Community Foundation of Northern Illinois Awards Grant for Work-Based Learning, Education Research in Rockford/Belvidere Region

EdSystems is proud to announce it has received a three-year, $165,000 grant to strengthen work-based learning and launch an education research collaborative in the Belvidere and Rockford region. The grant was awarded by the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois’ Community Grants Program.

Building from our prior work with District 100 and Rockford Public Schools, EdSystems will partner with both districts to significantly enhance equitable work-based learning opportunities in alignment with the State’s College and Career Pathway Endorsement. This work will support the districts’ ability to apply for endorsements in their priority pathways and offer students a scaffolded experience in work-based learning. EdSystems will work with key work-based learning stakeholders at RPS and D100, including engaging teachers in design teams to identify gaps and design experiences to ensure that students can access work-based learning opportunities across the continuum. RPS and D100 can utilize the work-based learning models to recruit additional employer and community partners. In addition, finalized versions will be shared as a statewide resource through the Illinois Work-Based Learning Innovation Network (I-WIN), and working teams will be invited to share their work through a special I-WIN webinar.

To ensure the college and career pathways are equitably meeting the needs of Rockford area families and employers, we have also launched the new Rockford Regional Education Research Collaborative to understand the long-term outcomes of pathways students. In 2021, EdSystems partnered with the NIU College of Education and Illinois Interactive Report Card teams, as well as RPS, D100, and Rock Valley College, to form the Rockford Regional Education Research Collaborative. The NIU team designed a data infrastructure that leverages state- and local-level data to analyze the college and career pathways-related outcomes of local high school graduates enrolling at RVC. The collaborative’s analysis is focused on cohorts of D100 and RPS high school students as they transition from high school to possible postsecondary education, and they will link secondary and postsecondary data using both locally provided data and data provisioned from state agencies participating in the Illinois Longitudinal Data System. Analyses will describe the flow of cohort students along college and career pathways from D100 and RPS through RVC, make comparisons across academy/pathway and student subgroups, and assess relationships between pathways-related participation and academic outcomes in high school and community college.

“CFNIL has a long history of supporting education, and in recent years have focused in on supporting the systems which undergird districts, schools, students, and families,” says CFNIL President Dan Ross. “This grant is a further investment in a system that has proven that strengthening the connections, the pathways, between K-12 districts, higher education, and employers, improves student and community outcomes. This grant will also support research to help all of us understand the long-term impacts of a pathway system on students. It is an honor to be a partner in this effort, and we applaud EdSystems for their continued success.”

“The Rockford and Belvidere region has become an exemplar to the whole state on how to thoughtfully implement high-quality pathway opportunities that can transform students’ lives,” says EdSystems Executive Director Jonathan Furr. “This next phase of work is critical to ensuring students are prepared for their future careers, as well as that educators and policymakers understand the student experience, including any equity gaps or barriers. We are grateful to the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois for their thought partnership and investment in creating equitable outcomes for the region’s young people.”

About the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois

The mission of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois is to inspire endowment and promote philanthropy for the current and future needs of the people of Northern Illinois. Since its founding in 1953, CFNIL has granted more than $80 million for charitable purposes. 2023 is CFNIL’s 70th anniversary! Learn more about CFNIL’s history, grantmaking, and commitment to endowment at

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