Scaling Education Pathways in Illinois (SEPI) Sets 750 Students on the Education Pathway in First Year

In the first year of Scaling Education Pathways in Illinois (SEPI), Education Systems Center (EdSystems) has successfully launched nine collaboratives across the state representing 22 school districts. Through SEPI, EdSystems has helped those districts align their programs to the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act in 2019-2020. Based on the initial launch, we anticipate more than 750 students will receive the Education Pathway endorsement on their high school diploma in 2023.

Driving Innovation

Our primary role in this work has been to drive secondary district partners to implement the College and Career Pathway Endorsement (CCPE) requirements, which include early college credits, transitional instruction, and work-based learning in addition to traditional coursework. These requirements ensure high school students in the education pathway will graduate better prepared for postsecondary academic work, particularly within education degree programs, than ever before.

To that end, EdSystems has worked to drive innovation in college and secondary district partnerships to expand early college opportunities. In all SEPI collaborations, the CCPE requirements required both the secondary districts and their college partners to change policies and find solutions that give high school students access to college-level coursework in education.

Collaborations extend beyond coursework. With guidance from EdSystems, partnerships between secondary and postsecondary institutions are encouraged to include mentoring and placement opportunities. Initial approaches include pairing students with either faculty members or teachers in the field. For example, College of DuPage is pairing students in the pathway with teachers in the Technology and Engineering Education field while Quincy University will match students with their faculty.

All participating districts have now begun documenting at least one education pathways in the State’s web-based system for endorsements, clearing the path for EdSystems to help individual districts seek authorization from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to begin awarding pathways endorsements to eligible students in the 2020-2021 school year. While we anticipate potential delays for some collaboratives due to the constraints remote learning places on work-based learning opportunities in education, completing this documentation is an important achievement for the individual districts as well as for SEPI.

A Community of Practice for Education Pathways

At the same time, EdSystems convened a Community of Practice to guide the collaboratives on best practices and foster peer-to-peer learning. The first SEPI summit, held in Bloomington, IL in September 2019, hosted 84 participants and included in-person workshops, speakers, and breakout sessions. Speakers and collaborators at the event included EdSystems, Golden Apple, Educators Rising, Advance Illinois, and leading pathway districts throughout the state. The second SEPI summit for funded collaboratives and statewide partners was held this spring; despite shifting to an online platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all collaboratives joined via videoconference. We heard time and again from both secondary and postsecondary leaders that the cohort experiences allowed them to consider their course offerings, work-based learning opportunities, and partnerships in new and deeper ways. For example, Chicago Public Schools and District 214 both shared their models which will seek to track students through high school, college, and a return to the district as a student-teacher. Plainfield shared how their partnership with the Greater Joliet Area YMCA’s Teen Achievers Program is helping to recruit more minority students to their program; while this occurred organically, they are now looking to expand the Teen Achievers Program from two of their high schools to all four and create more intentionality around this recruitment strategy, prompting other schools to consider similar partnerships.

Even while schools grappled with how to shift to remote learning, the Community of Practice ensured pathways planning and implementation pushed forward. At the summit, in particular, we heard unique ideas for hands-on lab experiences that can carry on in fall 2020 despite the real possibility of remote learning, such as facilitating children’s literature circles at a local daycare program that serves children of essential workers and partnering with teachers remotely to develop lesson plans for virtual classrooms.

State Leadership

Through participation in Advance Illinois’ Education Pipeline Policy Group, we have actively engaged in State policy discussions involving the teacher shortage, with SEPI serving as the State’s leading model for early pathways in education and this work is being noticed by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). In July 2020, ISBE announced that it awarded Career and Technical Education (CTE) Education Career Pathways Grants totaling nearly $2 million to eleven regional entities to recruit and support future educators at high schools and vocational centers across the state. Four of the eleven regional entities benefitting from these new grants are part of the initial Scaling Education Pathways (SEPI) in Illinois and College and Career Pathway Endorsement (CCPE) cohorts. Leading up to the announcement, Education Systems Center (EdSystems) presented to ISBE information on the SEPI Model and advocated for the alignment of the grant dollars to the College and Career Pathway Endorsement Framework, which includes strategic dual credit, work‐based learning, and postsecondary partnerships.

SEPI Collaborative Accomplishments: Year 1

In the winter of 2019, Chicago Public Schools joined this cohort of districts. This effort aimed to complement and enhance CPS’s efforts to increase the number of students pursuing careers in education through its Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teaching Academy. By joining the SEPI project, the CTE Teaching Academy aligned with State policy and best practices being implemented by other districts facing teacher shortages.

