The Future of CBE: Lessons for Illinois
  • By admin
  • July 30, 2019

By Grace Shelton


Recent reports have shared that employers are finding recent high school graduates increasingly unprepared for the workforce and in need of additional training to supplement this lack of skills. Illinois is no exception to this case. Illinois-based employers have also discovered that both high school graduates and postsecondary graduates still lack critical skills. This leads to a dearth in qualified potential employees.

An Illinois legislative move, the Post-Secondary and Workforce Readiness Act, was signed in July 2016 in order to remedy these gaps with several strategies aimed at improving students’ performance and readiness. One of these strategies is the inclusion of competency-based education, or CBE, in schools. Competency-based education is a shift away from traditional grading and assessments. Under the CBE system, students must achieve mastery of a certain skill before moving on to more rigorous coursework. In this way, schools can ensure that students are learning the necessary skills to succeed. The aim is to allow students the time and opportunity to gain proficiency in one skill before moving on to the next.

So far, not much has been done in the state to utilize this system of learning, until now. Fulton High School is one of 50 schools in the state that will be a part of Illinois’ pilot program for competency-based education.  The high school will be implementing this system in the fall. The school has already indicated they expect a lengthy process and some failures, and hopefully they will be able to pull lessons from successes in Utah as opposed to failures in Maine. Collaboration will be key in Illinois’ plan, and constant stakeholder input is strongly encouraged. Hopefully, in a few years’ time, Illinois will also be added to the growing list of states successfully implementing pilot programs for a new and improved system of education.