Lake County Tech Campus – Creating a Team-Based Challenge

The Lake County Tech Campus provides a wide range of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to high school students from throughout Lake and McHenry Counties in Northeastern Illinois. Education is one of the many high quality career areas in which programming is offered at Tech Campus, with a team of three teachers who provide instruction for juniors and seniors in high school. These students, in turn and alongside their professional teachers, provide instruction and learning opportunities three days per week for early childhood students in the specifically designed early childhood classrooms at Tech Campus.

Team-Based Challenge-Career Pathway Endorsement SlideAs part of this work, the Education teacher team decided to incorporate Team-Based Challenges from the Illinois Career Pathway Endorsement model, and the P-20 Network team both facilitated the instructional planning and participated in this effort alongside the Education teachers. The Education teachers identified two potential real-life, complex problems of practice that they believed an in-depth Team-Based Challenge would help their high school students learn and solve and through which they could develop a deeper understanding as potential pre-service teachers. Together, we spent one entire “professional development day” building out the Team-Based Challenge.

First, we explored the key College & Career Pathway Competencies that would be taught and on which students would be assessed. Specifically, both the Essential Cross-Sector Employability Competencies as well as the Human and Public Services Career Pathway Competencies (which are currently defined through EDU-specific competencies) were studied and discussed. After examining all of these competencies, the teachers specifically identified the ones that would be best taught and assessed through the Team-Based Challenge.


Then, the teachers determined how they would assess each of these competencies as well as, through that discussion, beginning to plan instructional lessons and activities that would be embedded in the Team-Based Challenge.

Tech Campus Ed Teachers

Finally, using the Backwards Design Model of instructional planning, multiple assessments were fully built-out prior to the end of the professional development workday.

Ultimately, in one day, the teachers learned more about the Career Pathway Endorsements, identified the competencies that would be taught and assessed, created those specific assessments, and outlined a two-week instructional unit that would serve as a Team-Based Challenge.

For more information about Career Pathway Endorsements or to reach about arranging for professional development and planning support around the Career Pathway Endorsements and Team-Based Challenges, please contact either Brooke ( or Jason ( at the P-20 Network.

Early Childhood Classroom 1

March 2020

PASS Summit again brings educators together to focus on College and Career Readiness

The Sauk Valley Partnership Advocating Student Success (PASS) hosted their 5th annual College and Career Readiness Summit on Friday, February 7, 2020 at Sauk Valley Community College. The day highlighted the combination of policies, programs, partnerships and practitioners in pursuit of a community-focused approach to college and career readiness. Highlights from the day include the keynote from Tim Farquer, Superintendent and Curriculum Director for Williamsfield Schools, one of the first competency-based pilot schools. Tim explained how the district focus on students attaining needed skills, completing career pathways and participating in local partnerships has resulted in the number of students meeting or exceeding state standards rising from 34% to 50% in the past four years. Instead of arranging students by age, students are arranged according to graduation outcomes. Students can choose to complete an associates degree by the time they graduate from high school, college credits, trade certifications or work-based experiences.

Another key to the attainment of competency-based education is identifying acceleration points in various subjects. When students reach these benchmarks, they identify opportunities to accelerate through work that they have already learned. A continual focus on “this is where I am but this is where I want to go and this is how I will get there” has permeated the district such that even parent conferences are now led by the students themselves.

Tim states “Our approach to career pathways leverages student’s passions to drive core skills farther & faster, positioning themselves for success after high school.” For more information about  competency-based education in Williamsfield, contact Tim Farquer at

The day also included “policymaker speed dating” in which state and local policy-makers met with practitioners in a round-robin format. Policymakers answered questions about how practitioners and policymakers can work closely together and then listened to the practitioners’ perspective on the issue. Topics included competency education, students ready for life after graduation, career pathways, limitations of rural settings, and more. Janis Jones said, “The structure of policy speed dating forced participants to be thoughtful and articulate in their comments. It allowed policy makers to hear directly from those who attempt to implement the policies, and created great dialogue. Both sides benefited.”

PASS Summit 2020 - Alan Clemens presenting the Illinois Postsecondary Profiles website

Business and industry representatives joined the group for lunch and then the afternoon included several break out sessions. Topics ranged from learning more about Transitional Math to Career Pathway Endorsements to the website. These breakout sessions not only provided conference attendees with opportunities to learn from the presenters, but there were also many instances in which great value also came from what educators shared with one another through discussion.

Sauk Valley Community College and Regional Office of Education 47 (Lee, Ogle, and Whiteside Counties) ended the day with an announcement that they had been awarded funding through the Illinois Community College Board’s Transitional Instruction-English Pilot Project grant. Click here to read more and to view the grant awardees from across Illinois.

February 2020

Focusing on Career Pathways with an emphasis on individual students’ plans

Belvidere School District 100 has been focused on putting each piece in place to support students’ engagement with the College and Career Pathways.

One of the early key steps in this work was exploring the “crosswalk” (pictured below) between the Postsecondary and Career Expectations Framework (PaCE), the Illinois State Board of Education’s College and Career Readiness Indicators (CCRI), and the College and Career Pathway Endorsements (CCPE) outlined by the Postsecondary Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act.

