Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
|Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy|
|1500 Sullivan Rd.
Aurora, Illinois, 60506-1000
|School type||public residential magnet|
|Chairperson||Ms. Sheila MB Griffin|
|Slogan||The world’s leading teaching and learning laboratory for imagination and inquiry|
|Average ACT scores||31|
The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, or IMSA, is a three-year residential public high school located in Aurora, Illinois, USA, with an enrollment of approximately 650 students. Enrollment is generally offered to incoming sophomores, although 8th graders who have had the equivalent of one year of Algebra and a 9th grade science equivalent are eligible to apply. All applicants undergo a competitive admissions process involving the review of grades, teacher evaluations, student essays, and SAT scores. Historically, approximately one-third of applicants in any given year are admitted. Due to its nature as a public institution, there are no charges related to tuition, room and board; however, there is an annual student fee which may be reduced or waived based on family income. IMSA has been consistently ranked by Newsweek as one of the top ten high schools in the country for math and science, and its graduates have moved forward to become leaders in a variety of fields.
- 1 History
- 2 Admission
- 3 Academics
- 4 External programs
- 5 Student life
- 6 Student Leadership and Development (SLD) Programs
- 7 Awards
- 8 Notable alumni
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
Nobel laureate Leon Lederman, director emeritus of nearby Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, was among the first to propose the school in 1982, and together with Governor Jim Thompson led the effort for its creation. Thompson has noted with pride that he chose to build IMSA instead of competing for the ill-fated supercollider project.
The school was established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1985, and opened to students in 1986. The academy is housed in a building constructed in 1978 as the north campus of West Aurora High School, with seven outlying dormitories built after IMSA took over the campus. IMSA's first class graduated in 1989, with the commencement speech delivered by Lederman. IMSA is one of the few high schools in the country to possess a .edu second-level domain.
The founding president of the school is former Batavia Superintendent Stephanie Pace Marshall, winner of the Lincoln Laureate Award, who was involved with the project from the start and helped write IMSA's original legislation. Marshall retired from the position on June 30, 2007, and was later named President Emerita by the Board of Trustees. She still has an office on campus and continues to position IMSA on the national and international stages. Marshall serves on the board of several non-profit and for-profit institutions, including nearby Tellabs.
Prospective students, who are usually freshmen in high school but in some cases may be eighth graders, must complete an application to be considered for admission to IMSA.
The application process consists of an official transcript of the student's last 2½ years of school, scores from the SAT I, four student essays, three teacher evaluations in science, mathematics, and English, and a list of awards and extracurricular activities.
Historic admission statistics
|Class||Number of students invited||Number of students graduated||Average incoming SAT CR (or verbal) score||Average incoming SAT math score|
In order to draw greater numbers of applications and "transform teaching and learning," IMSA has an outreach network run by The Center for Advancement and Renewal of Learning and Teaching (The Center@IMSA). Some students who are invited to attend IMSA are admitted on the condition that they successfully complete a three-week, intensive preparation course, known as EXCEL, over the summer. IMSA has a fairly low retention rate; the average retention rate per class is 85%. The reasons for this may include the difficulty of the IMSA curriculum, home-sickness, disciplinary expulsion, student's family moving out of state, and the inability for Illinois students to matriculate to IMSA after their sophomore year.
Students at IMSA take rigorous college preparatory courses, with all classes being taught at the honors level, though IMSA philosophically spurns the Advanced Placement curriculum. Each student must fulfill a set of specific credits in order to graduate. This set of credits is broken down by academic subject. Each semester-long class counts for 0.5 credits, unless it meets with greater-than-normal frequency.
In addition to the academic program, IMSA also offers a large number clubs ranging from religious clubs to volunteer organizations . All these clubs are chartered by the Student Council, colloquially referred to as StudCo.
IMSA bills itself as an "educational laboratory", and as such tries out experimental teaching techniques. These range from how classes are laid out to what is taught and even to who takes them; in the early 1990s IMSA received national attention for an exploratory study on whether girls learned physics better in single-sex or co-ed environments, as conducted by charter physics faculty, Dr. David Workman. IMSA's main math sequence, entitled "Mathematical Investigations" and in development by IMSA faculty since 1991, was published in handbook form in 2005 and is beginning to be adopted by other school districts in the state of Illinois, such as Community Unit School District 303 in St. Charles (at St. Charles East & St. Charles North). IMSA's core science curriculum has been through a number of ground-up restructurings, its implementation divided the old scientific inquiry curriculum into four classes: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Methods of Scientific Inquiry.
IMSA does not use report cards, but uses an online "student information service", PowerSchool. All grades and attendance are recorded in PowerSchool, where both the student and the parents can view these at any time.
The school day at IMSA runs between 7:30 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.; however, most students do not have classes for all of the school day. Every school day is divided into 20 modules, called "mods". They are 20 minutes long with a 5-minute break in between. Therefore, 2-module classes are 45 minutes long, 3-module classes are 70 minutes long, and 4-module classes are 95 min long. There used to be 5-module classes, but have since been removed. Between modules 10 and 11, there is a 35 min break, the midday break, usually for eating lunch.
Unlike conventional public high schools, a student does not have the same schedule every day. The days are instead divided into A, B, C, D, and Inquiry (I) days, each with their own class schedule. Usually, A days are Mondays, B days are Tuesdays, C days are Thursdays, and D days are Fridays. IMSA students usually attend class for only four days per week, with most Wednesdays considered I days, reserved for research and co-curricular activities. A given class may meet all four days but not always for the same amount of time or even begin at the same time each day.
However, some classes may meet only 2–4 days per week. Generally, A and C days have the same schedules, and B and D days have the same schedules, but for students, usually sophomores, this is not always the case. The pattern for each class is usually reduced to a pair of numbers: a 3-2 class meets for 3 mods on A and C days, and only 2 on B and D days, while a 0-4 meets only on B and D days, for 4 modules each day. As a result, there is considerable variation as to how many classroom minutes each course has per week:
|Configuration||Minutes per week|
|3-0 class (or 0-3)||140 (2h20m)|
|2-2 class||180 (3h)|
|4-0 class (or 0-4)||190 (3h10m)|
|3-2 class (or 2-3)||230 (3h50m)|
There are a few but growing number of courses that vary even from this structure.
IMSA students have a fairly rigid set of requirements at a departmental level, but within each department (especially in math and the sciences), they have many options for meeting each requirement. The class requirements are as follows, along with the typical meetings times of courses in that department (for clarity the symmetric alternatives are omitted---e.g. "3-2" below means "either 3-2 or 2-3"):
- Math: 3-2 for six semesters, though a small number of upperclass math electives are 3-0.
- Science: two 4-0 classes for two (sophomore) semesters, but some classes can be tested out of, then four semesters of electives. Most electives are 4-0, and some are 3-2.
- Foreign language: 3-2 for four semesters.
- English: 3-3-2 for two (sophomore) semesters(new as of the 2006–2007 school year one day a week without English), then 3-0 for four semesters.
- History and social science: 3-3-2 for two (sophomore) semesters (same as sophomore English), then 3-0 for three semesters.
- Wellness: 3-2 for one (sophomore) semester, then 3-0 for one semester.
- Fine arts: 3-2 or 4-0 for one semester.
There is also a two semester additional requirement that can be filled by either math or science electives. Once these requirements are complete, students are free to take electives in any area. Most students take a full six semesters of foreign language, for instance, and despite its nominal status as a "math and science academy", IMSA offers a variety of electives in English and History as well.
IMSA offers a wide variety of rigorous courses spanning a number of academic fields. For all core academic disciplines (math, science, history, and English), there are core academic requirements. Once these are met students are free to take electives in that subject. Some electives may be taken concurrently with core classes.
Core curriculum includes the Mathematical Investigations (MI) series, from MI I to MI IV, which is a four semester series covering topics in Algebra II/Trigonometry to Pre-Calculus, and the AB and BC Calculus series. Students may be placed into either the AB or the BC Calculus tracks depending on performance in the MI courses or based on a placement test. Many elective options are offered including popular ones such as Multi-Variable Calculus, Differential Equations, Discrete Mathematics, Number Theory, and Statistics. However, there are also various others on a which cover a variety of mathematical topics including Advanced Geometry, Graph Theory, Polyhedra and Geodesics, Problem Solving, Advanced Problem Solving, and Mathematica.
The computer science courses are considered math electives. Courses on Web Technologies, Object-Oriented Programming, Assembly Language Programming, Advanced Placement Computer Science, as well as various others are offered.
Students who exhaust a significant portion of the elective curriculum are eligible to take advanced courses that are offered on a by-need basis. Examples include Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra, and Group Theory, among others. If a student wants, he/she may also conduct an independent study of his or her choice under a member of the math faculty. Popular independent studies include Group Theory, Game Theory, Set Theory, in addition to various others.
