Competency Education Is QPS Student’s Future

Bailey Gasparovic, Staff Writer

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Quincy Public Schools have recently been approved to pilot a new Competency Based Education Program. Even though this is very good news for our schools, it has left many people wondering what it actually is and what it means for this school year and future ones.

“In its simplest form, competency based education is where we identify the skills and knowledge that you absolutely have to have to be considered proficient in class. So in Algebra you might have to be able to do certain things and if you can do those things well and demonstrate them consistently then you would be considered competent in Algebra I,” said Principal Jody Steinke.

However, being proficient or competent in a class isn’t all there is. Students have to get the credit as well and the way some of those credits are earned is about to change.

“We know that not all learning happens inside a classroom. You can learn on a field trip, on a job; there are many different places. Once we have identified the competencies students need in order to get credit for a class, that can maybe change the way we offer credit,” Steinke said.

Not only will the way students earn credits change, but depending on the classes taken, students will be able to earn multiple credits in one class.

“We have an idea for Graphic Arts in the vocational center. A lot of what they have to do in Graphic Arts they have to work with nonfiction texts. We already have a nonfiction English class so why can’t we put those together and a student could get a Graphic Arts credit as well as an English credit,” said Steinke.

Ultimately, the goal for this new program is to make sure all students have what the knowledge they need for graduation. For some this may mean completing year long classes in a couple months or taking a full year for a semester class. It’s all based off of the student.

“Our goal is to have multiple pathways to graduation. We know that the traditional model, going to 7 classes a day, works for a lot of kids but it doesn’t work, for just as many kids. This is an opportunity for us to tailor the high school experience to each students plan,” said Steinke.

This program also means that there will be more flexibility in scheduling for both students and staff.

“I think the most positive thing you will see in the next couple of years is a flexible schedule. If students have to have a job to support their family, because we do have students that do that, maybe we can find ways to help give them credit and be flexible about when they have to actually be on campus,” Steinke said.

Steinke added, “If a student does well in a traditional setting, nothing is going to change; students will still have that option. If students work better in hands-on type settings, this program will possibly allow them to get credits without having to be in a traditional class.”

Even though many schools across the country have already adopted this program, “[Illinois is] a little late to the game,” said Steinke. States around us and the East and West Coast have been looking into and implementing this program for awhile and as of now Quincy is only one of 14 districts piloting the program in Illinois.

Piloting this program, however, does take quite a bit of work.

“This whole year is going to be a planning year for us but we have asked the consumer ed. teacher, Mr. Withiem, and the health teacher, Mr. Crisp, to start looking at alternatives second semester for students taking those classes. Those are going to be the first changes students will see,” Steinke said.

He added that students “are going to be seeing all levels, K-12, looking at competency. It will look a little different at K-5 and the junior high than it will [at QHS]. How things are taught and maybe how kids get from one class to the next will change but you won’t see huge changes there.”

All in all, students and parents will see a positive difference in how all of our schools are run coming next fall.

“Our function has always been to prepare you for what comes next, I think this will help us do that better,” said Steinke.