Shifting Into College-Level Math and Science, Chicago-Style

By Sean Cavanagh — July 31, 2009 1 min read
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There’s been a lot of focus over the years on high school students’ inability to make a successful transition from high school to college math and science work. The Chicago school district is attempting to tackle that problem, by focusing on teaching at the 12th grade level.

The 407,000-student school system is creating a new program that will offer graduate-level college workshops and coursework to 160 high school math and science teachers, classes that will focus on helping those educators prepare students for the leap into postsecondary work. The hope is that participating teachers will not only improve their math and science skills, but, as is common in such programs, return to their schools and become “team leaders,” who can help fellow educators and administrators from their own schools improve.

The effort, known as the Chicago Transformation Teacher Institutes, is being supported through a $5 million grant from National Science Foundation.

Those directing the effort have set a number of tangible goals: They want to see at least 10 percent annual improvement in standardized test and Advanced Placement scores; the development of new AP or “capstone courses” for Chicago students, and an increase in the number of freshman college students who score grades of “B” or better in college math and science courses. Five Chicago-area universities are partnering with the district on the project: DePaul University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, Loyola University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. University faculty will collaborate to develop and teach courses to help high school teachers.

The program will “help ensure that 12th grade courses in our schools make a strong bridge between high school and college,” said Michael Lach, officer of teaching and learning for Chicago’s school system, and a co-principal investigator on the NSF grant. The partnership between the universities and the school district, he added, is a “testament to the power of the whole city working together to advance mathematics and science education.”

So here’s your chance: If you were asked to help design a course for high school teachers seeking to help students bridge the divide between K-12 and college math and science, where would you start?

Photo of Chicago skyline, above, right

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.