Core curriculum includes the Scientific Investigations (SI) series, which are a series of four semester-long courses taken during a student's sophomore year. They include SI Physics, SI Biology, and SI Chemistry, classes which introduce students to the respective courses subject matter, and Methods in Scientific Inquiry, a course which teaches scientific writing, basic experimental methodology, and basic statistical analysis. After a student's sophomore year, they are free to take science class so long as they meet the prerequisites and graduation requirements.
Electives include Advanced Chemistry, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Advanced Physics, Calculus-Based Physics, Modern Physics, Planetary Science, Electronics, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Microbes and Disease, and Physiology and Disease.
Core curriculum includes American Studies, a year long course during the sophomore year, and World in The 20th Century, a second semester course for Juniors. In addition to these two mandatory courses, students must take an additional 2 semesters of electives, one during their fall semester of Junior year, and another during their senior year. These courses focus on using primary source documents in analysis.
Students may take elective courses after completing the core requirements, although this is not required. Electives offered include International Relations, European History, Political Theory, Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, History of Philosophy, History of Biology, History of Astronomy, as well as various others.
All students have to have .5 credits, or one semester, of Fine arts. Electives include Band, Orchestra, and Choir, as well as Photography and Ceramics.
There are multiple bands, choirs, and orchestras in which a student can be placed depending on playing ability.
English core curriculum includes the Literary Explorations (LE) series, a series of courses spanning three semesters covering topics in American and British literature. Electives students may take include Romantic Poetry and Prose, Idea of the Individual, Portraits of Creativity, IMSATube: Film, Graphic Novels, Film Studies, as well as others.
Foreign language courses are year-long courses in which students are "immersed" in the language. Languages offered include Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Russian, and Japanese. Spanish and French are offered up to level 5 while Russian, Chinese, German, and Japanese are only offered to level 3. Students who are native speakers of any language are not eligible to take that language.
A complete list of IMSA course offerings can be viewed on the IMSA website, in a document titled Learning Opportunities.
Other academic programs
During the week before the second semester students are required to participate in Intersession, a week they choose from among dozens of enrichment sessions and off-campus trips. Most students choose to participate in two half-day or one full-day on-campus course(s), while a small number travel abroad on faculty-sponsored trips to countries including France, Spain, and Russia, and others perform a week of mentorship. Classes range from "Build Your Own Computer" to studying lighthouse keeping at Washington State. Alumni often teach Intersession courses and lead overseas trips along with faculty members. Clubs are also allowed to take trips and do activities during this time. The scuba club takes a trip to the Caribbean, while the FIRST Robotics team 2022 spends the week building a robot.
Student Inquiry and Research
Most Wednesdays are "I Days" (for "inquiry") and are usually reserved for research in the SIR programs. SIR also runs during the summer of one's sophomore year and junior year, allowing a student to conduct four disparate investigations.  These programs give students the opportunity to develop their own scientific research and/or to work with scientists, primarily from around the Chicago area. Popular research locations include the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, the Adler Planetarium, Fermilab, and Argonne National Laboratory. All IMSA students are encouraged to participate in this program, and several every year present their research results in academic conferences and in scientific publications. Also, all students who have participated in research are required to present their research in April on a day called IMSAloquium, with students presenting posters and powerpoint presentations to visitors.
Usually, only students in grades 11-12 participate in these programs. Sophomores go to Navigation (first semester) or other required activities, usually seminars, (second semester) from 10:00 am to 11:30 am, where they are helped with adjusting to residential life and other affective issues; they then have the rest of the day off to work on assignments from their classes.
Unlike many other secondary schools, IMSA runs extracurricular and summer programs for the teachers and students of the State of Illinois. Professional Field Services (PFS), is the division of the academy that directs and manages programs serving Illinois Educators and Students. PFS offerings enable students to develop and sustain Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills. PFS Student offerings include the IMSA FUSION After School program for students ranging from 4th-6th grade, the Kids Institute (KI), Summer@IMSA programs, and ALLIES (selected High School students that lead and facilitate offerings in their community schools). PFS Educator offerings include the Problem Based Learning Network (PBLN), and IMSA FUSION (Offering professional development for educators teaching the FUSION after school program)and the annual "IMSA Teacher Institute Day" for local Mathematics and Science educators. Other Program Notes: IMSA PBL runs one summer program for middle school students called Summer Sleuths, in which students are challenged to solve a serious problem affecting the state of Illinois; to formulate a solution with the assistance of newly certified PBL teachers, the Sleuths must develop research and analytical skills as well as scientific and mathematical knowledge. IMSA FUSION is an after-school enrichment program that aims to stimulate schools and students in the instruction of math and science. All PFS Programs place a special emphasis on students who are historically under-represented and under-served in math and science.
