State Snap Shots


State education agencies play an important role in promoting deeper learning for all students. Across the Great Lakes and Midwest regions, several states are already engaged in efforts to promote deeper learning through competency-based education initiatives, alternative assessment, personalized learning, flexible learning pathways, and expanded definitions of college and career readiness. Our graphic outlines key action areas for states interested in supporting deeper learning.

State Snap Shots


Social Emotional Learning Standards: 

Illinois was among the first states to implement standards for social and emotional learning. The Illinois State Board of Education developed social and emotional learning standards in accordance with Public Act 93-0495, enacted in 2003. The SEL standards describe the content and skills needed for social and emotional development in K–12 students. Each standard includes five benchmark levels by grade range: early elementary (Grades K–3), late elementary (4–5), middle school or junior high (6–8), early high school (9–10), and late high school (11–12).

Learn more about Illinois’s social emotional learning standards.


Virtual Education: 

The Illinois State Board of Education recently established the Virtual School Review Committee to review virtual education and course choice, including student enrollment in online coursework and access to technology for enhancing course completion. The review committee will be making recommendations on changes, improvements, and best practices for virtual education and course choice in Illinois.

Learn more about virtual education in Illinois.


Academic and Career Planning: 

To promote student engagement and partner with students to reach college and career competencies, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is implementing a new policy requiring all school districts to provide academic and career planning services beginning in the 2017–18 school year. Using the Know-Explore-Plan-Go system, all students (Grades 6–12) will explore their aptitudes and interests; Learn more about their postsecondary options; set individual personal, academic, and career goals; and document their progress toward those goals.

Learn more about academic and career planning in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s Innovation Lab Network: 

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), in collaboration with the Institute for Personalized Learning, a division of Cooperative Educational Service Agency 1, became one of the original members of the Council of Chief State School Officer’s Innovation Lab Network (ILN) in 2010. The ILN is a group of states focused on developing and implementing student-centered approaches to learning that will transform public education. Learn more about the ILN. The Institute for Personalized Learning works directly with districts and schools to create a model promoting personalized learning for all students. Learn more about the Institute for Personalized Learning.


Competency-Based Education Pilot: 

In 2015, the Ohio General Assembly established a competency-based education pilot that will provide three-year grants to five pilot sites: Chagrin Falls Exempted Village, Cincinnati City School District, The Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County, Fairfield County Educational Service Center, and Geauga County Educational Service Center.

Learn more about Ohio’s Competency-Based Education Pilot.


Flexible Pathways for Earning Credit: 

In 2009, the Indiana State Board of Education changed their policy to offer students more flexible pathways for earning credit. The new policy allows schools to award credit on the basis of demonstrated proficiency, rather than requiring a minimum number of courses or minimum amount of instruction.

Learn more about Indiana’s flexible learning pathways.


Flexible Learning Pathways: 

The Michigan Department of Education has established policies that offer students a wide range of flexible learning pathways:

  • A full online seat-time waiver
  • Online learning without a waiver
  • A blended learning seat-time waiver
  • Work-based and project-based learning experiences
  • Dual enrollment
  • Early and middle college programs
  • Career and technical education options
  • Personal curriculum

Many of these flexible learning pathways were the result of a seat-time waiver policy passed in 2014. The work-based learning experiences and personal curriculum options are especially innovative. The work-based experience option provides students with the opportunity to earn credit through working with approved contracted employers. The personal curriculum option modifies credit requirements based on the individual learning needs of a student. This option is designed for students who want to go beyond academic credit requirements by adding more mathematics, science, English language arts, or world language credits.

Learn more about Michigan’s seat time waiver and menu of flexible learning pathways.


Mastery-Based Credit Option: 

Section 120B.024 of the Minnesota Statutes outlines state high school graduation requirements and credit equivalencies that demonstrate content mastery of academic standards. This statute enables students to earn course credit by demonstrating content proficiency of academic standards as determined by the local district.

Learn more about Minnesota’s mastery-based credit option.


Flexible and Dual-Credit Options: 

The state legislature established the Ohio Core in 2006, which directed the State Board of Education to develop a statewide credit flexibility policy. This policy shifts the focus of learning from seat time to demonstrations of competency within subject areas. Students in high school earn units of credit on the basis of an approved credit flexibility plan. Another flexible credit option available to students is the College Credit Plus program. This program can help students earn college and high school credits simultaneously by taking college courses from community colleges or universities. This program is intended to promote rigorous academic pursuits and to provide a wide variety of options to college-ready students.

Learn more about credit flexibility.

Learn more about the College Credit Plus program.


Flexible Pathways for Earning Credit: 

Wisconsin has several existing statutes that offers students flexible pathways to earn credit. These laws enable school districts to award high school diplomas to students who demonstrate proficiency in their courses, even if they have not completed traditional courses. Proficiency-based credit options include work-based and service-learning, projects, experiential learning, apprenticeships, independent and team projects, and online instruction.

Learn more about flexible credit pathways in Wisconsin.


Teaching Social Emotional Learning: 

The Illinois State Board of Education is encouraging educators to integrate social and emotional learning into their existing instructional plans with three goals for students:

  1. Develop self-awareness and self-management skills to achieve school and life success.
  2. Use social-awareness and interpersonal skills to establish and maintain positive relationships.
  3. Demonstrate decision-making skills and responsible behaviors in personal, school, and community contexts.

Learn more about how Illinois teachers incorporate social and emotional learning skills.