Transitional English Course Parameters and Competencies

ISBE, ICCB, and IBHE invited public comment and feedback on the Postsecondary Workforce Readiness Act (PWR Act) Transitional English Course Parameters and Competencies drafts from June 1 to July 31, 2020. For a deeper dive into the background and development process of the document, an informational webinar recording and presentation are available. 


Enacted in 2016, the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act includes a set of strategies to support Illinois students in their transition from high school to postsecondary education, workforce training, and careers. A major barrier to postsecondary persistence and completion is remedial education, with students enrolling in remedial courses completing approximately 13% less of their courses compared to non-remedial peers and having substantially lower outcomes related to graduation rate, advancement rate, and credit accumulation.1

The PWR Act’s approach to addressing remedial needs is through the scaling of transitional courses taken by seniors in high school that address college-ready competencies, smooth the transition to college, and provide guaranteed placement into college-level coursework throughout the Illinois community college system and accepting universities. Illinois has established a statewide implementation system for transitional math, and due in part to this system, the state’s math remediation rates have dropped by 6% over the past 5 years. However, more than 20% of Illinois high school graduates entering the state’s community college system also require remedial courses in reading and communications courses, and these rates have remained stagnant as math remediation rates have dropped.

Competency Development Group

As the foundation for a statewide system to improve these remedial outcomes, the PWR Act directs the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), and Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) to establish a statewide panel to recommend competencies for transitional instruction that avoids student placement into remedial reading and communications courses.2

Pursuant to this charge, the agencies convened a Transitional English Competency Development Group in fall 2019 consisting of high school administrators, high school English teachers, community college and university administrators, community college and university English faculty, and state agency representatives. 

From December 13, 2019, to April 3, 2020, the Competency Development Group met via five webinars and two in-person meetings to develop general parameters for transitional English courses, competency statements reflecting broad learning goals for these courses, and a set of key performance indicators for each competency statement. The Competency Development Group was staffed and facilitated by EdSystems team members, who researched existing models, provided drafts of material, collected feedback, and incorporated identified revisions into subsequent drafts for consideration. The group’s work included extensive analysis and consideration of secondary English language arts standards, learning objectives and instructional approaches in pilot transitional English courses and postsecondary remedial courses, and best practices within Illinois and across the nation. 

Next Steps

Piloting of transitional English is already underway! Twelve community colleges have received awards from ICCB to identify, create, support, or expand transitional English instructional models and curriculum developments through partnerships with local high schools. These models will help identify scalable and sustainable models for transitional English courses, as well as support access to regional training opportunities.

Public comment on the Transitional English Course Parameters and Competencies was open through July 31, 2020; feedback collected will inform the final version that will be adopted by State agencies later this year. Designation of a portability panel and development of portability panel documentation requirements will occur after State adoption. 

We look forward to the additional community input and engagement in support of this important effort to prepare more Illinois students to successfully transition from high school into postsecondary education and beyond!

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