Placing Our Big Bets Through 2025 and Beyond

As reflected in our 10th-anniversary milestones, EdSystems serves as a unique catalyst for launching and scaling an array of Illinois policies and programs that advance racial equity and prepare more young people for productive careers and lives. At the start of each year, our team assesses our key priorities and objectives over a multi-year horizon, which are then back-mapped to clear annual and quarterly goals for action. As we look ahead to 2025, we recognize that we are at an important pivot point for our work.

Building on the PWR Act, initiatives we’ve led, such as Model Programs of Study and the Illinois Work-Based Learning Innovation Network and the recent enactment of HB 3296, have laid the foundation for the dramatic scaling of high-quality college and career pathways and related work-based learning (WBL) systems. Impacted by our work on transitional instruction and state dual credit policies, remediation rates in the State have dramatically declined while dual credit participation rates have significantly increased. Version 2.0 of the Illinois Longitudinal Data System (ILDS) has moved from concept to implementation, and we have fostered the launch of powerful new data tools such as the Illinois Postsecondary Profiles and the Chicago Early Childhood Integrated Data System. All of these efforts and successes have occurred as Illinois has made steady progress towards its 60% postsecondary attainment by 2025 goal (currently at 56.9%), due in large part to the dedicated work of our community partners in the Illinois Education and Career Success Network.

As we look forward to 2025, the EdSystems team is coalescing around five new goals, which we call our Big Bets. We believe these bets will ensure that our state’s education and workforce systems do not simply create structures that enable pathways to opportunities but truly lessen racial inequities and lead to tangible progress for our Black and Latinx students that have for far too long been underserved by these systems. These bets frame the next phase of work for each of our portfolio areas and will be embedded into our team’s continued journey to advance racial equity.

Our Big Bets

1. Equitable expansion of quality pathways availability, participation, and completion

We will work to ensure quality pathway systems are available in districts serving Black and Latinx students, that participation demographics reflect the school and community, that participation is occurring at a scale to transform the school and community culture, and that students, particularly in our targeted equity populations, are earning the College and Career Pathway Endorsement and transitioning to postsecondary. We will lead the establishment of statewide, sector-focused initiatives to scale pathways with employer partners in key economic sectors. We will also foster a shared understanding of what constitutes a “high-quality” pathway, building from our prior work, including the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership Quality Indicators and the Perkins Model Programs of Study Guides.

2. Building equitable work-based learning systems to scale

We will foster the scaling of innovative work-based learning models to address the level of need; support the field’s movement beyond traditional internship mindsets to new models that build student’s social capital and postsecondary and career preparation in new ways; and support communities to break down barriers for all students, particularly Black and Latinx students, to access and succeed in work-based learning experiences.

3. Establishing seamless pathways, transitions, and supports into postsecondary

We will seek to transform our state’s systems of secondary-to-postsecondary transitions from a chasm to a seamless bridge, work to scale and leverage an array of currency models to incentivize pathway students from secondary to and through postsecondary, facilitate school district and college partnerships to expand dual credit offerings and remove access barriers, leverage transitional instruction and dual credit systems as a springboard to college, learn from and expand successive grades 9–14 student support models, and explore the role of innovative competency-based models to address persistent barriers to postsecondary readiness and success.

4. Creating the infrastructure and systems for data-informed action in our areas of focus

We will support our state agency partners to ensure critical ILDS datasets are established and producing insights for the field, expand the reach and impact of the innovative NIU P-20 Research and Data Collaborative’s data analytics environments that combine state and local data, provide leadership for analyzing and communicating year-over-year trends for key college and career readiness and success metrics. We will continue to partner with state agencies to develop tools that allow analysts, educators, families, and students to use data better to inform policy and practice. We will ensure our team’s data analyses, and that of our partner communities, are directly tied to and augmented with authentic youth voice and engagement so that we better understand the experiences and assets of those reflected in the data.

5. Infusing youth voice across our portfolio

As the foundation for all our other bets, we will continue to infuse youth voice across all of our portfolio areas, continuing to expand the reach of the Success Network Student Advisory Council, building empathy research into multiple project areas, expanding our internship programs and extending them into an innovative youth apprenticeship model, and launching a new project space for youth participatory action research.

More to Come

Over the coming months, we will share more detail about our thinking on each of these Big Bets, beginning with the equitable expansion of pathways. We welcome your feedback on our direction and your partnership as we strive to ensure that these bets pay off for the benefit of Illinois learners and communities.

Keep Reading

Executive Director Transition Announcement

Education Systems Center at NIU (EdSystems) today announces that Founder and Executive Director Jonathan Furr will be transitioning from his role as of June 2023 after nearly eleven years of building and leading the organization. Jon will be pursuing new professional opportunities, which he will share in the coming weeks.

Read More »


Thank you!

We received your submission.