PaCE-CCRI-CCPE Framework Crosswalk
PaCE-CCRI-CCPE Framework Crosswalk (Click to enlarge)

Belvidere School District 100 knew that they wanted to support student learning and exploration with the Career Pathways and to ensure that students had the requisite knowledge and skills to be successful beyond high school – in postsecondary education and in the workforce. Nik Butenhoff, Director of Career Readiness, said the the framework crosswalk, “supported the hunch that we had. This was the evidence that if we have to track the College and Career Readiness Indicator (for the State), if we just go all-in for the Endorsements, we will then land on the work that we needed to support the Indicators.”

Nik goes on to point out that this work is central to the efforts of teachers and administrators in Belvidere to improve learning, “The stuff that the State is giving us; this is good. These frameworks show how its all intertwined with each other. It is not separate initiatives, but it’s all connected.”

Belvidere School District 100 has developed its own graphic to show the importance of individual planning with each student. The State’s College and Career Pathway Endorsement graphic, which is linked above, also places individual planning at the top of the framework, but the Belvidere viewpoint is to stress it even further as pictured below with the “Individualized Plan” section wrapping around each of the key components.

Belvidere 100 - Career Pathway Endorsement Graphic

In addition to this, students are asked to be thinking about their College and Career Pathway in a number of different ways. One small, easy, yet very powerful, example of this is on student’s Course Selection Form (pictured below). As student’s consider what courses they are requesting for the following school year, they are also asked to think about their desired College and Career Pathway Endorsement area.

Belvidere 100 - Course Selection Sheet with Endorsement Area
Belvidere 100 – Course Selection Sheet with Endorsement Area

In addition to these strategies, the posters pictured with this post are up in the high schools and the middle schools to help students consider the Pathways as they move through the day, and the District 100 Career Guide is offered to students and families in both English and Spanish.

Possibly the most important component in helping make the College and Career Pathways begin to come alive for high school students in District 100 is that all ninth graders are required to complete a Freshman Careers Course, during which a wide range of career exploration and skill-building activities take place.

January 2020

Career Pathways Endorsement – Mapping out the course sequence well in advance in Naperville 203

While the Class of 2020 is the first group of students in the State of Illinois that can earn Career Pathway Endorsements, data gathered across the P-20 Networks suggests that very few students will earn Career Pathway Endorsements this coming spring. At the same time, many school districts are deeply engaged in providing career-focused experiences for students and working toward the full implementation of Career Pathway Endorsements with the following critical elements:

  • a sequence of courses aligned to the Career Pathway Endorsement including courses that will offer the possibility of at least 6 hours of postsecondary credit (Dual Credit or Advanced Placement)
  • a minimum of 2 Team-Based Challenges that students can experience either through instruction in the aforementioned courses or through extra-curricular activities or other outside experiences
  • an in-depth work-based learning experience of a minimum of 60 hours (or 2 micro-internships of at least 30 hours each)

Though, like most school districts, Naperville Community Unit School District 203 does not plan on having students graduate with Career Pathway Endorsements for a few years, the District has already mapped out course sequences for Career Pathway Endorsements. Pictured below is a bulletin board in a hall at Naperville Central High School that outlines two different course sequences for students to work toward an Career Pathway Endorsement in Information Technology.

Naperville 203 - IT Career Pathway Endorsements Career Sequences

While educators in Naperville continue to build out other critical elements of the Career Pathway Endorsement, from the outset of their high school experience, students can be inspired by and begin to plan to participate in one of these entire course sequences.

There are a few important lessons from this:

  1. It’s not too early to plan out course sequences, which can be done at any time, even if you are not able to fully implement the course sequence this year.
  2. Planning a course sequence early can result in being better able to prepare facilities, equipment and supplies, and professional development well in advance.
  3. Once a course sequence is planned, it can be shared widely with students and families in order to help them both develop a general awareness of Career Pathway Endorsements and to be able to consider specific course sequences as students are selecting courses (and “trying on” different career ideas).
November 2019

Team-Based Challenges – The Key Elements

At the Fall 2019 P-20 Network Meeting, participants worked together to define the critical elements of a Team-Based Challenge as well as ideas for Team-Based Challenges that can be implemented with partners in our communities within each of the Career Pathways. Following the P-20 Network Meeting, we took the ideas from the meeting to draft a document that outlines the best practice “Elements of a Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenge.”

A Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenge is a self-contained exercise that may vary in length and structure ranging from an individual activity to an instructional unit. 

A Team-Based Challenge should require students to utilize and demonstrate competency with work-based knowledge and skills as they work to solve an authentic work-based problem as members of a collaborative team. 

Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenges should include the following features: 

  • Challenges seek solutions to authentic problems that are identified from and/or in collaboration with industry partners, are regionally relevant and globally connected, and result in a real solution that can be applied and implemented in the “real world”. As part of or in addition to the solution/product, students must complete a presentation of their solution and its application to an authentic audience. 
  • Students work in collaborative groups to solve the problem. 
  • Students are supported by an expert mentor from the field. If possible, experts should also be present for student presentations at the culmination of the Team-Based Challenge. 
  • Challenges require students to demonstrate key technical, employability, and entrepreneurial competencies. Successful demonstration of the competencies through a Team-Based Challenge is typically represented through a rubric and/or another form of authentic assessment. 

