ISBE-Developed Guidance Helps Schools and Teachers Implement New Math Standards

Math models receive positive feedback and accolades

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois districts are piloting state-developed model math units to help students master concepts at each grade level as schools implement internationally-benchmarked learning standards that emphasize depth of knowledge, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The nationally-recognized units are the first of their kind, developed by a statewide team of educators following legislation that called for more math resources and support.

“As a nation and a state, we have to do better in math,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “We have already received feedback from teachers who say these math models are inspiring them to dig deeper into the content and create better lessons. With a strong, deep foundation in math, students are more likely to master this subject early on and continue to `get it’ as the concepts grow tougher in high school and college.”

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) established the Mathematics Model Curriculum Project following the passage in 2012 of legislation requiring the agency to work with math experts and statewide education organizations to develop middle and high school mathematics curriculum models. The state-designed math models help educators as they develop lesson plans that meet the new internationally benchmarked Illinois Learning Standards in English language arts and math.

The curriculum models’ units and lessons were submitted in July to the EQuIP Quality Review Jury, a national team that evaluates how lessons and units are aligned to the Common Core standards. Three of the four units that ISBE submitted for review received the highest “exemplary” rating.

“Mathematics is one of the most vital skills we can teach our children to help prepare them for an ever-changing, global job market,” said state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia who was among the bill’s primary sponsors. “I am hopeful that the models developed by the stakeholders and experts in this working group will assist teachers in classroom instructions, leading to greater success for students in college and in their careers.”

Model Math Unit Pilot Districts
2013-2014 District City
Bushnell-Prairie City CUSD 170 Bushnell
Joliet Public Schools District 86 Joliet
Mundelein School District 75 Mundelein
Murphysboro CUSD 186 Murphysboro
Community Consolidated School District 15 Palatine
Community Unit School District 2 Serena
Urbana School District 116 Urbana
2014-2015 Beach Park School District 3 Beach Park
Collinsville CUSD 10 Collinsville
Tremont CUSD 702 Tremont
Community CSD 168 Sauk Village

CUSD 205


Frankfort School District 157-C


Georgetown-Ridge Farm CUSD 4


Hutsonville CUSD 1


Joliet Public Schools District 86

Monticello CUSD 25 Monticello

Murphysboro CUSD 186

Payson CUSD 1 Payson

Prairie Hill Central CSD 133

South Beloit
Thomasboro Central CSD 130 Thomasboro

Urbana School District 116

Villa Grove CUSD 302 Villa Grove

West Carroll District 314

Mt. Carroll
Wethersfield District 230 Kewanee

Project members, representing administrators, teachers and curriculum experts from all parts of the state and kindergarten through college, worked for the past two years and expanded their charge to also develop math models for elementary students. The models are not a complete curriculum but instead a blueprint for instruction, lesson planning and assessments.  Districts may choose to adopt or adapt the models as they develop their full curricula. Educators may access the models on ISBE’s website at

The team developed a total of 88 units, 72 lessons and 516 assessments for

kindergarten through eighth grade and integrated math high school courses. The units and assessments are all aligned to the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams, which students in Illinois are taking for the first time this school year.

The more rigorous standards and these models and assessments help address a longstanding concern of college admission counselors and employers regarding students’ and workers’ entry-level skills. At least one in five students in Illinois must take remedial courses once they get to college and that number goes up – by some estimates to about 50 percent – when just looking at community college students. In 2014, 21 percent of Illinois graduates met the ACT’s College Readiness Benchmark in math. The ACT’s benchmark score indicates a student’s chance of obtaining a “C” or higher in college algebra. Meanwhile, Illinois’ composite 2014 ACT score of 20.7 is near the national average of 21.

Fifteen districts are piloting the math models this school year and seven school districts, including Joliet Public Schools District 86, piloted the models during the 2013-14 school year. Jan Taylor, Joliet’s mathematics program coordinator, credits the models with helping the district make gains on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and post a 2014 student growth score in math of 105, above the state’s math student growth score of 103.

“The sample unit lessons helped our teachers structure lesson planning by using a multi-day approach that builds up to rigorous classroom instruction,” said Taylor, who oversees 10 instructional coaches in the district. “As a result, teachers now plan in-depth lessons for the next day based upon what happened during class today.”

Taylor said she and her team found the curriculum models’ assessments to be a good representation of the types of questions students will encounter on the PARCC tests.

“The (assessment) questions have given our students the opportunity to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, which were not a component of the previous state tests,” Taylor said. “As a result, more classroom discussions take place on a daily basis where the teacher becomes a facilitator of learning, rather than an information giver.”

The math model curriculum project will continue to evolve to respond to the needs of the state’s educators, and team members will continue to seek input from teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, higher education faculty and national experts through the process.