Huntley School District 158 among 10 in state selected for competency-based pilot program

HUNTLEY – The amount students learn isn’t necessarily related to how many hours they sit in a classroom, said Erika Schlichter, Huntley School District 158 chief academic officer.

Starting during the 2018-19 school year, Huntley High School will implement a program where students are evaluated and advanced based on their mastery of specific skills rather than on seat time.

District 158 is among 10 school districts in the state chosen to participate in Illinois’ Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program, according to a news release from the district.

“We’re trying to knock down the walls of traditional education and be leaders in educational reform,” Principal Scott Rowe said. 

The school’s blended learning program, which allows a student to learn in part at a brick-and-mortar facility, as well as through online delivery, started at the school in 2011 to give students options on how they can learn, Rowe said.

The new program is a step up from that, he said.

Although details on how the program will be implemented still are being determined, the initial plan would be for about 100 to 150 juniors and seniors to participate, Rowe said.

The goal of the program is to let students work at a personalized pace, Rowe said. Teachers will aim to guide students’ progress and offer seminar-like instruction, and students can demonstrate mastery of learning standards across subject areas rather than completing courses. 

For example, Rowe said, a student could receive credit in multiple areas if he or she completes a project that requires math, history and English skills. Or if a student has an internship, he or she could receive school credit for it, he said. 

“An accelerated student can move faster than the pace of a traditional class,” Rowe said, adding that someone who struggles in one topic can focus on that subject longer. 

A committee of teachers and administrators is working on determining the logistics of the program, including how to determine whether a student shows proficiency in a certain standard, Rowe said. 

The state allows schools flexibility in how they choose to run their program, Rowe said, and there are no set plans on what will happen after the pilot program ends. 

“I don’t envision it happening for a year and then disappearing,” Rowe said. 

No state funding is given to the school through the pilot program, Schlichter said, so any costs would have to be added to the district’s normal budgeting process next year.

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