CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The State Board of Education is taking applications for the second round of a sometimes controversial pilot program, shifting the way students learn and are taught.

Officials from across the state are pronouncing the first round a success. WBBM’s Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports.

State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said the so-called Competency-Based Learning pilot program has let some districts move away from relying just on grades and how long kids are in a classroom.

“Really talking about understanding what a student knows how to do and how they demonstrated that,” Smith said.

Proviso East High School Principal Patrick Hardy said Competency Based Learning lets them teach and evaluate students based not just on grades, but on what they can demonstrate a mastery of.

“In a previous world, a student could earn a ‘D’ like I did in high school and be moved on. We never asked if the student mastered anything because a ‘D’ is passing,” Hardy said.

For example, downstate Ratoul High School District Superintendent Scott Amerio said some students there were taught how to insulate some senior housing that was too cold and energy inefficient for the residents. The students are now actually re-insulating those homes.

Susan Center, is director of teaching and learning in the Round Lake School district, one of the pilots. She said learning can go on outside the walls now.

“We are looking at developing some sense of internship, job shadowing, and service learning opportunities,” Center said.

A number of districts, like hers, have had students solve real world problems.

The challenge may be how to grade all of this consistently.