Urges districts to better prepare students for college math, careers

SPRINGFIELD - May 23, 2013. As the state's point person on education reform, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon and the Illinois State Board of Education today released the state's first 6th-12th grade math curriculum and urged middle and high schools statewide to implement the new courses beginning this fall.

The new curriculum package aims to reduce remedial math needs for college-bound students and improve career readiness for those going into the workforce. In 2012, 58 percent of Illinois high school graduates failed to meet the math college readiness benchmark, according to the ACT. Research shows when students enroll in remedial math courses at college, they are more likely to drop out or graduate late.

To make sure Illinois students are better prepared for college-level math and careers, Simon worked with ISBE last year to pass Senate Bill 3244 and launch the Math Curriculum Task Force to design the first-ever statewide math curriculum units. The units outline teaching techniques aligned with Common Core standards, providing educators a better road map for math instruction than ever before.

"We want to put all middle and high school students on a track for success," Simon said. "Colleges and employers expect our students to have certain skills, but find too many students unprepared. The tools we released should help educators better prepare students to compete in the global marketplace."

Illinois adopted the Common Core standards in 2010. But how to implement or teach to those standards has been up to districts. Many rely on textbook companies to dictate curriculum not necessarily aligned to standards, while others can invest in curriculum directors to assist teachers.

The state-designed curriculum units, and soon-to-come lesson plans, provide new, high-quality tools that are aligned with the Common Core and can be adapted as needed to meet each classroom's needs. Simon said this should help level the playing field for districts with fewer resources.

"This is not an unfunded mandate," Simon said. "We are giving teachers, schools and districts an extra resource to incorporate within their classrooms in a way that is most beneficial to the students."

In all, 24 middle and 28 high school unit outlines were developed, with major changes in high school curriculum. Currently, high school math progresses annually from one content area to the next - Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II. The new model introduces integrated high school math courses - Math I, II and III - which each teach elements of algebra, geometry and statistics at each grade level.

Although four years of math are not required to graduate from high school in Illinois, the new model also includes content recommendations for senior year courses. The fourth-year options include career and technical education courses and dual credit coursework offered in conjunction with a local community college or university. These can help better prepare students for college-level math or the workforce.

Schools can opt to follow the state-recommended scope and sequence of math study in part or whole, or continue to follow local curricula. Analysis of the models' effect will be completed within four years.

"These math curriculum models can help districts continue to implement the more rigorous Illinois Learning Standards in the coming year," said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. "Our new learning standards emphasize a holistic approach and ensure that students truly master math concepts and can apply them in their jobs and everyday life."

ISBE has decided to go beyond its statutory charge and develop lesson plans to correspond with the proposed math curricula, as well as develop math curriculum units for elementary schools. The additional materials will be available in the fall.

"The units structure the way a topic should be approached and allow a common ground for all teachers to teach their grade level," said Tai Williford, an 8th grade math teacher from Neal Math and Science Academy in North Chicago. "You can see the progression from one topic to the next and one grade level to the next. Using these units has been great for me and my colleagues because we know what we need the end result to be and we can discuss how to get our students there based on their current standings."

For more information about the model curricula, click here.


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