For Immediate Release
Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pilot allows districts to redesign high school around student learning

​Applications now open for second cohort of competency-based education pilot

​SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today released the request for applications for the second cohort of the Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program. School districts participating in the pilot will replace select high school graduation course requirements with a competency-based system of the district's design.

Competency-based teaching and learning structures students' educational experience around the individual student's knowledge and interests, rather than seat time. In competency-based learning, students play the active role in determining the course of their education. Students advance as they demonstrate mastery of specific skills, abilities, and knowledge.

“This competency-based learning pilot might be the most exciting opportunity available to school districts right now," said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “This pilot allows districts to redesign the high school experience totally around what students know and where they want to go. Competency-based learning recognizes students' individual starting points and allows them to pave a personalized pathway with no ceiling. I am excited about the innovations of the first cohort and ready to welcome a second cohort of pioneering districts." 

All Illinois school districts serving grades 9 through 12 are eligible to apply to participate in the pilot. Districts interested in applying may access the application at Applications are due to ISBE by February 16, 2018.

The ISBE website contains a library of research, program implementation plans, and descriptions of current pilot districts at

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, 2016, 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 in developing the pilot. 

The first cohort of the Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program launched with 10 participating school districts in the spring of 2017. The 10 districts convened in September to study national best practices, build relationships, find points of connection, and begin moving their pilots from vision to action. 

Currently, no additional state funding is appropriated for participating pilot districts.