Rock Falls High School gains health sciences career path

Rock Falls High School

ROCK FALLS – A third career pathway aimed at addressing the nursing shortage will be part of Rock Falls High School’s 2024-25 curriculum.

“We currently have two of them [pathways] – education and manufacturing – that are well underway and that students are involved in,” District Superintendent Ron McCord told school board members Wednesday.

During their regular meeting, board members unanimously approved adding a health sciences pathway to next year’s curriculum, putting the district ahead of schedule on meeting state requirements established in 2022.

“It’s basically a no-brainer,” McCord said. “It’s already set up for us and it completes our mandated goal of three pathways I think much earlier than a lot of schools.”

Signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker on May 27, 2022, Public Act 102-0917 requires school districts serving students in sixth grade and above to either implement one of the strategies set out in the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, or to opt out.

The strategies are:

  • Postsecondary and Career Expectations.
  • College and Career Pathway Endorsements.
  • Transitional math and English instruction to avoid remediation in college.
  • Piloting competency-based high school graduation requirements.

Per the Public Act, PaCE would be the strategy implemented by districts that serve grades six to 12, while CCPE would be utilized by districts serving grades nine through 12, states. If a district does not opt out of the CCPE, it must have at least one pathway in place for the Class of 2027, two in place by 2029 and three by 2031, according to the website.

The PWR Act, which was signed into law July 29, 2016, “applies a student-centered and competency-based approach to support Illinois students in preparing for postsecondary education and future careers,” according to There are four intertwined strategies that “require coordinated efforts among school districts, postsecondary education institutions, employers, and other public and private organizations.”

Rock Falls High School’s three pathways are education, manufacturing and health sciences. The education and manufacturing pathways have been in place since the 2021-22 school year, McCord said. Participation is voluntary.

“The purpose of the health sciences pathway is to primarily address the nursing shortage,” he said. “The education pathway is to address our teacher shortage. The manufacturing pathway is to help our local manufacturers who are struggling to get workers in.”

To complete a pathway endorsement, students must have an individualized plan that includes college planning linked to early understanding of career goals, financial aid, a resume and a personal statement; at least two career exploration activities, two team-based challenges and 60 hours of supervised career development experience; and six hours of dual high school/college credits.

Those things are available through a partnership with the Whiteside Area Career Center, McCord said.

All three pathways are attempts to “grow your own” employees, he said. Students who complete their chosen pathway endorsement are guaranteed at least an interview at the place they earned their 60 hours of experience.

“The 60 hours of career development experience is the nuts and bolts, the boots on the ground,” McCord said. “Whether it’s in a classroom, in a manufacturing facility or in a hospital.”

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Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.