Many IMSA students contribute time and energy to external programs. IMSA Students deliver a STEM program called "IMSA on Wheels (IoW)" that provides an STEM enrichment demonstration to Illinois schools. Additionally, IMSA Students provide facilitation and coaching to participants in the IMSA Summer programs.
Uniquely, Professional Field Services, also operates three Field Offices in Illinois. Field Offices are regional sites that enable IMSA to assess targeted community needs, then develop collaborative interventions to enable local school districts and community organizations to enhance student achievement in targeted communities. IMSA Field Offices are located in the Metro-east Community, Rock Island, and Chicago.
Professional Field Services (PFS) also manages the transfer of IMSA's unique Inquiry-based pedagogy and STEM curricula to other Illinois educational institutions.
There are seven residence halls on campus. Each hall is composed of four wings housing up to 24 students each. Three halls are all-male, three are all-female, and a seventh contains two all-male wings and two all-female wings. All rooms have their own attached bathroom and standard residence hall furniture for two students. Furniture includes a desk, wardrobe, bed frame, mattress, and desk lamps for each student. Two pairs of rooms in each wing ("quads") have connecting doors that the residents can petition to have opened. One room per wing is built to be more accessible to disabled students, with a different room layout and a larger bathroom. One room per hall has a hypoallergenic room, with tile flooring instead of carpet.
Each wing also has a lounge area with a kitchenette and a television. Many wings have accumulated a variety of other furniture, including chairs, couches, and entertainment centers.
Study hours and work service
Study hours are within two-hour block set aside from 7 pm to 9 pm on Monday through Thursday for all sophomores that ensure academic progress. Within these hours, students are expected to be working on academic material and are checked for this too. They are put in place to ensure that the transition into a new lifestyle does not affect that academic progress. After the second semester, sophomores can have the parents agree to let their students be exempt from these mandatory hours. For their Junior and Senior years, students are not required to have these hours, however, they may be assigned study hours if they fall behind academically.
In addition, as a graduation requirement, each student at IMSA is expected to complete a mandatory amount of service/volunteer work for the school that total 200 hours, 75 of which must be completed in an off-campus environment. Like the federally funded college work-study program, a variety of jobs are available, both skilled and unskilled.
The program is in place to ensure the development of students' skills not only within the classroom, but also as a part of the community, whether it be local or global.
One example of a campus-organized program is the Residential Student Leadership program. It consists of Students taking upon the responsibility of creating an atmosphere within the residential aspect of the students' careers at IMSA. This can be achieved by creating and organizing events, either academic-based such as study sessions, or stress-relief based such as movie nights or special dinners.
Hadron is IMSA's student-run math and science magazine, a periodical which focuses on science and its application to current events and popular culture.
IMSA students also produce the Heliotrope, an art and literature magazine that produces an annual edition.
The Acronym is IMSA's newspaper. In 2008, the publication began publishing online, ceasing paper publishing in the 2008–2009 school year and turning the newspaper into more of a blog format. During the 2011-2012 school year, The Acronym deviated from the blog-esque publishing style and returned to something more akin to a newspaper.
IMSA's Yearbook, The Gallimaufry, was featured in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 "Yearbook Yearbook", Taylor Publishing's books of exemplary work.
IMSA, starting in the 2009–2010 school year started competing in the Northeastern Athletic Conference (NAC), and is a member of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), the organization which governs most sports and competitive activities in the state of Illinois. Teams are stylized as the Titans.
The school sponsors interscholastic teams for young men and women in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, and volleyball. Young men may compete in baseball, while young women may compete in bowling, cheerleading, and softball. While not sponsored by the IHSA, the school also sponsors a dance team for young men and women.
The following teams have finished in the top four of their respective IHSA sponsored state championship tournament:
- Chess: 4th place (1997–98, 98–99, 2009–10); 3rd place (1990–91, 94–95, 2003–04, 04–05); 2nd place (1989–90); State Champions (1986–87, 87–88, 95–96, 96–97)
- Scholastic Bowl: 4th place (1991–92); 3rd place (2009–10); 2nd place (1992–93); State Champions (1988–89, 89–90, 93–94, 95–96, 96–97, 97–98, 98–99, 2000–01, 2010-2011, 2011–12)
Student Leadership and Development (SLD) Programs
In addition to its primary role as the mediator between administrators and students, the Student Council controls large aspects of the residential life. The Student Council Website maintains a trip wiki, which lists trips to local restaurants, stores, and venues that are taken by residential conselors. The website is also used by all student council chartered clubs as a means of communication. Campus-wide events are displayed here and students have personalized calendars listing all their club meetings.
