CPS Schools to Begin Innovative Competency-Based Learning Pilot 

Diverse Group of 6 CPS High Schools Will Participate in Cutting-Edge Pilot Program
Monday, April 3, 2017                                                    
Monday, April 3, 2017

For more information, contact:
CPS Office of Communications
Phone: 773-553-1620

CHICAGO - The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is one of 10 school districts in Illinois that has been selected to participate in an innovative competency-based learning pilot program. The pilot is designed to provide students with a customized learning and evaluation structure that emphasizes mastery of skills as opposed to time in the classroom to improve preparation for college, career and life. 
This pilot program is part of CPS’ commitment to providing students with a 21st-century education, using innovative tools, resources and approaches that are designed to meet the needs of all students. The CPS schools selected for the competency-based pilot represent a diverse selection of students from across the city. 
“Investing in cutting-edge education strategies have helped transform Chicago Public Schools into a district that is leading the country in academic growth, and we’re excited to start this pilot to drive new levels of achievement for Chicago students,” said Chief Education Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “This groundbreaking pilot gives Chicago schools the resources to remain at the forefront of education policy, by developing an instructional model that will not only serve an array of students, but also provide them with customized instruction that will prepare them to fully live up to their potential.”
Pilot History and Overview 
In 2016, the Illinois General Assembly passed The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act to spur innovation and test new methods for bolstering college preparation among high school students. To realize those goals, the General Assembly made a competency-based learning pilot the key component of this legislation. 
Each district selected for the pilot has created its own program consistent with ISBE guidelines. Under CPS’ program, educators will assess and advance students based on demonstrated mastery of specific skills, abilities, and knowledge.
ISBE mandates that each program meet the following requirements: 
  • Students demonstrate mastery of all required competencies to earn credit;
  • Students demonstrate mastery of adaptive and academic competencies;
  • Students advance once they have demonstrated mastery, and receive more time and personalized instruction if needed;
  • Students have the ability to attain advanced post-secondary education and career-related competencies;
  • Students are assessed using multiple measures; and
  • Students must be able to earn credit toward graduation requirements in ways other than traditional coursework. 
Additionally, the legislation mandates additional funding will be provided by the state for the 2017-18 school year. 
CPS Implementation
Six diverse schools across Chicago were selected to participate in this program after demonstrating the ability to successfully carry out the pilot. Programs will vary based on current resources and structures in place at each school and to best suit the needs of each student population.
While each school will adopt a unique approach, the following elements will be implemented in each program: 
  • Shift focus from the amount of time spent learning a subject to mastery of skills. Rather than requiring a certain amount of time on a subject (e.g. two semesters of algebra) students will be able to move at their own pace and advance when they master a subject — and receive extra support if they fall behind. 
  • Pilot participants will master adaptive competencies. A wealth of research shows that students with adaptive competencies like cooperation, self-awareness, and decision-making skills have a much higher rate of success in academics and life. As part of the pilot, students will be required to demonstrate mastery of these crucial adaptive competencies. For each academic activity, teams will develop a corresponding adaptive competency — such as teamwork — to be evaluated separately from the mastery of academic skills. 
  • Redefine grading systems for relevant courses. Instead of receiving a letter grade, students will be evaluated on skills through newly developed proficiency rubrics. Several pilot programs will adopt a 0-4 rubric with numbers corresponding to proficiency level. For example, scores of 3.0 and above demonstrate proficiency, and scores below 3.0 will require additional support. This system places crystal clear focus on concrete skills and a concise framework for success. 
Starting immediately, participating schools will begin an intensive planning period that includes professional development, technical assistance, and meetings with teachers, principals, partners and the school community.  During the planning phase, CPS will work closely with schools to develop standards and assessment tools, expand specialized education pathways — including dual credit and vocational training programs — adapt evaluation measures in conjunction with our stakeholders, and develop data-based best practices. Following a year of planning, schools will implement the new education model beginning in the 2018-19 school year.
CPS worked with a diverse group of schools to apply for and carry out the pilot. All schools demonstrated the ability to successfully carry out the objectives, based on numerous meetings with principals, educators and stakeholders. Participating CPS schools include: 
  • Gwendolyn Brooks: Selective Enrollment school on the far south side (Grades 7-12)
  • Southside Occupational: Transitional school for special needs (Ages 16- 21) 
  • Lindblom Math & Science Academy: Selective Enrollment school on the south side (Grades 7-12)
  • York High School: Learning facility within the Cook County jail for young adults awaiting adjudication (Ages 18-21)
  • Benito Juarez Community Academy: Neighborhood school with an IB curriculum on the near south side (Grades 9-12)
  • Walter Payton: Selective Enrollment school on Chicago’s north side (Grades 9-12)
Each school has adopted an individualized pilot structure designed to best serve their student populations, and schools are working to prepare for a successful implementation of the pilot beginning next school year. 

Page Last Modified on Monday, April 03, 2017