Education Systems Center (EdSystems) at Northern Illinois University is proud to announce our participation in Accelerate ED: Seamless Pathways to Degrees and Careers, an initiative that seeks to blur the lines between high school and higher education and career learning experiences, allowing students to earn a career-aligned credential or degree by the end of one additional year after high school. We are joining 11 other Accelerated ED grantees representing diverse communities and labor markets to redesign K-12 and higher ed structures; strengthen local school, higher education, community-based organization, and employer partnerships; align on common goals for what experiences and opportunities all students should have in grades 9–13; and identify innovative ways to increase access to reach all students.
With a $175,000 grant provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, EdSystems seeks to scale existing information technology pathway initiatives in Illinois to help ensure more students obtain an associate degree by the end of one additional year after high school graduation and are set on a path to future economic opportunity.
Through Accelerate ED, EdSystems is launching Accelerated Model Pathways for Information Technology (AMP-IT). AMP-IT is engaging three leading Illinois school districts and their postsecondary partners to design and launch an accelerated version of the existing IT Model Programs of Study. High school students will earn up to 30 hours of early college credit that seamlessly stacks into college certificate, associate, and bachelor’s degree programs. Students will be able to complete an IT associate degree program in year 13 that directly leads to high-quality employment opportunities or further education and will have flexibility to pursue computer science bachelor’s degree programs through accelerated models at Illinois universities.
For the AMP-IT design team, EdSystems is partnering with Chicago Public Schools, Belvidere District 100, and District 214. City Colleges of Chicago and Rock Valley College are serving as the higher education partners from a community college, with the University of Illinois Discovery Partners Institute supporting in this capacity from a university perspective. Code Nation is the youth-serving organization partner and P33 serves as the regional technology industry association partner.
Research shows that efforts like AMP-IT are especially critical for Black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds who have historically had less access to high-quality career-aligned education pathways. In addition, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact college enrollment and student performance, there is an urgent need to invest in bridges across K-12, higher education and the workforce to bring high school, college and career pathways into tighter alignment.
As an Accelerated ED grantee, the AMP-IT design team is participating in a six-month sprint to learn from each other and find practical solutions to the barriers that currently limit these opportunities from being available to all students. This sprint includes technical assistance and individualized coaching from community-based organizations that can help strengthen partnerships across K-12, higher education, local employers, and youth-serving organizations and ensure that students are heard and centered in this work.
The aim of the Accelerate ED initiative is to create exemplars that show that with clear commitment, strong partnerships and aligned supports, all students can successfully navigate transitions from high school to college to work.