To support its vision of “taking pride in educating and graduating each student prepared and inspired to contribute to the world,” Peoria Public Schools is preparing to reimagine high school by developing a Competency-Based Education (CBE) Pilot program.
As announced by Illinois State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. this week at Manual Academy, ten school districts, including the Peoria Public Schools, were selected to participate in the first cohort of Illinois’ Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program.
Through structures already in place and outlined in the District strategic plan, we anticipate that the CBE Pilot will open a vast array of opportunities for students to be successful and complete their high school graduation requirements while also pursuing the pathway toward their college and career goals.
CBE is a new and evolving way of viewing secondary education and we are very excited to begin the process. In preparing the proposal to the ISBE to become a CBE Pilot, we used the expertise of our own teaching staff, including Mike Rhodes, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) career program coordinator at Richwoods High School, Manual Academy Industrial Technology teacher Andrew Rice and WCTC Construction Trades teacher Michael Brix, among others.
CBE redefines high school graduation requirements in the form of competencies and performance-based assessments tailored to various career pathways. The competencies for the courses will be culled from Common Core State Standards.
The goal of Phase 1 of the CBE Pilot is to identify the math, English, and science competencies related to the pathway capstone courses for the District’s high school manufacturing, culinary, cosmetology, construction and PLTW career programs, integrate them into the curriculum for those courses and develop the assessment measures to determine mastery of the competencies. Students then can earn credit for the math, English, and/or science required for graduation as part of their career-related courses rather than requiring separate subject-focused courses. Integrated projects, combining academic instruction in math, English, and/or science and demonstration of the competencies will require flexibility. The certified content area specialist will work with a career-based course instructor to define the competencies of mastery, but the course could be taught by either teacher.
Peoria Public Schools is also reimagining the students’ school day. Having flexibility with clock hours will allow students to participate in blended project-based experiences, work offsite in a professional setting and work directly with experts.
The CBE Pilot initiative is expected to engage students who might otherwise drop out or find school irrelevant.
Redefining Ready! is a national initiative launched by the AASA (The School Superintendents Association) to introduce new research-based metrics to more appropriately assess that students are college ready, career ready and life ready. Their website makes the powerful statement that students cannot be reduced to a test score. This assertion is reinforced by Peoria Public School district data that approximately 40 percent of students go directly to the workforce. We must equip those students with immediately employable skills while reducing the six percent dropout rate.
The work of Alignment Peoria and Pathways to Prosperity support these goals and are based on feedback from community stakeholders including businesses and trade unions.
Our immediate course of action will be to identify teachers and a CBE leader for the District and developing a plan for professional development. We anticipate rolling out the first CBE courses for the 2018-2019 school year.
With the CBE Pilot, the Peoria Public Schools are in the vanguard of a paradigm shift for secondary education that is taking place in public school districts nationwide. I am excited and confident that this direction will bring lifelong success to our students and to our region.