There have been many changes in my work in the last several months that I'd like to share. The biggest is that I'm no longer a full-time math professor at Rock Valley College. After a lot of thought, I've changed positions to being a mathematics research associate at Northern Illinois University. This change has happened slowly over time. For years, I've been involved at the state level on developmental math initiatives through committee and task force work. In 2016, Illinois signed into legislation the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act (PWR Act). This law has major impacts on high school to college transitions, one of which is transitional math. These are high school courses for seniors that upon successful completion guarantee the student placement into certain college-level math courses at any IL community college and some IL universities. That placement comes without a placement test. Without question, this is a huge change.
The State is committed to putting this legislation into place correctly and at scale. With 48 community colleges and almost 800 high schools, this is undoubtedly a huge project. I had been leading one of the statewide subcommittees related to the PWR Act in the first half of 2017, which evolved into me leading the work as part of a new position through NIU. I began full time at NIU in September. While I am adjunct math faculty at Rock Valley College, for the time being, my focus in not in the classroom, but instead on policy and practices that support the classroom. I still write for Pearson and soon I will begin working on my doctorate. So while my position has changed, the level of busyness continues. As my husband will tell you, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I'm very passionate about the transitional math project, its purpose, and its philosophy. It aligns with my work and goals completely. For years, I've been working to create ways for students to get to their college-level math courses more quickly but without compromising rigor or program integrity. That work has involved a lot of content and policy creation, with an emphasis on contextualized learning, often done actively in the classroom. Developmental math pathways and Math Lit were my major focus for years in that respect. But that work evolved after years of leading dev math reform of the traditional math courses in my department and then helping schools around the state and country do so as well. I've been consulting with colleges and universities for years as well as speaking and leading workshops on how to make effective changes. Doing so led to the creation of my business, Almy Educational Consulting, a few years ago. This work I'm involved in now marries all my previous experience in and out of the classroom into one position where I can support the goals of the State but also of colleges, administrators, and faculty alike. In short, it's work I love and believe in.
The approach Illinois is taking is unlike some other states' approaches. It's not a one-size-fits-all solution, but instead offers three transitional math courses, each of which is aligned to a meta major (STEM, quantitative literacy & statistics, or technical math). Non-STEM dev math pathways courses like math literacy are in that QL/stats transitional math frame in that their goal is college readiness with an emphasis on contextualized learning related to a student's outcome courses and fields. The STEM and technical math transitional math courses will also have that contextualized approach and align with college and careers. None of the transitional math courses is a re-purposed high school or traditional dev math college course like beginning or intermediate algebra. They all embody the goals of dev math pathways with active learning through problem solving as well as embedded emphasis on college knowledge. It's not about skill acquisition, but the ability to understand and use all the skills students learn.
While the largest component of my position is leading the transitional math work, I also work with co-requisite remediation efforts in IL. This is another approach that the State is committed to scaling. The efforts work together. In short, this is the approach IL wants to get to:
1. Transitional math courses for high school students who would be candidates for dev math
2. Co-requisite remediation for most college students, if appropriate
3. Dev math pathways and other accelerated options for students who are not best served by co-req courses
The idea is to have students in as few semesters of dev math when they come to colleges in IL as possible. To make this happen, a lot of policy, professional development, and support have to happen. Asking schools to make this happen without that is not feasible. The State is committed to scaling all these efforts in a way that works. I'm working on this daily but I'm not alone. There are many people throughout my state at agencies, colleges and universities, and in policy-making groups supporting the work. It's exciting to see so many people work together for a common goal that will make real change in a positive way. Will it be perfect and without issues? No. But everyone working on this knows that and is committed to hearing where there are issues and addressing them as well as respecting existing work, since there is so much good work already going on.
For more information on the transitional math work, please check out this article I was interviewed for as well as our public commenting website. It contains documents, webinars, and more on the project. Additionally, here is my new contact information:
Research Associate, Mathematics
Illinois Director for Transitional Math
Northern Illinois University
Center for P-20 Engagement | Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development
Rockford Campus | 8500 E State Street Rockford, IL 61108
815-753-8803 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's to an exciting and hopeful 2018!