Illinois Math Badging Initiative: A Journey Toward Inclusive Education

In our work to improve high school outcomes for all students, particularly historically marginalized populations, EdSystems embarked on an exciting journey with the XQ Institute and its supporting organizations to launch the Illinois Math Badging Initiative (IMBI). The goal? To refine and implement a math badging system that allows students to demonstrate their learning from a broad range of contexts through work that is engaging and responsive to students.

Most students in American high schools experience a similar sequence of math courses, including two years of algebra and a year of geometry. While the sequence is necessary for students interested in pursuing STEM careers, it has served as a source of frustration for too many students. Add to this that many students do not find the material relevant to the world outside the classroom, and it is understandable that math is often a barrier to success.

XQ math badges were developed to address these challenges. Bigger than a standard but smaller than a course, math badges provide administrators, educators, and students with building blocks to create more flexible math pathways that better connect student learning to interests and career opportunities. To ensure academic rigor, badges can be awarded to students based on the demonstration of their learning and not on traditional seat time.

EdSystems is collaborating with six Illinois sites to pilot math badges with a range of use cases, including a joint CTE-math course, integrating math instruction into STEM learning, giving students more opportunity to reach higher-level math classes, and reducing barriers that prerequisites can create by providing an alternate way for students to move between math classes.

At the end of two school years, we are able to provide some recommendations and initial lessons learned. They include:

  • Pursuing more opportunities for use in courses that combine math with applied fields such as CTE. For example, for one pilot site’s Geometry in Construction course, badging was a useful way to validate the math learning that happened outside of a classroom setting with a CTE teacher.
  • Developing additional resources to share successes with teachers, administrators, and families and to support initial teacher engagement. Since much of Illinois education policy is locally controlled, faculty buy-in and support are essential for successful pilot site engagement.
  • Utilizing the XQ math badging learning principles and teaching supports, even when separated from the badging framework, can be incredibly useful for schools hoping to engage students in more personalized, deeper learning.

We thank the XQ Institute and its partner organizations for their collaboration in this initiative. Their support and expertise have been invaluable to our work in Illinois. If you are interested in learning more about the math badging initiative and the lessons we are learning, please contact EdSystems.

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