Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act

Supporting students from high school to college and career

The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act (PWR), signed into law in 2016, takes a student-based and competency-based approach to helping student 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:

  • Half of Illinois high school graduates who enroll in community college require remedial education
  • Employers report that recent high school graduates often lack critical skills for success

Now more than ever Illinois needs prepared graduates who have academic, character, and career-specific skills in a high demand industry.

How does PWR help students become prepared?

The Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act implements four strategies: Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE), competency-based learning systems, college and career pathways endorsements, and transitional math courses.


Ed systems Post-Secondary graphic

Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE)

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: 1) Career exploration and development; 2) College exploration, preparation and selection; 3) Financial literacy and accessing financial aid opportunities.

Examples of activities schools could incorporate to address the three areas include: college fair visits, career interest surveys, and mock job interviews

College and Career Pathway Endorsements on High School Diplomas

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 high?demand career fields. College and career pathway endorsements require an individualized learning plan, career?focused 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.

Transitional Math Courses

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 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 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. Stem Transitional Math course is tailored to career goals that require application of calculus or advanced algebraic skills. The Technical Transitional Math course is suited for career goals in technical field that do not require the application of calculus, advanced algebraic, or advanced statistics skills. The quantitative Literacy/Statistics Transitional Math course is geared toward career goals outside of STEM or Technical, with a focus on general stats, data analysis, literacy, and problem solving.

How are these courses different from typical math programs?

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 and Harper here in Illinois. 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

Pilot of Competency-Based Graduation Requirements

In contrast to an education model focused on “seat time” (the amount of time a child spends in a class), a competency-based education system allows students more flexibility to progress as the demonstrate mastery of concepts. The PWR Act establishes a pilot program for voluntary school district participation in moving from “seat?time” 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.

Want to learn more?

Check out these websites for information on College and Career Readiness in Illinois:

Additional Information on the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act

Competency-Based Education Webinar 12.9.16

  1. PowerPoint
  2. GSP’s Proficiency-Based Simplified website
  3. GSP sample competency-based Transcript
  4. GSP sample school profile
  5. Collegiate endorsement for competency-based learning website
  6. Collegiate endorsement for competency-based learning overview
  7. New England Board of Higher Education: Policy Spotlight on New England