Illinois high schools are completely changing how they teach kids because test scores are that bad

DCNFGrace Carr, DCNF

Illinois school districts are trying out a new method of nontraditional schooling in an effort to raise test scores that have been abysmal for a long time.

Ten school districts will launch the competency-based learning program this fall, in an effort to allow students to move at their own pace so that they can fully learn lesson plans rather than having set deadlines, according to the Chicago Tribune

Teachers in certain school districts will also not evaluate students with traditional testing methods but will rely more heavily upon presentations, projects and activities that students complete outside of the classroom. The students in the program will not receive GPA rankings.

“For us, this is a major educational innovation,” Huntley High School Principal, Scott Rowe told the Chicago Tribune. “That’s scary for teachers and it’s very challenging for us,” Rowe added, explaining that the initial program will start with 120 students in its fall 2018 trial run to make sure that the program positively affects students before it is more widely implemented.

“It is a huge discussion in education,” said Round Lake District Director of teaching and learning, Susan Center. “Multiple articles talk about grades and what we’re doing and why we are keeping them. It is hard to break a system that is over a century old,” she added.

The concept for the competency-based learning program began at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, and is only now being implemented in an effort to individualize teaching and deliver better results than Illinois’ schools have thus far been able to produce. Some are skeptical of the new program, worrying that it will decrease the teacher’s role in the classroom and make it difficult for universities to evaluate a student’s abilities without GPA numbers.

Patrick Hardy, the principal for Illinois’ Proviso East district said the program isn’t a perfect solution to fix the poor results Illinois’ school districts have regularly produced, but that there’s nothing to lose by trying something new. “We had a school on the brink of failure,” he said.

Public schools in Washington, D.C., are also producing some pretty poor student results. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education investigated the school system after reports that Ballou High School graduated students who did not meet attendance requirements, and found that over 11 percent of 2017 D.C. Public Schools graduates missed more than half of all school days according to The Washington Post.

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