North Central College - Naperville, IL

North Central takes lead in national curriculum research

New national academic standards aim to raise the achievement of K-12 students in the United States to a world-class level. And North Central will play a lead role in helping teachers at high-need schools better prepare students for more rigorous standards in mathematics.

Under the leadership of Jan Fitzsimmons, executive director of the urban education laboratory at North Central, the new curriculum will be developed through a collaboration of higher education, high-need schools, business partnerships, the Associated Colleges of Illinois (ACI) and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA).

A grant of $140,000 awarded to North Central College by the Illinois State Board of Education will fund an in-depth summer professional development experience for 50 teachers from three regions in Illinois. Teachers design and test new lesson plans and later share their experiences through online networking. Additional expertise will come from Illinois College, McKendree University, ACI’s Center for Success in High-Need Schools, IMSA and business partners that can offer input on how their employees use practical math applications and best practices in instructional delivery. The collective partnership is called the Math Learning Collaborative Network (MLCN).

The network has been created and funded in response to Illinois adopting the new Common Core Standards, which are national in scope.

“These standards are more rigorous and require creative approaches to teaching that incorporate problem-based learning and inquiry,” says Fitzsimmons. “There is more emphasis on applications of mathematics in the real world, which are critical for student engagement in high-need schools. Improving student engagement leads to greater student achievement.”

Teachers from Illinois school districts in Aurora, Manteno, Belleville and Jacksonville will be involved in the research. Other participants at North Central include Rebecca Clemente, professor of education; Mary McMahon, associate professor of mathematics; Christine Weilhoefer, assistant professor of biology; and Richard Wilders, Marie and Bernice Gantzert Professor in the Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of mathematics.