The expectations for what it means to be prepared for college and career are inconsistent and unclear, and too many students in Illinois graduate from high school unprepared for college, careers, and life. Furthermore, Illinois employers report difficulty finding qualified workers to meet their industry needs because recent high school and postsecondary graduates often lack the critical skills necessary to succeed in high-demand and growing occupational areas.
To address this problem, both Rockford Public Schools 205 (RPS 205) and Belvidere District 100 (D100) have adopted comprehensive pathway implementation strategies. RPS 205 developed a career academy infrastructure in its high schools to develop pathways that are more closely aligned to industry demand, college and credential requirements, and students’ interests. RPS 205 developed a grade-level framework for work-based learning that will provide all students with increasing exposure to the workplace in their chosen fields of study. D100 has adopted a multi-year strategy to support all its graduates to earn a College and Career Pathway Endorsement under the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act. Rock Valley College (RVC) is partnering with all its feeder districts, including RPS 205 and D100, to expand dual credit opportunities for high school students.
Since 2015, EdSystems has provided strategic counsel and technical assistance to RPS 205 and RVC and their partners as they build and expand their college and career pathway systems.
EdSystems works in partnership with RPS 205, D100, RVC, and other regional partners to provide strategic counsel, technical assistance, and other appropriate supports to foster equitably accessible high-quality pathways that effectively prepare young people for success in college, career, and civic life.
This project deepens and expands the focus on college and career pathway system development and implementation in the Rockford region that EdSystems has supported through the Great Lakes College and Career Pathways Partnership and Illinois Education and Career Success Network. EdSystems’ strategic counsel and technical assistance to RPS 205, D100, and RVC include:
- Mapping and implementing pathways aligned with the College & Career Pathway Endorsement system and the statewide Model Programs of Study.
- Developing and scaling a work-based learning continuum.
- Supporting the alignment of secondary to postsecondary systems between the two districts and Rock Valley College, with a particular focus on implementing dual credit and transitional instruction.
- More clearly defining and collecting data on work-based learning, pathway participants, and pathway completers and using disaggregated data to inform improvements in pathways implementation.
- Documenting and disseminating best practices and lessons learned with other regional districts.
Beginning in fall 2022, EdSystems began work with key work-based learning stakeholders at RPS and D100 to form design teams to identify gaps and design experiences to ensure students can access work-based learning opportunities across the continuum. RPS and D100 can utilize the work-based learning models developed through this process to recruit additional employer partners, particularly for schools with a high need, and engage additional team members in professional development.