The CTE Teaching Academy is hosted in seven schools, which were selected based on geographic diversity within the city, the willingness of school leadership to participate, and the fact that 80 percent of students in these schools are Black or Hispanic. Across the seven schools, current enrollment in the program is 375 students, with the goal of reaching 434 students in 2021 and 535 in 2022. Four of the seven are offering dual credit coursework as part of the pathway in partnership with National Louis University and City Colleges of Chicago. They have also partnered with Northeastern Illinois University, which will provide credit for coursework, and Teach Chicago Tomorrow.

The Teaching Academy is an eight-year model, ranging from 10th grade through the 1st year of teaching in CPS. Sophomores will begin with a course in Child Development. Juniors will take two dual credit courses in Philosophy of Education and Children’s Literature. Seniors will take two dual credit courses in Educational Psychology and Professionalism and Ethics as well as a practicum. Practicum experiences include field experiences in an embedded preschool program at one of the high schools, as well as working in local elementary schools and summer internships in the district office. Additional site visits and guest speakers will round out professional learning experiences in this program. The CPS talent department is guaranteeing jobs to all those who qualify and successfully complete an accredited teaching program, a major recruitment driver.

CPS would ideally expand from seven schools to 50; current barriers include the stigma around CTE programs and the ability for work-based learning placements given the Covid-19 lockdown. They are also strategizing around the challenge of post-graduate engagement with pathway students.

The College of DuPage / Indian Prairie HSD 204 collaborative includes the four high schools in District 204 (Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley, and Indian Plains) in partnership with College of DuPage (COD) and Illinois State University (ISU).

The collaborative plans to introduce the pathway to students in 2021-2022. Students will receive early college credit hours for five courses: Introduction to Education, School Procedures, English 1101, Psychology 1100, and Math. Seniors will gain field experiences as a requirement of their coursework and participate in the regional Educators Rising competition. The postsecondary institutions are working to finalize a 2+2 program with automatic admissions into ISU’s Technology and Engineering Education (TEE) program. COD is providing professional development for dual-credit teachers and students in the pathway, as well as developing a mentoring program that will pair students with teachers in the TEE field. Student-mentor pairs will attend the Illinois Technology Education Conference and participate in an annual Teach TEE day at COD.

District 214 serves six comprehensive high schools, all of which are implementing the education pathway in 2020-2021, with three offering the capstone course from the start. Approximately 200 students are projected to complete the pathway by 2022. The district is partnering with National Louis University as well as eight elementary school districts for field experiences.

District 214 is using an eight-year program model, named Educator Prep, following students from 8th grade through college graduation. Their goal is to funnel pathway students into postsecondary partners’ education programs, then bring students back to the district for student teaching and a guaranteed interview. While in high school, students will begin with a freshman orientation class called Foundations of Learning & Development as well as gain field experience in the preschool lab, which is open in all six schools. Skill development courses will begin sophomore year with a dual credit Introduction to Education course and the Teacher Internship Program (TIP), a one-period class that places students into elementary schools two days a week for one semester. During junior and senior year, students will take three dual credit courses: Math, Education Academy: Educational Psychology, and Speech or Composition. The Education Academy course will also embed work-based learning experiences in the field.

Thanks to a district-wide commitment to developing the talent pipeline, the education pathway is fully funded at all six schools and three new education teachers with CTE credentials have been hired. One of those teachers will be placed at Elk Grove, which offers a Dual Language program. The collaborative believes this placement at Elk Grove will help diversify the program by bringing in bilingual, biliterate education pathway students.

The Fayette and Marion Counties Rural Collaborative includes four high schools (Centralia HSD 200, Vandalia CUSD 203, Patoka CUSD 100, and South Central CUSD 401) in partnership with Kaskaskia College, Greenville University, and Eastern Illinois University. The collaborative will implement the pathway by 2021-2022 and projects 20-25 students to graduate with the endorsement by 2023.

Students will be taking Psychology 101 in their junior year as a dual credit course. Senior year, students will take Intro to Educational Practice, Technology in Teacher Education, Field Experience (which includes 40 hours of work-based learning), and Projects/Activities, all for dual credit. The high schools are sharing an instructor for Kaskaskia College, which is a model for other rural programs. Each high school will have a classroom facilitator to assist with instruction, but the primary delivery of content will be through Zoom, which positions this program to launch despite the unknown future impact of COVID-19 and remote learning.

