For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Stories of success fuel growing competency-based education initiative in Illinois

State Board now accepting applications for third cohort of competency-based education pilot​

SPRINGFIELD –  The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) today shared the Request for Applications for school districts and collaboratives to join the third cohort of the Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program. Accepted applicants will join 45 other school districts currently improving college and career readiness by supporting students' mastery of learning competencies, rather than “seat time" or completion of work. Stories of success from Chicago, Kankakee, and Peoria, are fueling the growing competency-based education initiative in Illinois.

“Schools across the state are transforming to meet students' needs," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “Schools are using competency-based education to support social and emotional learning, family and community engagement, and teacher leadership. The pilot offers districts interested in this innovative strategy an opportunity to connect with experts and with schools that are successfully implementing competency-based education in Illinois."

Stories of Success

Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago Public Schools joined Illinois' pilot in the first cohort in April 2017.

Principal Juan Carlos Ocon saw the promise of moving away from the school's traditional approach to teaching and learning when he arrived in 2008. The school embraced standards-based grading, which gives students multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery of specific expectations. It took its transformation a step further by launching competency-based education in 2015. The school joined Illinois' competency-based education pilot in 2017 to further strengthen its practices, continue its growth, and share its successes with other schools.

“Competency-based education has allowed our school to take a holistic approach to each student," said Ocon. “The competency based pilot was an affirmation that by shifting to a standards-based environment, we've been doing the right thing."

Read more about the competency-based education programs at Benito Juarez Community Academy and other schools participating in the pilot at

Districts and collaboratives may access the application, as well as a library of research and resources, at Applications are due to ISBE by June 21, 2019.​