East St. Louis is changing high school graduation requirements

East St. Louis District 189 will begin changing its high school graduation requirements in phases starting in the 2018-19 school year.

But District 189 isn’t alone. It was one of 10 school districts picked to participate in a pilot program in Illinois.

Through the program, districts will each create their own “competency-based” credit systems. The goal is to move away from grades and advancement based on time in the classroom, according to a news release.

Instead, schools will require students to show that they’ve mastered specific skills, abilities and knowledge in order to earn a diploma. District 189 states in a plan available on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website that students will show “competency” through a college- and career-ready level of performance.

State Superintendent Tony Smith stated in the release that less than half — 46 percent — of students in the state currently demonstrate college readiness.

“When students leave our schools, they should leave with the keys to open multiple doors, any of which can lead to a successful future,” Smith stated.

The state board suggested in a call for applications that districts require students to master skills like work ethic, professionalism and collaboration, among others.

District 189 plans to start using new graduation requirements with students in the alternative high school and students in the career and technical education program at East St. Louis Senior High School.

No state funding is available for the pilot program in the current fiscal year, according to the release.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes