How NEIA breaks out of the typical, constrictive grading system.



Typical grading systems can be unhelpful and frustrating for students; their entire academic success in a course comes down to one letter grade. Even more frustrating, students in these structures often don’t know what specific areas they need to improve upon. 

For these reasons, Teaching & Learning at NEIA is a competency-based education system.  We have 16 “pillars” competencies, that stretch across all subjects (e.g., “I CONNECT new ideas to previous learning and information across sources“ that can be applied to any subject area). Each curriculum then has 3 subject-specific competencies. 

Innovators are assessed on competencies through a system of four measures that inform the status of the skills on a particular task or at points during the learning process:

  • Surface

    • I demonstrate a partial or inconsistent understanding of this competency skill, which varies in accuracy and quality.
  • Immersed

    • I demonstrate a clear understanding of this competency skill effectively and with consistency.
  • Deep
    • I demonstrate an in-depth understanding of this competency skill with a high level of quality and complexity.
  • Unknown
    • I am missing the required material or have submitted an incomplete or inadequate artifact.

We believe this is the best possible system for student development because grading is based on competencies, not assessment methods, and because our assessments are not contaminated by non-achievement factors (i.e., extra credit, behavior, or compliance tasks).

At the end of each semester, we convert students’ competency scores to a regular four-point scale.

“Our value is placing the learning over the grade. Our goal is for innovators to understand that our competency-based education system focuses on processing their learning and the skills they need.”
J. Camp, Head of Teaching and Camping; Humanities Teacher


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