Illinois, like many other states, faces a teacher shortage that is particularly acute in rural and urban classrooms. The state’s teaching ranks also lack needed diversity, as the teacher workforce is 85 percent white, even as mounting research shows students of color benefit from having teachers of color.
To help address these challenges, the Illinois P20 Council, The Joyce Foundation, and EdSystems partnered in May 2019 to launch Scaling Education Pathways in Illinois (SEPI). The initiative is funding communities to build streamlined teacher career pathways that begin in high school, extend into postsecondary, and allow students to get on a strong path to a teaching license. SEPI has a special focus on helping students from diverse backgrounds become educators.
From 2019–2022, EdSystems supported 18 collaboratives. by providing access to best practices, convening communities of practice which include annual summits, and guiding participants through the College and Career Pathway Endorsement process. Additionally, we drove innovation in college and secondary district partnerships to expand early college and career development opportunities.
To support SEPI Cohort 3, EdSystems recruited two mentor collaboratives from Cohort 1: Making Opportunities Real for Everyone (MORE) in the Mississippi and Rock River Regions and the Southern Illinois Network for Future Teachers. The mentors deliver professional development and meet one-on-one with new SEPI collaboratives. During communities of practice, mentors present strategies for increasing access and success, building currency with postsecondary partners, and CCPE curricular and work-based learning implementation.
In August 2021, EdSystems released an analysis of the initial implementation of SEPI with input from the first cohort of collaboratives. It was undertaken to understand how the components of the education pathway were being executed in practice and to collect promising practices and lessons learned. It includes four stand-alone sections: Implications and Takeaways, Key Findings, By the Numbers, and Promising Practices.
In October 2022, the NIU P-20 Research and Data Collaborative released the Student Voices Evaluation, which focuses on understanding the perspectives of high school students who were currently enrolled in education pathways as part of the SEPI.
Creating Currency for the College and Career Pathway Endorsement
To help strengthen the teacher pipeline in Illinois, a growing number of postsecondary and scholarship organizations are collaborating with SEPI to offer new incentives for Illinois students graduating with the College and Career Pathway Endorsement (CCPE) in education:
- Northern Illinois University’s College of Education
Admitted students with the endorsement are automatically advanced as finalists to receive select scholarships and to participate in the college’s innovative Educate and Engage program. Download the student fact sheet.
- Golden Apple Scholars
Applicants who have earned or are on track to earn the CCPE are automatically advanced to the final stage of the application process. Download the student fact sheet.
- Chicago State University
Students who earn the CCPE in Education and apply for the Diverse Scholars in Education Scholarship or Call Me Mister Program are automatically advanced as finalists. Download the student fact sheet.
- Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship
HB 2170, also known as the Education Omnibus bill, updated the Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship to offer funding to students graduating with any of the pathway endorsements (Article 120). CCPE earners are eligible to receive the scholarship as early as freshman year and for a longer period than traditional students, which can significantly reduce the total cost of college completion.
- Sauk Valley Community College
SVCC announced in March 2021 that any student who completes high school with an endorsement in any area will be awarded a $100 credit. Read more.
These currency efforts are designed to help attract high school students into the education pathway and increase college completion rates for these students.
Expanding Education Pathways and Transferability of Education Courses
To support this work, EdSystems engaged in state policy discussions involving the teacher shortage, with SEPI serving as the Illinois’ leading model for early pathways in education. EdSystems advocated for the statewide expansion of high-quality education pathways and the greater availability of early college credit courses at the secondary level. As a result, an increasing number of high school students are engaging in education-specific coursework through the community college system and will pursue bachelor’s degrees in teacher preparation programs.
These highly motivated pathway students need a streamlined process for their early college coursework credits to transfer to a university’s educator preparation program. EdSystems is now supporting efforts to create statewide transferability between community college and bachelor’s degree coursework in the specific areas of elementary, secondary, bilingual, and special education through the Illinois Articulation Initiative. Learn more.