For Immediate Release
Monday, April 3, 2017

State Superintendent of Education celebrates districts exploring the future of high school

​Ten school districts selected to participate in Illinois’ first-ever competency-based learning pilot

PEORIA – Illinois State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D., today announced the 10 school districts selected to participate in the first cohort of Illinois’ Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program. Smith celebrated the pioneering districts at an event at Manual Academy in Peoria Public Schools District 150, which will launch its first competency-based course in the 2018-19 school year.

Each school district chosen to participate in the pilot will create a competency-based learning and credit 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. Competency-based learning allows for a potentially more relevant and personalized learning experience for students, in addition to deeper integration of technology and better utilization of teacher talent.

“The way we prepare students for college and career must evolve if we want to fuel a thriving economy and healthy communities,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “When students leave our schools, they should leave with the keys to open multiple doors, any of which can lead to a successful future. In Illinois, although 86 percent of students graduate high school in four years, only 46 percent of students demonstrate college readiness. While 71 percent of our high school graduates enroll in a postsecondary institution within 16 months, 49 percent of students enrolling in our community colleges have to take remedial courses, which makes graduating from college take longer, cost more, and be less likely.”

“The 10 school districts participating in the first cohort of the Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot are opening new doors for students and educators,” said Smith. “These districts are modeling the future I want to see in Illinois – innovative, led by educators, supportive of the whole child and of every student reaching their full potential, and with schools at the center of healthy communities.”
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) launched the pilot program to spur innovation in the way high schools prepare students for meaningful careers and to support Illinois’ goal of increasing the proportion of adults in Illinois with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, passed unanimously by both legislative chambers and signed into law by Governor Bruce Rauner, established the pilot program in 2016.

The school districts participating in the first cohort of the pilot include:
  • Peoria Public Schools District 150
  • Huntley Community School District
  • Rantoul Township High School District 193
  • Williamsfield Community Unit School District 210
  • Kankakee School District 111
  • Proviso Township High School District 209
  • East St. Louis School District 189
  • Ridgewood High School District 234
  • Round Lake Community Unit School District 116
  • Six schools in Chicago Public Schools District 299
    • Benito Juarez Community Academy High School
    • Lindblom Math & Science Academy
    • Brooks College Prep
    • Walter Payton College Preparatory High School
    • Consuella B York Alternative High School
    • South Side Occupational High School
All of the participating districts have created local Planning and Implementation Committees and plans to engage their communities and stakeholders in the development and implementation of their competency-based learning systems.

ISBE will foster an open learning community and provide an online library of research, technical assistance, and models to support the first cohort of the pilot and encourage more districts to apply for future cohorts.

No state funding has been appropriated in the current fiscal year for this pilot program. ISBE has requested $1 million in Fiscal Year 2018 to help support the development of the pilot program. The application for the next cohort will open later in 2017.
Learn more about the pilot and the participating districts’ plans at​.