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June 9, 2011

Programs of Study Working to Transform Education in Illinois

The State of Illinois plans to transform education by coordinating programs related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at all stages, from pre-school through adult. In 2010, the State identified STEM "Programs of Study" as a key reform when it sought funding from the federal Race to the Top program, which provides competitive grants to states for developing and implementing education plans that are replicable nationally.

Programs of Study link educational programs across all stages of life and are "demonstrated to improve academic achievement, increase graduation rates, and improve transitions to postsecondary education and employment," according to an article from the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois.

Despite not being among the 12 states chosen for Race to the Top grants, Illinois remains committed to several components of its proposal, including "scaling-up Programs of Study, forming STEM Learning Exchanges, and implementing an LMPS [Learning and Performance Management System] instructional improvement system," according to the OCCRL article. To do this, the State's next step would be to form public-private working groups from industry clusters such as health science, information technology, and others.

These priorities are similar to recommendations in the GO TO 2040 chapter on Human Capital, which emphasizes improved coordination and strategic investments that tie education and workforce development systems to the needs of employers. For example, both Programs of Study and GO TO 2040 support strengthening the role of local service providers -- including community colleges, universities, vocational training programs, community-based workforce organizations, and other workforce intermediaries -- that can coordinate training and education with employers' needs. The Illinois Business Roundtable is currently working with Programs of Study to develop public-private partnerships that can connect students and potential employers. Read more in materials from the recent meeting "Building Illinois STEM Pathways to College and Career Readiness."

The GO TO 2040 Improve Education and Workforce Development recommendation area supports a "P-20" approach that goes beyond K-12 to include pre-school and post-secondary education. And similar to the cluster approach in Programs of Study, GO TO 2040's recommendation to Support Economic Innovation calls for the region to nurture industry clusters due to their need for skilled workers and capacity to create high-paying, sustainable jobs. And finally, Programs of Study and GO TO 2040 also share a commitment to information and data sharing.