QUINCY -- Quincy is one of four school districts joining the state's Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program.
Shifting the learning philosophy beyond the classroom walls, one key component of the pilot program, could better prepare Quincy High School students for college and career opportunities.
"We're very excited about the opportunities ahead for students, families and the community," said Carol Frericks, Quincy Public Schools Director of Student Services.
Competency-based education, or CBE, determines skills and knowledge students need to "show mastery" in a particular subject to earn credits toward graduation while offering more flexibility in completing coursework inside and outside the classroom.
Students "could work out in the community and learn as much or more than they're learning sitting in the classroom, or if nothing else, complement what they're learning in the classroom," QHS Principal Jody Steinke told The Herald-Whig in August.
Work already is underway at QHS to look at semester electives and to identify one team in each core department to work with the competency-based program.
Frericks said some classes may need all of 2018-19 to prepare for the transition, including work to define the specific competencies for each course to demonstrate mastery, while others may be able to make the shift for second semester.
More help will come through a new advisory committee with representatives from the school district, the community, business leaders, Quincy University, Western Illinois University and John Wood Community College.
The Illinois State Board of Education on Monday said the districts join the pilot on the heels of the federal Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which emphasizes workplace-based learning, incentivizes community and employer partnerships and expands CTE opportunities to middle grades.
"The reauthorization of the CTE Act occurs as we transform college and career readiness in Illinois," State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said in a news release. "CTE creates opportunities for students to explore careers, while building academic knowledge and transferable skills. Competency-based systems allow all of that learning to count."
The program "personalizes" education to the student, ISBE said, allowing the student's own interests, goals and pace to dictate the structure.
The state's pilot offers 19 participating districts a unique opportunity to get coaching from national experts and to build a community of practice with other districts. Districts share and learn about innovations in scheduling, teacher collaboration, technology, curriculum, credits, partnerships and performance assessments.
"There will be many benefits working with districts that have already implemented CBE," Frericks said. "We will learn from them about their implementation as well as their planning for successful implementation."
More information about the state's Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program and a map of participating districts are available online at isbe.net/competency.