass.-based Nellie Mae Education Foundation, explores the implications of moving toward "competency-based pathways," from the role technology can play to state policies that need tweaking to facilitate the flexibility required.

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