Illinois Math Badges Initiative

Portrait of Heather Penczak
Heather Penczak

Innovation & Implementation Director

Portrait of Jon Furr
Jon Furr

Executive Director


Five pilot sites including Ridgewood High School

Supported By

In partnership with XQ Institute and Student Achievement Partners, EdSystems is launching an initiative to create an Illinois high school math badging system as an alternative credentialing mechanism wherein students can certify learning gained through a broad range of sources including coursework, independent study, summer school, and work-based learning. This initiative will build on, and be integrated with, other work EdSystems is undertaking to advance racial equity by prioritizing eliminating disparities in education and employment outcomes for young people from underserved and underrepresented populations.

While math remediation rates in Illinois are dropping, remediation courses continue to be a significant barrier to postsecondary success, particularly for underserved Black and Latinx students. Likewise, data on math-intensive bachelor’s degree programs demonstrates massive equity gaps which can be attributed to the lack of a strong math background.1 For middle skill roles, employers and programs often cite math readiness as a major barrier to success.

Meeting students where they are to support their individualized college and career goals is key to addressing barriers. Badging can support stronger alignment to the math needed for secondary, postsecondary, and career success than can course titles, and can ensure that students demonstrate knowledge in a way that course grades cannot. Badging also can promote opportunities to develop and reinforce math knowledge and skills, and can validate learning that occurs outside of the classroom through integration into work-based learning and other applied learning experiences. Further, the customization available through badging can engage and motivate students to explore and demonstrate math skills directly related to their college and career interest areas.

Badges will be aligned to Illinois Transitional Math competencies and the Illinois Learning Standards in mathematics (incorporating the Common Core State Standards). They will be stackable and designed to be combined to translate into credit in a Transitional Math course, other high school math courses, and early college credit.

Our Role

EdSystems will lead the development of an implementation plan and support five pilot sites for math badges in Illinois through a State Badging Collaborative. The badges also will be integrated into the forthcoming Illinois Virtual Transitional Math course. The Collaborative will be guided by a Steering Committee which will employ a user-centered process that prioritizes input from instructors and students to understand current concerns with math and how a badging process can best improve them. The Steering Committee will be informed by a Math Advisory Subcommittee with content expertise.

The work will take place in three phases. In Phase I, EdSystems will introduce the initiative to the Collaborative Steering Committee and the Advisory Subcommittee, gather feedback from members and their stakeholders, adjust the initiative as necessary, and support the development of draft implementation plans and timelines for each pilot site. In Phase II, with support from EdSystems and the Steering Committee and Subcommittee, Collaborative pilot sites will identify or adapt course curricula, integrate XQ-developed assessments aligned with the math badges, and begin to roll out the program. Phase III, Beginning in Fall 2023 and beyond the scope of this document, will add additional pilot sites and conduct an initial evaluation.

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