Competency-Based Education in Illinois

Project State

Project lead: Wendy Surr (

In 2016, an Illinois law established a pilot program to explore competency-based education (CBE) approaches. The idea is that a high school diploma should be based on what students know and are able to do rather than the amount of time students spend sitting in class. With support from the Midwest Comprehensive Center (MWCC), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) initially selected 10 districts for a pilot of its CBE program in 2016–17, with additional sites joining in subsequent years.

Now, ISBE is providing pilot sites with training, building the capacity of local educators to implement CBE practices, and strengthening its infrastructure for supporting districts and schools with CBE implementation in partnership with MWCC. MWCC has engaged the expertise of national CBE experts as well as the College & Career Readiness & Success Center and Center on Innovations in Learning. Along with its partners, MWCC is supporting ISBE through consultation and strategic planning, as well as linking ISBE with national CBE experts to provide technical training and supports directly to districts and schools to ensure the long-term success of the pilot. 

What Are We Doing?
  • Providing pilot sites with training, tools, and opportunities for networking
  • Building the expertise and leadership capacity of experienced pilot sites to serve as a statewide CBE resource
  • Refining statewide implementation, data collection, and evaluation plans
  • Developing tools and guidance for pilots
Expected Outcomes
  • Pilot sites have increased knowledge and skills to implement their local CBE initiatives successfully.
  • ISBE staff members report improved availability of statewide resources for new pilots and other districts, including promising CBE sites and a cadre of school and technical assistance staff with CBE expertise.
  • ISBE staff have increased clarity regarding roles and increased capacity to sustain and lead the CBE pilot in 2019–20 and beyond.
  • ISBE better understands pilot site progress with implementation and potential benefits for students.
  • Innovations in learning
  • College and career readiness