Illinois schools experiment with competency-based education model
- Ten Illinois school districts, including the embattled Chicago Public Schools, will take part in a new competency-based learning pilot that puts skill mastery over amount of time spent in classroom as a top focus.
- Students will be required to demonstrate mastery of adaptive competencies like cooperation, self-awareness and decision-making skills in addition to the academic skills they are required to master in their traditional courses.
- Proficiency rubrics will replace traditional letter grades, and students will be able to move through subjects like algebra and history at their own pace. The program will reach schools serving talented and gifted students, as well as special needs and justice-involved or incarcerated students.
Competency-based education is seeing growth in adult education programs as a way to help graduate more marketable future employees, and now the trend seems to be headed for the K-12 sector as well. The push toward mastery vs. time-in-class should help promote students who are better prepared for life after high school. Many of the adaptive competencies emphasized are the same as the ones employers say today's workers are lacking, and making the development of these "soft skills" a mandatory part of their education should help close the gap. And with a greater influx of technology to promote personalized learning, schools have increasing capacity to experiment with such models and allow students to complete their lessons on their own terms and at their own pace.
The Illinois pilot program includes intensive professional development, which is critical to the success of any tech rollout in schools, but also just generally essential to a teaching force trying to best serve the needs of a constantly evolving student demographic. As access to education becomes more and more of a focus, more teachers may see themselves reaching students in the prison system, for instance, and investing in additional support for teachers and students will be imperative for the success of the program.
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