In 2023, the Illinois Education and Career Success Network continued to expand its reach and impact through thoughtful convenings, growing the Network, engagement with students, new supports and funding opportunities for Leadership Communities, re-launching the data dashboard, and exploring policy and practice with the Policy Committee:

Hosted Its First In-Person Conference Since 2020

In March 2023, the Success Network hosted its first in-person conference since 2020 and had the highest attendance with over 300 attendees! The theme of the conference was Accelerating Equitable Success. The keynote speaker was Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), Dr. Amy Loyd, who shared OCTAE’s vision for college and career success and information on new federal supports and resources available to support states as they implement and enhance these efforts. In recognition of its 10th anniversary, the Success Network celebrated the accomplishments of Leadership Communities and highlighted their efforts to advance equitable postsecondary attainment during the lunch plenary.

To supplement the conference, the Success Network hosted three webinars, which attracted a total of over 120 attendees.

Hosted Two Regional Meetings

To further support Leadership Communities, the Success Network hosted two in-person meetings in June. One was held in Peoria for communities in southern and central Illinois, and the second in the northwest suburbs for northern and western Illinois communities. The agenda allowed communities to review data from the relaunched Leadership Community dashboard and take collective action around their postsecondary attainment goals. These meetings provide Leadership Communities with dedicated time to strategize on their local efforts and leverage the knowledge of peers from other communities. To allow attendees to participate fully, Network Organizers facilitate the discussions, document the discussions, and share the notes with communities. Meeting surveys indicate that attendees found value in the gatherings, particularly engaging with data, collaborating with their regional partners, and learning from the work in other regions.

Welcomed a New Leadership Community

The Success Network welcomed the Southern Illinois Region as the newest Leadership Community in June. Led by SI Now, the Leadership Community team brings expertise in employer engagement and regional convening. Southern Illinois Region’s geographic footprint includes the 17 southernmost counties of Illinois. Since the region is quite large, Success Network activities will begin as seed projects in Jackson, Johnson, and Williamson counties and then expand to other counties.

Continued to Engage the Student Advisory Council

Network Organizers continued to grow and support the Success Network’s Student Advisory Council. In spring 2023, the Success Network welcomed 13 new members to replace those who graduated. In school year 2022–23, meeting topics included financial aid and tools to help plan for life after high school, including the PaCE Student Checklist and the Illinois High School to Career tool. Students then shared the tool with their peers in their own words. The Council also discussed graduation and remediation data from the Illinois Report Card, sought students’ ideas on why there are disparities in outcomes, and students offered thoughtful suggestions on what can be done to address those disparities. To center students’ experiences, the Success Network opened the 2023 conference with a Student Voices video.

Provided Innovation Funding to Leadership Communities

Network Organizers continued support for communities to enhance their work on college and career pathways. Communities continue implementing the College and Career Pathway Endorsements grant program by developing explicit college currency for endorsement earners through participation in an initiative led by EdSystems. Participating collaboratives included at least two high schools and a community college. The funded Leadership Community collaboratives by community colleges are Sauk Valley Community College, Kaskaskia College, Illinois Valley College, Black Hawk College, and Shawnee College. Joliet Junior College and Parkland College also joined the cohort. Network Organizers were thrilled that districts in Leadership Communities led the way on endorsements in SY23, and we’re excited to bolster this work through these grants.

In partnership with the IMA Education Foundation, EdSystems also continued to support Leadership Communities (Chicago, Northwest Suburbs, Peoria, Quad Cities, Rockford and Belvidere, and Sauk Valley) funded by the Scaling Transformative Advanced Manufacturing Pathways (STAMP) initiative. 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.

In the fall of 2023, EdSystems supported two Leadership Communities – Lake County and Southern Illinois – as part of a second cohort of districts implementing Accelerated Model Pathways for Information Technology (AMP-IT). AMP-IT supports school districts in accelerating and deepening aspects of their existing IT pathways by designing opportunities for high school students to earn more than 15 hours of early college credit that seamlessly stack into associate and bachelor’s degree programs. Learn more about the AMP-IT second cohort and lessons learned in year one.

Re-launched the Leadership Community Dashboard

In June, the Success Network launched the updated Leadership Community dashboard. Prior to launch, Network Organizers engaged Leadership Communities to understand their priorities for metrics and functionality. The new dashboard allows users to visualize education trend data, download it, easily group together data from multiple districts for comparison, and benchmark against state averages and top and bottom quartiles. This is the only resource in Illinois that provides trend data in this way. The Success Network documented how it engaged Leadership Communities on the dashboard in a blog post.

Explored Policy and Practice with the Policy Committee

In December 2022, the Success Network Policy Committee was launched to provide space for local practitioners and policy leaders to collaborate and learn from one another, elevate local practice to inform state policy, and support local practitioners to take advantage of policy windows. The Policy Committee is composed of a range of education, workforce, community-based organizations, advocacy groups, and state agency stakeholders spanning the P-20 pipeline. The committee hosted four quarterly meetings where it highlighted local practices in dual credit and PaCE and featured three Leadership Communities – Vermilion, Making Opportunities Real for Everyone (MORE) in the Mississippi, and Evanston. The committee provided policy updates, including information on the Higher Education Learning Commission, College and Career Pathway Endorsements rules by the Illinois State Board of Education, budget highlights, and more. The committee also introduced the Success Network Dashboard and launched a work-based learning transportation workgroup focused on transportation barriers for students engaging in work-based learning. The group is documenting their findings around transportation-related barriers and is developing recommendations to address them, which the committee staff will share with the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Workforce Innovation Board, and other stakeholders to explore solutions. Dates for next year’s meetings are on the website. Join us!

Began Planning the 2024 Annual Conference

On February 28, the Success Network will host an in-person conference at Moraine Valley Community College. The theme is Awareness to Action: Promoting Equity in Education and Careers. Check out the agenda and register. Following the conference, the Success Network will host a series of supplemental virtual sessions to build on the conference’s theme while reaching a broader audience that can’t attend in person. We look forward to seeing you in person or virtually in 2023!

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