Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program,
administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), launched
today with a call for applications from school districts serving grades
nine through 12. The 12 districts ultimately selected for
participation in the state’s first competency-based learning pilot will
replace select high school graduation course requirements with an
alternative system of the district’s design. In competency-based
learning, educators assess and advance students based on demonstrated
mastery of specific skills, abilities, and knowledge, rather than on
time in the classroom.
“We know our students are coming into high school with so many
assets and experiences that we haven't figured out how to access. This
new opportunity to work on competency-based learning will help students
share those strengths and get more specific support where they need
it. Illinois is taking a giant leap forward in meeting our students
where they are and better preparing them for the future,” said State
Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “The Competency-Based
High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program provides schools and
districts the opportunity not only to adapt classroom instruction to the
individual student but to personalize each student’s entire pathway
through high school. This pilot encourages community partnerships and
customized learning to support individual students’ interests and
needs. ISBE hopes to learn from the pilot about the potential of
competency-based learning to improve student outcomes on a large
Illinois Public Act 99-0674 (the “Postsecondary and Workforce
Readiness Act”), passed unanimously by both legislative houses and
signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner on July 29, established the
Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program as
one of a number of strategies to prepare more students for meaningful
career opportunities. ISBE consulted with the Illinois Community
College Board, Illinois Board of Higher Education, representatives from
higher education, and national experts on the development of the
The competency-based learning systems proposed in districts’ applications must have students:
- Demonstrate mastery of all required competencies to earn credit.
- Demonstrate mastery of adaptive competencies
(foundational skills needed for success in college, careers, and life,
such as, but not limited to, work ethic, professionalism,
communication, collaboration and interpersonal skills, and
problem-solving) defined by the school district, in addition to
- Advance once they have demonstrated mastery.
- Receive more time and personalized instruction, if needed, to demonstrate mastery.
- Have the ability to attain advanced postsecondary
education and career-related competencies beyond those needed for
- Be assessed using multiple measures to determine mastery, usually requiring application of knowledge.
- Be able to earn credit toward graduation requirements in
ways other than traditional coursework, including learning
opportunities outside the traditional classroom setting, such as
supervised career development experiences.
Districts interested in applying for participation in the pilot program may access the application online and must submit completed applications to ISBE no later than Jan. 27, 2017.
“The work of other states, districts, and schools around the
country has allowed us to glimpse what’s possible through
competency-based learning,” said Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and
Learning Jason Helfer, Ph.D. “From deeper integration of technology,
to better utilization of teacher talent, to an all-around more relevant
learning and skill-building experience for students, competency-based
learning has the potential to reinvent the way we prepare students for
college and career. ISBE encourages districts of all shapes and sizes
ISBE will provide an online library of research, pilot program
implementation plans, and models to support future replication, as well
as technical assistance and networking opportunities to districts
participating in the pilot.
Districts will not receive special or additional state funding to apply for, develop, or implement the pilot program.