Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy
Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (logo).png
1500 Sullivan Rd.
Aurora, Illinois 60506-1000
United States
Coordinates 41°47′13″N 88°21′17″W / 41.78694°N 88.35472°W / 41.78694; -88.35472Coordinates: 41°47′13″N 88°21′17″W / 41.78694°N 88.35472°W / 41.78694; -88.35472
School type public residential magnet
Established 1985
Opened 1986
Founder Leon Lederman
President Jose Torres
Chairperson Dr. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius[1]
Principal Dr. Robert Hernandez[2]
Staff 55
Grades 1012
Gender coed
Enrollment 650
Campus type suburban
Color(s)      Columbia blue
Slogan To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition[4]
Team name Titans[3]
Accreditation AdvancED[5]
Average ACT scores 31[6]
Newspaper The Acronym[7]
Yearbook Gallimaufry[7]
Nobel laureates 1

The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, or IMSA, is a three-year residential public high school in Aurora, Illinois, United States, with an enrollment of approximately 650 students.

Enrollment is generally offered to incoming sophomores, although younger students 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 some of its graduates have moved on to become leaders in a variety of fields.


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.

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 country's few high schools to possess a .edu second-level domain.

The school's founding president was 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.

Although the school received a budget cut in financial year 2002, its budget has since increased, with the support of House Minority Leader Tom Cross. IMSA's chairperson is Dr. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius.[8]


Front entrance
View of campus from southwest

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[edit]

Admission statistics[9]
Class Number of students invited Number of students graduated Average incoming SAT CR (or verbal) score Average incoming SAT math score
2016 241 206 610 678
2015[10] 242 195 611 678
2014[11] 242 198 598 672
2013 224 N/A 612 675
2012 252 212 581 650
2011 253 199 577 637
2010 231 177 587 652
2009 242 201 594 634
2008 242 204 595 644
2007 253 203 587 652
2006 240 184 601 649
2005 ? 208 588 639
2004 246 199 590 638
2003 230 189 601 648
2002 220 177 595 650
2001 ? 224 ? ?
2000 ? 191 ? ?
1999 ? 187 ? ?
1998 ? ? ? ?
1997[12] 230 ? 525 637

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 two-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.[13]


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 [2]. 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.

School day[edit]

Typical days run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., but most students do not have class for the entire duration. Every school day is divided into 8 modules, each 55 minutes with 5-minute breaks between. Students have a 20-minute midday break between modules 4 and 5.

Unlike conventional public high schools, schedules vary depending on the day of the week. Students have class only on four days of the week, with Wednesdays typically being reserved for off-campus research and co-curricular activities.

Course requirements[edit]

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:

  • Math: six semesters, including one semester of computer science
  • Science: four classes semesters sophomore year, then four semesters of electives.
  • Foreign language: four semesters, completing a least one course at level II or higher.
  • English: three semester core classes, then three semesters of electives
  • History and social science: two semester core classes, three semesters of electives.
  • Wellness: one semester of core class, then one semester of elective.
  • Fine arts: one semester of an elective.

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.

Course offerings[edit]

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, they may also conduct an independent study of their 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 five semester-long courses taken during a student's sophomore year. They include SI Physics, SI Biology, SI Chemistry, and Computer Science Inquiry classes which introduce students to the respective course's 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 choose science class so long as they meet the prerequisites and graduation requirements.

Electives include Advanced Chemistry, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Calculus-Based Physics, Modern Physics, Planetary Science, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Microbes and Disease, and Physiology and Disease.


Core curriculum includes American Studies, a semester 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 3 semesters of electives, one during their junior and senior years. 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, History of China and India, History of Philosophy, History of Biology, History of Astronomy, as well as various others.

Fine arts[edit]

All students have to have 0.5 credits, or one semester, of Fine arts. Electives include Band, Orchestra, Choir, and Music Theory, as well as Printmaking, and Art Design.

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 Idea of the Individual, IMSATube: Film, Graphic Novels, Film Studies, Creative Writing Workshop, Tolkien, Modern Theater as well as others.

Foreign language[edit]

Foreign language courses are year-long courses using the "total immersion" teaching method. Languages offered include Spanish, French, German, Chinese, and Russian. Spanish and French are offered up to level 5 while Russian, Chinese, and German 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[edit]


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 juniors and seniors to research in the SIR program. SIR also runs during the summer of one's sophomore year and junior year, allowing a student to conduct four disparate investigations. [3] 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.

In lieu of research, sophomores go to Navigation (first semester) or other required activities, usually seminars, 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.

IN2 Innovation Center: IN2 is a 1.9 million dollar, 6,400 square foot, communal idea center opening for the 2016-17 school year.

External programs[edit]

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.[citation needed] Professional Field Services (PFS) also manages the transfer of IMSA's inquiry-based pedagogy and STEM curricula to other Illinois educational institutions.

Student life[edit]

Residence halls[edit]

Residence halls on campus

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, and mattress 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 hardwood 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[edit]

Study hours are a two-hour block set aside from 7 pm to 9 pm on Monday through Thursday designed to ensure academic progress. They are mandatory for sophomore students first semester (can earn privileges second semester to avoid). Within these hours, students are expected to be working on academic material. After the first quarter, sophomores are no longer required to do study hours on Wednesdays. After the second semester, sophomores' parents may allow their students be exempt. For their junior and senior years, study hours are only enforced when a student falls behind academically or is absent from class.

