DeKALB – A Northern Illinois University initiative focused on college and career readiness for K-12 students is changing its name to better reflect its statewide focus.
According to a news release from NIU, since 2014, the Northern Illinois P-20 Network has brought together community college presidents, school district superintendents, key state leaders and NIU faculty and staff to improve college and career readiness for K-12 students through regional collaboration.
In the summer of 2020, the network changed its name to the “Illinois P-20 Network” to reflect its expansion throughout the state and renewed focus on statewide collaboration. The network currently consists of four state agencies, 55 K-12 school districts and 25 postsecondary institutions throughout Illinois.
Jason Klein, director of P-20 initiatives for NIU, said the P-20 Network has worked with partners throughout the state since its inception.
“For several years now, we’ve been working on statewide projects, such as supporting the implementation of the Postsecondary & Workforce Readiness Act and conducting statewide educational research through the NIU P-20 Research & Data Collaborative,” Klein said. “Given that there are no Central or Southern Illinois P-20 Networks, we believe we can support educational organizations throughout Illinois with a statewide expansion of the P-20 Network.”
Klein co-facilitates the Illinois P-20 Network with Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education. The network benefits from long-standing collaborations between the NIU Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, the NIU College of Education and NIU faculty from a number of other NIU colleges whose joint research helps to inform education policy and best practices.
The P in P-20 stands for pre-kindergarten, and the network’s name reflects its commitment to supporting education from the preschool years through college or professional school, career development and continuing adult education. The network’s goal is to improve educational attainment “from cradle to careers” through collaboration across all levels of education.
The network currently has three main areas of focus: research and reporting, equity and opportunity, and college and career readiness. But, as Klein notes, these areas of focus are driven by the needs of the members of the P-20 Network as well as by the political and legislative landscape of education policy in Illinois and at the federal level.
However, even as the network’s focus may shift over time, what will not change is its commitment to supporting teachers and school administrators and, ultimately, learners of all ages in Illinois.
“The work of the Illinois P-20 Network is designed to be useful in classrooms immediately,” said Klein. “Even when it comes to the high-level research that takes place among NIU faculty members with the involvement of the P-20 Network, we work to ensure that the results of the research are useful to educators working in school districts and postsecondary institutions today.”
The Illinois P-20 Network also works to amplify the voices of teachers and school administrators to promote effective educational policy. “When policymakers listen to the voices of those working in the classrooms daily, the state is able to create policy that leads to more learning for students rather than inadvertently creating obstacles to learning,” Klein said.
Learn more about the Illinois P-20 Network at p20network.niu.edu.