The collaborative is working to connect graduates to the Golden Apple Scholars program, as well as securing additional four-year university partners, which is a challenge given their rural setting. In particular, the high schools are striving to have dual credit courses count as course credit; currently, all courses are accepted as elective credits by the postsecondary partners, which diminishes the appeal of the program to students. The high schools also hope to secure scholarships or tuition reduction agreements with both two- and four-year college partners.

Making Opportunities Real for Everyone (MORE) in the Mississippi and Rock River Regions includes four schools implementing the education pathway by 2021-2022 in partnership with Western Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, and Sauk Valley Community College.

The collaborative has created a Pathway Implementation Handbook for participating schools, which outlines steps for setting up, implementing, and evaluating an education pathway. They anticipate 12 students to earn the endorsement by 2023. Students are invited to join the program on a one-to-one basis. Students will begin with career exploration in 9th grade. In 11th grade, students will take Child Health, Safety, & Nutrition. In 12th grade, students will take two career-focused courses: Parent-Teacher, Child, Community Relations and Diversity in Education. Dual enrollment is currently offered through online coursework only, as there are not enough students to fill a course. Students will also participate in college visits that will include meeting education faculty and counselors, as well as built-in work-based learning opportunities.

Plainfield District 202 includes four high schools (Plainfield Central, South, North, and East) in partnership with the University of St. Francis in Joliet (USF). The district projects 80 students will graduate with an education endorsement in 2023; already 60 students are enrolled in the program’s inaugural year. Recruitment has been aided by the Greater Joliet Area YMCA Teen Achievers Program, which is currently active at Plainfield South and the Central campus. The district is working to expand the program to all four high schools and more formally partner on this goal.

The pathway begins in 9th or 10th grade with a Child Development course, followed by Advanced Child Development. In 11th grade, students will take Psychology or AP Psychology, a dual credit math course, AP English, and AP Math. In 12th grade, students will take one of two dual credit courses: Exploring the Teaching Profession, which requires six site-based classroom observations with the same teacher, or Teaching the Preschool Child, during which students run the high school’s embedded preschool for six weeks, one hour a day. Seniors will also take dual-credit English. USF is looking to engage education pathways students in its summer camps as a field experience. Graduates will have preferred enrollment status at the USF College of Education and be guaranteed student-teaching experiences in District 202.

The Quincy Rural Education Collaborative includes Quincy University in partnership with three rural high schools (Western (Barry) High School, Camp Point Central High School, and Mendon-Unity High School). The schools are planning to implement the education pathway by 2021-2022, with approximately 30 students projected to graduate with the endorsement in 2023.

Students will receive early college credit for all seven courses in the pathway: Child Psychology, Introduction to Teaching, Educational Psychology, Field/Clinical Observations 1, Teaching with Media and Technology, Exceptionalities in Education, Field/Clinical Observations II. These courses will be a combination of in-person and videoconference classroom experiences taught by Quincy University faculty, plus time in the field. In addition to these courses, students will participate in Explorations into Teaching I & II, which will be either a course or after school club. Quincy University faculty will provide mentors for students beginning in 11th grade and will invite students to campus for an Educational Symposium Day in 12th grade.

The Southern Illinois Network for Future Teachers collaborative includes seven high schools (Anna-Jonesboro High School, Carbondale Community High School, Carterville High School, Cobden High School, Du Quoin High School, Johnston City High School, and Vienna High School) in partnership with Southern Illinois University, John A. Logan College, and Shawnee Community College. Forty students are projected to earn the education pathway endorsement by 2023.

There are eight career-focused course requirements, all of which will earn early college credit. In addition, every student will participate in observation experiences at a grade school twice a week for seven weeks. In addition, schools are looking to create volunteering opportunities with the grade school’s afterschool program and add field trips to Southern Illinois University.

Springfield District 186 is working with three high schools (Springfield High School, Lanphier High School, and Springfield Southeast High School) in partnership with Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC), University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS), Illinois State University, and Southern Illinois University. The collaborative has set its goal to launch with 15 students in 2020-2021 and grow to 30 students in 2021-2022.

The education pathway will begin in 10th grade. Students will take career-focused child development classes through the Capital Area Career Center, the regional vocational center. In addition, students can earn a number of early college credits: high schools are offering AP Psychology; LLCC is offering seven courses (26 credit hours) for juniors and seniors (Introduction to Teacher Education, Introduction to Psychology, Diversity of Schools & Society, Educational Psychology, Instructional Technology, Adolescent Psychology, and Students with Disabilities); and UIS is offering a Foundations of American Education dual credit course. Juniors and seniors will also have opportunities to work with local community organizations to develop job skills and be mentored by professionals. They will receive clinical hours developing lessons and working with students.

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