2022 marked the tenth anniversary of Education Systems Center at NIU. Our portfolio–and the team supporting the work–has expanded significantly in the past decade, and more growth is on the horizon (including a new logo, coming in January!). We’re also growing in our understanding of racial equity needs and barriers and how we at EdSystems can be agents of change, which we detailed in our Advancing Racial Equity: Year Two Review blog post this fall. 

As we reflect on the progress made this past year to advance racial equity and prepare more young people for productive careers and lives in a global economy (below), we are especially grateful for our partners and supporters in this work. It’s an honor to collaborate with education and workforce systems leaders at the community and state level, with national leaders in our field, and with supporters who invest in the work and are thought partners in advancing our shared goals.

Engagement in Multi-State and National Initiatives

This past year, EdSystems has been invited to participate in numerous multi-state and national initiatives as well as a presentation to the U.S. Department of Education, elevating Illinois as an exemplar state for college and career pathways and supporting students in their transition to postsecondary.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invited EdSystems to join the Accelerate ED initiative, allowing students to earn a career-aligned credential or degree by the end of one additional year after high school. Through the initiative, EdSystems launched Accelerated Model Pathways for Information Technology (AMP-IT), partnering with Chicago Public Schools, Belvidere District 100, and District 214 and their postsecondary partners to design and launch an accelerated version of the existing Model Programs of Study for IT.

JFF, together with the Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Walton Family Foundation, invited EdSystems to join Building Equitable Pathways,s a community of practice working to create equitable pathways systems. Executive Director Jon Furr shared the Illinois Model Programs of Study and how we’re addressing equity barriers in college and career pathways on JFF’s podcast and at the Hawai’i P-20 Summit.

In partnership with XQ Institute and Student Achievement Partners, we launched the Illinois Math Badging Initiative to create an alternative credentialing mechanism wherein students can certify learning gained through a broad range of sources. This initiative builds on and is being integrated with our efforts to advance racial equity.

Illinois College and Career Pathways

Advancing State Supports for College and Career Pathways

EdSystems released the two newest Model Programs of Study Guides in Human & Public Service and Culinary & Hospitality in October, bringing the total number of released Guides to ten. The Guides have received national recognition as a best-practice model for pathway development. 

In May, Governor Pritzker signed Public Act 102-0917 (HB3296), which advances two of the PWR Act’s core components: the Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) framework and the College and Career Pathway Endorsements (CCPE). EdSystems relaunched the PWR Act website this past year as a resource hub to help communities implement PaCE and CCPE, as well as transitional instruction and competency-based education.

To support the growing number of education pathway students earning the CCPE, we called on state agencies to increase the transferability of education courses. In August, EdSystems and more than 160 partners from across the state delivered a letter to IBHE, ICCB, and Illinois Articulation Initiative to create an IAI panel of major coursework in elementary and secondary education concentrations. This effort is part of our increasing focus on creating more seamless transitions for pathway students from secondary to postsecondary.

We celebrate the 596 graduates in the Class of 2022 who earned the CCPE (a significant jump from the 47 endorsements awarded in 2021) and applaud the 16 districts that secured ISBE approval to award the endorsements. Thanks to HB3296, we anticipate continued dramatic growth in the number of CCPE graduates, and we will continue to partner with school districts, career centers, colleges, and employers to successfully and equitably scale CCPE.

Supporting Regional Development of Pathways Systems

In partnership with the IMA Education Foundation, we launched the new Scaling Transformative Advanced Manufacturing Pathways (STAMP) initiative with eight regional teams comprising the first cohort. STAMP is strengthening manufacturing pathways that articulate to community college programs and employment opportunities, focusing on under-represented students with one or more barriers to education, training, and employment.

Our Scaling Education Pathways in Illinois initiative introduced the third cohort of communities and a new peer-mentor model to help equitably increase the number of students earning the state’s College and Career Pathway Endorsement in education. We also expanded research into student perspectives and experiences in education pathways.

As part of the Middle Skills Pathways in Chicago project, we released six new analyses for the sectors of Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources; Architecture, Construction, & Energy; Arts & Communications; Culinary & Hospitality; Finance & Business Services; and Human & Public Services.