Service Learning[edit]

As a graduation requirement, each student at IMSA is required to complete 200 hours of service/volunteer work. 75 of the hours must be completed in an off-campus environment. Like federally-funded college work-study programs, a variety of jobs are available on-campus, both skilled and unskilled. The program aims to ensure the development of students' skills outside the classroom. 50 hours must be used on campus to help out IMSA.


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.[14] IMSA students also produce Heliotrope, an art and literature magazine that publishes an annual edition. The Acronym is IMSA's newspaper. In the 2008-2009 school year The Acronym ceased paper publishing and transitioned to an online format. IMSA's Yearbook, The Gallimaufry, was featured in the 2006, 2007, and 2008 "Yearbook Yearbook", Taylor Publishing's books of exemplary work.[citation needed]


IMSA is a member of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), the organization which governs most sports and competitive activities in the state of Illinois, and began competing in the Northeastern Athletic Conference (NAC), a subdivision of the IHSA, during the 2009–2010 school year. IMSA's sports 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.[15] Young men may compete in baseball, while young women may compete in bowling, cheerleading, and softball.[15] While not sponsored by the IHSA, the school also sponsors a dance team for young men and women.[15]

Competitive activities[edit]

The following teams have finished in the top four of their respective IHSA sponsored state championship tournament:[16][17]

  • Chess: 4th place (1997–98, 1998–99, 2009–10); 3rd place (1990–91, 1994–95, 2003–04, 2004–05, 2015-16[18]); 2nd place (1989–90); State Champions (1986–87, 1987–88, 1995–96, 1996–97, 2016-2017, 2017-18)
  • Scholastic Bowl: 4th place (1991–92); 3rd place (2009–10, 2017-18); 2nd place (1992–93); State Champions (1988–89, 1989–90, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1997–98, 1998–99, 2000–01, 2010-2011, 2011–12, 2013–14, 2016-17)

Student Leadership and Development (SLD) Programs[edit]

Student Council[edit]

In addition to its primary role as the mediator between administrators and students, Student Council works with administrators to change aspects of the Academy. The Student Council website provides the student body relevant information about projects that the Council is working on. Student Council also charters clubs at the beginning of each academic year and provides them with the necessary funds to hold various events. Student Council works throughout the year to collect student feedback and use that information to make changes that reflect the intentions of the student body.[19]

Peer Multicultural Educators (PME)[edit]

One of IMSA's goals is to improve diversity within the community. IMSA's Peer Multicultural Educators conduct research on student perspectives, manages funds for cultural clubs chartered by Student Council, and conducts diversity work including various workshops and programs in order to improve the condition of living at IMSA by combating racism, sexism, residence hall stereotyping, and segregation. PME is also responsible for chartering the IMSA Culture Clubs and funding their events.

Leadership Education and Development (LEAD)[edit]

The LEAD program, which is mandatory for incoming sophomores, teaches essential skills and concepts that serve as an integral part of leadership. The program is split into two sub-programs: CORE LEAD and Elective LEAD. Electives that sophomores pick between are Social Entrepreneurship, EnACT, and IMPACT. 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 30 facilitators each year, in addition to a Student Life staff that 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.[20]

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).[21] Asteroid 21441 Stevencondie is named after Dr. Condie.[22][23]

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.

Notable alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Dr. Paula Olszewski-Kubilius". 
  2. ^ "Principal's Office". 
  3. ^ a b "Aurora (Illinois Math and Science Academy)". Illinois High School Association (IHSA). 16 December 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  4. ^ "IMSA's Mission and Beilefs". 
  5. ^ Institution Summary, AdvancED, Retrieved 2012-07-11
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ a b "Clubs and Organizations". directory. IMSA. October 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  8. ^ "Trustees". IMSA. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Hadron Website
  15. ^ a b c "Athletics". Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  16. ^ "Records & History". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  17. ^ "Records & History". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  18. ^ "IHSA Team Chess Standings". Retrieved 2016-02-19. 
  19. ^
  21. ^ IMSANews. (December 2004)."IMSA Math Teacher is Sixth to Receive Prestigious Award"
  22. ^ Ceres Connection. Lincoln Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "2005 Award Honorees"
  23. ^ JPL Small-Body Database Browser. "21441 Stevencondie (1998 FC144)"
  24. ^ "2008 Alumni Award Recipients". IMSA. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  25. ^ "How IMSA helped alums ultimately lead YouTube, Paypal, Yelp, more". Daily Herald. Retrieved 17 November 2017. 
  26. ^ "NCSA HTTPd Acknowledgements". Archived from the original on 2009-04-16. 
  27. ^ a b "2007 Alumni Award Recipients". IMSA. Retrieved 10 January 2011. 
  28. ^ "Doing it for themselves". Fortune Magazine. September 30, 2011. Retrieved October 1, 2014. 
  29. ^ "IMSA Alums Named to Fund Board and Advisory Council". IMSA. Retrieved 24 April 2010. 
  30. ^ "15 Questions with Sam A. Yagan '99". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 24 April 2010.