Illinois Success Stories
I was amazed to see the differentiation and the student examples. So many times we see the problems, but not actual student work. Thank you so much for allowing me to see student work and the DIFFERENT ideas so that it's not me creating "mini mes" but showing students how to arrive at the answer in many different ways!
According to Tim McNamara, an Exemplars workshop leader, Eldorado, IL is, "home to some of the kindest, friendliest people you'd ever want to meet." Eldorado's economy once relied on coal mining. The mine has since closed and the community has fallen on hard economic times. The opportunities for good jobs once available to graduates have been lost. Knowing that Eldorado graduates would be entering a much different job market, middle school principal Rick Cox developed a strategy for improving the quality of their math program.
Mr. Cox contacted Exemplars in the Fall of 2000. Tim began assisting the Eldorado Middle School with the implementation of Exemplars to improve their students' math performance levels. The strategy included instituting Exemplars for both assessment and instruction, and providing teachers with professional development. He used an Illinois State Grant to fund the program.
Mr. Cox believes the strategy was successful. "In 1999, only 28% of our 8th grade students met or exceeded state standards." After the introduction of Exemplars, "In 2001, 56% of our 8th grade students met or exceeded the standards. In other words, we doubled the number of students passing the state test in the two-year time period."
Over the course of one academic year, Tim led three workshops with Eldorado teachers. The first focused on assessment, the second on content, and the third on instructional scope and sequence.
Teachers analyzed state assessment questions, compared them to Exemplars problems, discussed multiple strategies for solutions, rubrics, and assessing student work.
Teachers designed end-of-the-year assessments for each grade level based on the state standards, including both skills-based and more comprehensive performance-based Exemplars questions.
Teachers focused on laying out the curriculum for the entire school year using the state standards and Exemplars as benchmarks, with the textbook in a supporting role. Teachers used different colored index cards (one to represent a standard, one for a good class activity or web site, one for a skill-based question, and one for a performance-based question) and inserted them throughout the textbook, indicating where to place emphasis in their upcoming instruction and where to focus on assessment.
This scaffolding allowed each workshop to build on previous knowledge and gave teachers continuity as they implemented these changes. Rick Cox felt that these ongoing workshops made a tremendous difference for Eldorado's students.
Mr. Cox wanted to thank Exemplars for providing his students with such outstanding constructed-response items and for presenting his teachers with such extraordinary professional development.