Illinois keeps surprising me. First, in July they passed the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, which included a competency-based pilot (innovation space without any additional funding) as well as an effort to begin the calibration process between graduation expectations in mathematics and freshman-year mathematics in higher education. Then a second surprise. Within five months of the new legislation, they have launched the Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program for twelve districts to “replace high school graduation course requirements with a competency-based learning system.”
The pilot only focuses on grades 9-12, although districts will quickly learn that they are going to want a full district system – otherwise there is a constant flow of students with big gaps in their learning as students in the earlier years are passed on without ensuring they are mastering the fundamentals.
The competency-based learning systems must have the following elements:
- 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 academic competencies.
- 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 graduation.
- 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.