Illinois pilots competency-based education programs in 10 high schools
- Ten Illinois high schools are in the process of planning and implementing a transition to competency-based learning after receiving approval from the state in 2017, SaukValley.com reports.
- At Huntley High School, northwest of Chicago, only 120 freshmen will begin the program this fall to allow the school to make the transition slowly with the hope of being more effective in the long-run.
- Avivia Bowen, spokeswoman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said the transition reflects a major shift in policy and practice and will require additional professional development for teachers and education for parents and students.
Competency-based education (CBE) is still controversial. For instance, a recent paper published by Competency Works, which explores the ideas that state policymakers should consider in order to support a transformation to CBE, asserts: “Personalized, competency-based education, designed to ensure equity, holds promise to prepare all students for success in college, career and civic life.” However, an article in The Federalist states: “Since CBE is useless in academic disciplines that don’t lend themselves to digitally measurable outcomes, we’ll inevitably see further narrowing of curricula, so that the “measurable” disciplines crowd out the humanities. This fits well with the workforce-development philosophy of Common Core, which aims to convert all of K-12 education into utilitarian job-training.”
Despite this debate, more states are taking action to enfold CBE into state policy, and the implementation at the state level, like any new initiative, is fraught with its own set of challenges. A statement by the National Conference of State Legislatures noted that “Many states have policies in place allowing schools and districts flexibility to award credit based on demonstrating competency rather than on seat time, but these policies vary widely in their scope." The remaining challenges, they noted, include addressing funding and data systems that are "incompatible with flexibility," and current policies that dictate how students can earn credit.
CBE has advantages in many areas, but it requires a transition to new approaches in educational practice and assessment. Teachers need both an open mind and professional development if they are to succeed in addressing issues critical to CBE, especially as schools can implement the practice in a wide variety of ways. Schools also must find ways to start the conversation with parents and students about the benefits of CBE and how it works. To be successfully implemented, CBE requires clear communication each step of the way.