Californians Deserve Credit: Recognizing All Learning to Help California Achieve Educational and Racial Equity


Imagine you are a 39-year-old single parent and early childhood educator of 20 years. One day, you learn that you lack the proper credentials. Even though you have all the skills necessary to perform your work, without it, you are in danger of losing your career. Despite hundreds of satisfied customers, deep knowledge of your field, and your two decades in business, you’re back to square one. 

Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of spending years and tens of thousands of dollars in school, you could point to all the learning you had done, all the skills you had acquired, and all the knowledge you had gained and it would count toward your credential? Competency-based learning does just that: counts all quality learning, focusing on what you know instead of where you learned it.

Incorporating a competency-based learning model into higher education systems would increase transparency, flexibility, and affordability––and especially benefit working adult students and people of color. That is just what California needs to close its racial equity gaps and meet upcoming workforce demands, remain the fifth largest economy in the world, and begin a successful recovery from COVID-19. 

To make competency-based learning a reality, we recommend policymakers and other stakeholders consider a number of policy considerations: 

  • State funding to encourage competency-based learning and ensure all learning counts
  • State financial aid programs that support competency-based learning and prior learning assessment
  • Tuition policies to support students in flexible educational structures
  • Transfer policies that allow students to transfer all learning between institutions and do not limit what students can transfer

Competency-based learning can help California close racial and equity gaps, It’s time we considered #competencybasedlearning in #cahighered and recognize the hard-earned knowledge gained on the job or in our everyday lives. #CaliforniansDeserveCredit

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Karla Fernandez

Communications Manager

Karla Fernandez (she/her/hers) joins Ed Trust–West as a Communications Manager with over 11 years of experience advancing social impact initiatives.

Karla started her career as a teacher at Chicago Public Schools and UIC College Prep. After teaching, Karla joined United Friends of the Children to support LA County’s youth in foster care as a college counselor. Through Leadership for Educational Equity, Karla also served as a Policy Advisor Fellow for the office of a Los Angeles Unified School Board Member. She solidified her interests in policy analysis and quantitative research during her time with the Price Center for Social Innovation, the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, and the USC Presidential Working Group on Sustainability. Before joining The Education Trust–West, Karla was the Associate Director for the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative, a network of nonprofits advocating for communities in SELA.

Karla holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology from the University of Chicago, a Master of Public Policy from the USC Price School of Public Policy, and a Graduate Certificate in Policy Advocacy from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Karla is based out of southern California and is passionate about using data analysis, communications, and digital strategies for policy advocacy and social justice efforts.