Supporting Work-Based Learning Innovation

As part of EdSystems’ Health Sciences Career Exploration and Career Development Experience Pilot, collaboratives in Chicago, Plainfield/Joliet, and East St. Louis developed multi-generational Career Exploration events designed with inclusion in mind. This fall, we shared their learnings and models through our Illinois WBL Innovation Network (I-WIN).

I-WIN hosted eight communities of practice, offering examples of work-based learning continuums in specific pathway sectors and elevating models from exemplary communities.

To support the development of high-quality Career Exploration and Career Development Experiences in middle and high schools, ISBE tapped EdSystems to support a one-year pilot program and share the resulting models, resources, best practices, lessons learned, and policy recommendations.

As part of the Career Development Experience Toolkit, we released a Facilitation Guide to guide communities through creating and maintaining successful, equity-centered Career Development Experiences.

Bridges to Postsecondary

Transitional Instruction

We continue to support transitional instruction implementation statewide, and those collective efforts are now producing outcomes. The recently released data on the Illinois Report Card shows a dramatic decline in community college overall remediation rates to an all-time low of 27%, with math remediation rates at an all-time low of 18% (this has plunged from 41% for the Class of 2014).

Additionally, we released a new resource that shows Illinois universities’ current participation status and related placement processes for transitional math courses in two of these pathways – STEM and QL / Stats. We’re working with multiple partners to launch a new virtual Transitional Math course to help scale these efforts statewide.

Dual Credit

In June, we co-released a dual credit survey on the perceptions of and experiences with dual credit among students, educators, families, and administrators at the secondary and postsecondary levels. The results clearly show that the vast majority of responders see the benefits for all involved in dual credit: schools, educators, students, and families.

Success Network

Together with our fellow Network Organizers, the Illinois 60 by 25 Network announced its new name, the Illinois Education and Career Success Network, and hosted its second fully-virtual conference with a record-setting attendance of 767 educators, administrators, policymakers, students, and leaders. For 2023, the Success Network is hosting a one-day in-person conference on March 8 at Moraine Valley Community College (register now), followed by a supplemental webinar series that will build on our theme of Accelerating Equitable Success. We hope to see you there!

Future of Learning

EdSystems announced the new Future of Learning Coalition, a partnership with the Illinois Digital Educators Alliance, LEAP Innovations, LUDA, and Teach Plus to further advance an innovation ecosystem for equitable, student-centered education in Illinois.

Data Impact and Leadership

We continue to support the Illinois Longitudinal Data System (ILDS), with a particular focus this past year on developing datasets that allow for analysis. The initial dataset, the Early Childhood Participation Dataset, has launched. Additionally, the High School 2 College 2 Career dataset is under construction, and we are collaborating with ISBE to develop an Educator Workforce dataset, which will enable improved analyses of the early childhood and K-12 workforce. EdSystems is leveraging the ILDS to enhance new and existing regional data projects.

We supported the launch of the Chicago Early Childhood Integrated Data System (CECIDS), which integrates data across systems and programs to create more timely and actionable data analyses and products that serve families, program administrators, funders, advocates, and policymakers. CECIDS stands to serve as a national exemplar for integrating Head Start, preschool, state, and census data sources.

To understand the long-term outcomes of pathways students in the Rockford region, the new Rockford Regional Education Research Collaborative is utilizing an innovative data infrastructure that leverages both state- and local-level data, which we hope will serve as a model for additional Illinois communities in the near future.

Keep Reading

Kyle Westbrook Named Executive Director of EdSystems

Education Systems Center at NIU is pleased to announce the appointment of Kyle Westbrook as its new executive director. Kyle brings a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to educational equity, making him an excellent fit for the organization’s mission.

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Performance-Based Assessment Showcase

At the Performance-Based Assessment Design Cohort Showcase on May 18, 2023, we were able to hear the teachers talk about their projects and the process of creating them, and see up close how performance-based assessments can be used across disciplines and with students from a range of backgrounds with a variety of characteristics.

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Community College Pathway Equity and Currency

To help encourage learners to complete the rigorous requirements and earn the College and Career Pathway Endorsement (CCPE) opportunity, as well as matriculate into postsecondary pathways, EdSystems is supporting the development of equity-centered strategies alongside incentives or currency that will help students and their families.

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