Competency-Based Learning in our Own Backyard at Rantoul Township High School District 193 (RTHS)

August 11, 2017
 
Picture of Rantoul Township High School building

ScoreStream.com

On July 29 of this year, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law Illinois Public Act 99-0674 (the “Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act”), that was unanimously passed by both legislative houses. Last November, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released a statement that highlighted Illinois’ first Competency-Based Learning pilot program. With this pilot program, twelve school districts will replace their high school graduation requirements with a competency-based learning system. This was proposed as one of a number of strategies to prepare more students for meaningful career opportunities. ISBE consulted with the Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Board of Higher Education, representatives from higher education, and national experts on the development of the pilot. One of the districts selected to participate in this pilot is right in our own backyard, Rantoul Township High School District 193 (RTHS). I had the pleasure to meet with Superintendent Scott Amerio, Principal Todd Wilson and Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction Megan Anderson to learn more about how they have begun to implement this pilot program and the impact they hope it will have on their students and staff.

To begin, Rantoul Township High School District 193 (RTHS) administrators met with a group of teachers to discuss their ideas and ways they could improve the current curriculum. While they were planning, they realized with the current traditional educational model, time was the constant and learning was the variable. They wanted to shift that perception; learning should always be the constant and time can change depending on the situation. Once they outlined a general format, they realized that the Competency-Based Learning Model was what they were looking for.

With this proposed model, students will progress as they master the skills for their specific classes. Once they master these skills, they then can move on and further explore the stair step approach. The goal is to start with the entry-level core courses and then grow over time. The ideal situation is that by their senior year, they will be enrolled in post-secondary classes, internships, or apprenticeships that align with their future career goals. The details of this part of the program are still being finalized and will continue to evolve as administrators work through the planning and implementation of the program.  RTHS believes that their previous work with a standards-based-curriculum has helped prepare the teachers and students for this new program.

RTHS admits that there has not been much community outreach in this early planning phase. Administrators have spoken with the RTHS Parent Advisory Board and will support parents throughout this process. Administrators believe that the Competency-Based Learning model will eventually provide a clearer picture of the student’s ability levels and what knowledge they have learned for parents.

As this pilot is still in the beginning stages and plans are still being finalized and tested, WILL Education will check back in with RTHS Administrators later in the academic year to see how the first year of the program has gone.