SEPI Expands with New Cohort, Mentoring, and Research into Student Experiences

As Scaling Education Pathways in Illinois (SEPI) expands across the state, there is a growing need to provide support and encourage resource and insight sharing among communities. SEPI participants consistently express that the connections made to other communities through SEPI is one of the most significant benefits of participation in the initiative. To support this need, EdSystems established SEPI collaboratives from the first cohort to serve as mentors for new collaboratives: Making Opportunities Real for Everyone in the Mississippi and Rock River Regions (MORE), Southern Illinois Network for Future Teachers, and the Fayette and Marion Counties Rural Collaborative.

The mentor collaboratives are now supporting the new, third cohort of SEPI communities, which includes:

  • Quad Cities Educator Partnership includes Moline-Coal Valley and Rock Island-Milan School Districts who will utilize participation in SEPI to transform their Educator programs into a recognized pathway through the College and Career Pathway Endorsement. This work builds upon their existing work around registered apprenticeship pathways and comes on the heels of their participation as a Leadership Community with the Illinois College and Career Success Network.
  • Crete-Monee and Homewood-Flossmoor Educational Pathway Collaborative are utilizing SEPI as an opportunity for developing their Education Pathway in collaboration with multiple postsecondary partners including Lewis University, Roosevelt University, Northeastern Illinois University, and Prairie State College. Led by the region’s Education for Employment Director, the community team aims to offer dual credit coursework and work-based learning opportunities for students in the pathway.
  • Thornton Township High School District 205 will continue its partnership with South Suburban College, as well as potentially engage Northern Illinois University as a university partner.  District 205 is utilizing their participation in SEPI to provide professional development to their Early Childhood team to go through a curriculum review process and align their Human Services Career Program to the Endorsement Framework.

The Role of Mentor Collaboratives

EdSystems works closely with mentor collaboratives to deliver professional development and share their innovative practices and models through communities of practice for all SEPI collaboratives. Mentor collaboratives are presenting strategies for increasing access to education pathways, building currency with postsecondary partners, and implementing CCPE curriculum and work-based learning. Mentor collaboratives received funding to underwrite their efforts and enhance existing implementation plans.

Mentor collaboratives attend and support facilitation of communities of practice, as well as meet with new SEPI collaboratives one-on-one to provide guidance on a particular implementation piece or general technical assistance. At our first community of Practice, Janis Jones and Jon Mandrell from Sauk Valley Community College, as part of the MORE mentor Collaborative, shared their dual credit journey and how the College partnered with high schools in their region to address the early college credits required as part of the CCPE Framework. At our upcoming community of practice in May, the Southern Illinois Network for Future Teachers mentor collaborative will share about their Education experiences along the work-based learning continuum. Lastly, the Fayette and Marion Counties Rural Collaborative is also heavily involved in advocating for education coursework transferability at the bachelor degree level and establishing an Illinois Articulation Initiative major panel in Education.

Engaging Student Voices

A research team from Northern Illinois University, in collaboration with EdSystems, is exploring the perspectives of Education Pathway students and their experiences in the pathway. The team wants to understand why students choose to enroll in an Education Pathway, why they choose to stay in the pathway (or not), and how they perceive the impact of school and district supports on both decision points. The team is using student surveys and focus groups to understand student perceptions of their ability to complete the pathway, the value of completing the pathway, and the associated costs. Preliminary findings indicate most students value the opportunity to engage in the Pathway, though some have concerns about the time commitment. Some also express hesitation at entering the education field because they perceive it to have low pay, limited supports, and a high workload.

This process of engaging student voice directly can help identify areas for school supports, understand why students may opt to remain or leave, and give insights into student decision-making around pathways. These learnings will be shared back with participating SEPI collaboratives directly to help identify what’s working, what could be refined, and bring clarity on the student perspective and more broadly by producing a report based on all participating schools and districts to be shared statewide. 

As background, in August 2021, EdSystems released an initial analysis of the initial implementation of SEPI with input from the first cohort of collaboratives in SY19-20. 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 the stand-alone sections of Implications and Takeaways, Key Findings, By the Numbers, and Promising Practices.

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