Peer Multicultural Educators (PME)
As an institution with competitive admissions, IMSA has taken initiatives to improve diversity within the community. PME represents the student body's initiative to improve the condition of living at IMSA by combating racism, sexism, residence hall stereotyping, segregation, and more. PME conducts research on student perspectives, manages funds for cultural clubs chartered by Student Council, and conducts diversity work including various workshops and programs.
Leadership Education and Development (LEAD)
IMSA is unique in that it is one of few high schools that has a program whose main purpose is to educate students about leadership. The LEAD program, which is mandatory to incoming sophomores, teaches essential skills and concepts that serve as an integral part of leadership. The first semester of the program consists of teaching concepts; the second semester of the program focuses on applying concepts learned in the first semester to the real-world. The 2007–2008 LEAD program introduced an organization simulation as the real-world integration. The LEAD program is almost entirely student-run, with two student co-coordinators and approximately 20 facilitators each year, in addition to a Student Life staff that simply oversees the program.
IMSA consistently ranks at the top of the nation in standardized test scores (of roughly 200 students in the senior class, about 50 are National Merit Semifinalists), as well as in the prestigious Siemens and Intel Science competitions. In the class of 2009, five students were named Siemens Regional Finalists and ten others as semifinalists.
Six mathematics teachers have been honored with the Edyth May Sliffe Award: Titu Andreescu (1994), Ronald Vavrinek (1995), Micah Fogel (2001), Steven Condie (2002), Michael Keyton (2003), Don Porzio (2004), and Steven Condie (2nd award) (2007). Asteroid 21441 Stevencondie is named after Dr. Condie.
IMSA has repeatedly been included on Newsweek's annual list of "Best High Schools in America" under "Public Elites" for the fifth straight year, due to the above-average SAT and ACT scores of exiting students.
IMSA was also one of the top four High Schools in the Mandelbrot Competition in the 2003–2004 school year.
IMSA was named the nationwide winner of the 2009 Intel Star Innovator Award.
- Dominic Armato (1993) - voice actor
- Steve Chen (1996) - co-founder/Chief Technology Officer of YouTube, and an early engineer at PayPal.
- Nathan Gettings (1995) - early employee of PayPal and co-founder of Palantir Technologies
- Rob McCool (1991) - author of NCSA HTTPd web server, which became the base of the now-popular Apache HTTP Server. He was also an early Netscape employee who created the early web browser, Mosaic.
- Ramez Naam (1990) - software developer and author. He helped develop Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Outlook.
- Yu Pan (1995) - one of the six co-creators of PayPal and was the first employee at YouTube.
- Clara Shih (2000) - bestselling author of The Facebook Era, co-founder of Hearsay Social, and member of Starbucks' Board of Directors.
- Russel Simmons (1995) - early employee of PayPal and co-founder of Yelp
- Sam Yagan (1995) - one of the co-founders of SparkNotes and has also co-founded OkCupid, one of the largest (free) web-based online dating sites in the world.
- North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics
- Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities
- University Laboratory High School
- Carol Martin Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science in Kentucky
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.|
- "Trustees". IMSA. Retrieved 12 November 2013.
- "Aurora (Illinois Math and Science Academy)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 16 December 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
- Institution Summary, AdvancED, Retrieved 2012-07-11
- "Clubs and Organizations". directory. IMSA. 2009-10. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
- Hadron Website
- "Athletics". Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
- "IHSA Season Summaries". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 16 November 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
- Siemens Foundation. November 2008. "MATHEMATICAL SUPERSTARS FROM MISSOURI, INDIANA AND TEXAS HONORED FOR RESEARCH IN NATION’S PREMIER HIGH SCHOOL SCIENCE COMPETITION"
- IMSANews. (December 2004)."IMSA Math Teacher is Sixth to Receive Prestigious Award"
- Ceres Connection. Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "2005 Award Honorees"
- JPL Small-Body Database Browser. "21441 Stevencondie (1998 FC144)"
- "2008 Alumni Award Recipients". IMSA. Retrieved 18 December 2009.
- "2007 Alumni Award Recipients". IMSA. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
- "IMSA Alums Named to Fund Board and Advisory Council". IMSA. Retrieved 24 April 2010.
- "15 Questions with Sam A. Yagan ’99". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 24 April 2010.