Statesman

Extending EBR

Stevenson administration plans to convert all courses into a competency-based school system

Adele Lee, Staff Reporter

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The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is seeking applicants to launch a pilot program in which school districts may replace graduation course requirements with a competency-based school system.  The ISBE will be selecting 12 school districts to initiate this program and applications will be due by the end of January.

The “Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act” was established by both legislative groups and ratified by Governor Bruce Rauner to create the pilot program in order to extend competency-based system in order to prepare students for further substantial career opportunities.

According to Anthony Reibel, director of assessment, research and evaluation, the competency-based learning system, also known as evidence based reporting (EBR), allows this preparation for students and aligns with the school’s vision of learning.

“[Competency-based reporting has an] alignment to growth not only in how much you know, but growth in taking how much you know and how well you can put it together in meaningful ways,” Reibel said.

In contrast to the traditional grading system, competency-based grades are based on the demonstration of mastery in specific skills or applications of content. In addition, competency-based grading emphasizes its ability to allow students to demonstrate growth over time rather than being limited to shorter grading periods.

English teacher Bill Fritz finds that by teaching an EBR class, he is able to see students incentivize their own mastery in learning, rather than just working to receive a certain letter grade.

“I want [my students] to be passionate about what they’re learning,” Fritz said. “If they’re not passionate about what they’re learning, they’re not driven to understand the skill.”

Griffin Topel ’19 recognizes the benefits of EBR classes due to its various methods in advancing a student’s learning.

[A benefit of EBR] is that there is no percentage so you can come back from a potential failure and still be okay,” Topel said. “Another benefit is that there usually isn’t a final exam. This removes stress from students and makes their finals season easier.”

While Stevenson currently offers courses utilizing both the traditional and competency-based grading systems, school officials continue to advocate for the school’s gradual transition to more competency-based classes.

To implement Evidence Based Reporting effectively, courses must first align their curriculum to competency levels, align their formative assessments to those competency goals, and then discuss and outline how to develop or instruct those competencies,” Anthony Reibel said.“All of our courses are in different development stages regarding the aforementioned areas.”

For the 2016-17 school year, 55 percent of Stevenson’s courses are EBR and is projected to reach 65 percent by next year. Eventually, all courses will convert to the competency-based learning system.  

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Extending EBR