The Belvidere school district, along with five other Illinois school districts, will join a competency-based learning pilot program aimed at redesigning how students learn in high school.

A total of 15 districts are now part of the program, which was launched in April. State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. was at Belvidere North High School on Thursday to make the announcement.

Each school district chosen to participate in the pilot will create a competency-based learning and credit system, where educators assess and advance students based on their demonstrated mastery of specific skills, abilities, and knowledge, rather than “seat time” in the classroom.

Proponents of the plan believe that competency-based learning allows for a more personalized learning experience for students.

“Competency-based education re-engages students in their learning by putting them in the driver’s seat,” said Smith. “This is the new frontier of college and career preparation. The jobs of tomorrow need adaptive, critical thinkers with a sense of purpose. I applaud our pilot districts for their leadership and for showing that districts anywhere of any size can innovate with competency-based learning in ways that work for their communities.”

Districts joining the program are Belvidere School District 100, Chicago Public Schools, Community Unit School District 300, Maine Township High School District 207, Paris Cooperative High School, and Urbana School District 116.

A district can participate in the program if it has a student population of 500,000 or less. The Illinois State Board of Education will open the application process for additional districts to join in May.

Students also gave attendees a tour of the agricultural classroom.