Additionally, we are working with faculty and staff at Northern Illinois University as well as with teachers and administrators in school districts to help develop and document Team-Based Challenges. We look forward to sharing those stories and resources to help with the creation of Team-Based Challenges over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, if you are interested in developing Team-Based Challenges in order to help further learning toward the Career Pathways in your organization as well as to develop capacity with authentic, problem-based learning, please contact the Illinois P-20 Network, and we will be happy to set-up time for support.

November 2019

The Career Development Toolkit from Ed Systems Center

Through a collaboration with the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Education Systems Center has released the Career Development Toolkit. The Toolkit is aligned to the frameworks established in the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act. The Career Development Toolkit provides a comprehensive framework and roadmap for helping educators through all of the steps and considerations in providing meaningful career experiences – from the creation of internships that align with the Career Pathway Endorsements to thinking through necessary detailed logistics.

For support in using the Career Development Toolkit and in implementing Career Pathway Endorsements, contact us or Heather Penczak at Northern Illinois University’s Education Systems Center.

November 2019

Hinckley-Big Rock – #AuthenticLearning with Agriculture and Beyond

Hinckley-Big Rock School District 429 is situated in the countryside between Aurora and DeKalb, Illinois. Hinckley-Big Rock has been a leader statewide in building a strong foundation for all students with career readiness and postsecondary options through its implementation of the HBR Career Readiness Plan. This plan, which builds skills and experiences for students from elementary school through high school, was developed within the school district and is based on the Illinois Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) Framework.

Not only has Hinckley-Big Rock invested a great deal of time and energy in ensuring that students have experiences and skills to help them make choices about careers and postsecondary learning, but Hinckley-Big Rock also seeks to provide students with authentic learning experiences in which their “classwork” is “real work”. While this is desired across the curriculum and all courses, these efforts are most noticeable within the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Career Pathway.

Hinckley - Big Rock Future Farmers of America Wagon

Like many school districts in Illinois, Hinckley-Big Rock has a rich history with providing students with authentic learning experiences through extra-curricular activities. With the understanding that such experiences can lead to deeper, more complex and longer lasting learning, ensuring that students learn through authentic problem-based units and lessons is a priority. Hinckley-Big Rock is furthering these efforts with a multi-year initiative to take advantage of the size of its property and expand the resources available for student learning on the working farm on the east side of the high school building.

Over the past couple of years, a small orchard has been planted and water and electrical have been added and/or upgraded. Next, a building will be added to support the fully functional agricultural operations in which students participate as part of their coursework and learning.Hinckley - Big Rock Water Pump - Outdoor Agriculture Classroom

Being able to fully experience the work allows students to learn both career-specific knowledge and skills as well as develop the type of skills that are needed across careers as defined by the Cross-Sector Essential Employability Competencies (see page 6 of this PDF).

These efforts are not limited to just agriculture nor Career & Technical Education (CTE) courses at Hinckley-Big Rock, but they are also noticeable outside the building as Indian Valley Vocational Center CTE students also construct the actual dug-outs that generations of student-athletes will use for decades to come.

Hinckley - Big Rock Dugout Construction Tweet

October 2019

Rochelle – Mapping out success for the future during high school

Like other schools, Rochelle Township High School District 212 has embarked on a focus to ensure that all of its students are thinking forward beyond high school while they are still in high school. This effort is focused both on helping ensure that students know, understand, and have a variety of postsecondary options while also participating in significant and ongoing planning and counseling during high school.

At Rochelle High School, which is located about 20 miles directly west of DeKalb, Illinois, a series of key indicators for future success have been identified, and together these have been termed the Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile (pictured here below).

Rochelle Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile - Cover
Rochelle Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile – Cover

Rochelle Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile - Interior
Rochelle Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile – Interior

Following each semester, student information in the Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile is updated by school staff and shared with all students and parents. This ongoing education allows students and parents to keep up-to-date on their progress, and it has the secondary benefit of making the Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile a living tool in the lives of students and families.

Many schools and school districts are embracing the creation of a holistic view of a student that includes learning critical skills that go beyond traditional academics. For example, one way that these are now defined in Illinois as a result of the Postsecondary & Workforce Readiness Act is through both the Cross-Sector Essential Employability Competencies and the Entrepreneurial Competencies (see page 6 of this document). Rochelle has included these skills that are so critical for both careers and citizenship as the Efficient, Adaptive, and Self-Reliant Learner Behaviors. Where Rochelle goes one step further is by having teachers assess students in each of these areas and, most importantly, asking students to self-assess in each of these areas.

Alongside what courses a student has taken and their personal and career interests, the Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile provides a strong foundation on which students and their families, counselors, and teachers can engage in detailed discussions about both an individual student’s strengths as well as the target areas for additional growth during their high school experience and beyond.

October 2019