The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act (PWR), signed into law in 2016, takes a student based and competency based approach to helping students achieve college and career readiness. Being equipped to attend college and obtain meaningful employment is a top priority in Illinois education, because many students are currently graduating unprepared:
Often, students leave high school without a clear understanding of the skills needed to persist through college and gain meaningful employment. Students need exposure and experience to gain a better understanding of their career interests. School curriculum should allow students to craft an educational plan to meet their goals. Under the PWR act, education agencies must adopt a framework that outlines what students should know about college and career each year from 8th to 12th grade.
The framework must address, in an integrated way:
Examples of activities schools could incorporate to address the three areas include:
College Fair Visits
Mock Job Interviews
Career Interest Surveys
The PWR Act establishes a voluntary system for school districts to award college and career pathways endorsements on high school diplomas. The endorsement will demonstrate students’ readiness for college and careers and completion of instruction and professional learning experiences in a selected career interest area, and incentivize career exploration and development, particularly in highdemand career fields. College and career pathway endorsements require an individualized learning plan, careerfocused instruction, career exploration activities and 60 hours of internships or similar experiences. State agencies will coordinate with employers in prioritized areas for state economic development to identify minimum career competencies to incorporate into endorsement programs.
The most compelling learning experiences combine appropriate, relevant material and a clear understanding of how skills in high school can be used in the future. A major barrier to postsecondary persistence and completion is remedial education, and many Illinois high school graduates require remedial courses in math. The PWR act law includes provisions for evaluating students’ math proficiency during junior year. Students who are shown ready can decide whether they want to take a math course during senior year. Students who aren’t ready can choose from three types of transitional math courses for 12th grade and the content of each course corresponds to the student’s career pathway of interest.
The STEM Transitional Math course is tailored to career goals that require application of calculus or advanced algebraic skills. The Technical Math course is tailored to career goals in technical fields that do not require application of calculus, advanced algebraic, or advanced stats skills. The Quantitative/Literacy Stats course is tailored to career goals outside of STEM or Technical - focus on general stats, data analysis, quantitative literacy and problem solving.
These transitional courses are one element of a comprehensive strategy to increase college and career readiness. The career oriented courses are modeled after successful college and career readiness programs in high schools, like McHenry County College. Additionally, transitional math programs will be delivered through local secondary/postsecondary partnership agreements. The partnership agreements ensure that students receive curriculum on par with local colleges and enable students to develop familiarity with local colleges.
In contrast to an education model focused on “seat time” (the amount of time a child spends in a class), a Competency Based Education (CBE) allows students more flexibility to progress as they demonstrate mastery of concepts. The PWR Act establishes a pilot program for voluntary school district participation in moving from “seattime” graduation requirements to competency based high school graduation requirements. The Act includes a streamlined waiver process for pilot districts of laws and regulations that may restrict the competency based system’s implementation. The pilot is limited to 12 school districts per year in the first two years of implementation, and 15 school districts per year after.
Competencies focus more on what students know and are able to do rather than courses or seat time. CBE is one strategy under the larger approach of student centered education.
Student centered education tailors the supports to students’ needs based on the skills and the competencies the student has. This method aims to develop learner independence and autonomy by putting more responsibility in the student’s hands. Student centered education requires students to be active, accountable participants in their own learning and with their own pace of learning.
In contrast to an education model focused on “seat time” (the amount of time a child spends in a class) a student centered, competency based approach allows students more flexibility to progress as they demonstrate mastery of concepts. This model better positions schools to provide individualized support to students at multiple levels of academic achievement. Students in CBE classrooms are better engaged because their course material is personalized and relevant to their abilities.
Check out these websites for information on College and Career Readiness in Illinois.
Informational Materials on the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act: