District 65 school board members agreed Tuesday to start offering geometry classes at two middle schools but also continue a program that lets eighth graders travel to Evanston Township High School for the course.

The board acted despite opposition from a sizable contingent of parents who said they saw no need for the added option.

The parents, most of whom have children who have thrived in the high school class, voiced fears that the geometry offering at the middle schools would not be as strong, would divert resources from other urgent needs and might ultimately lead the district to eliminate the high-school option as had earlier been considered.

Four board members favored offering geometry at the middle school.

“I don’t see any negative in this,” board member Andrew Pigozzi said. “If parents and children like the new offering, it succeeds. If they don’t, then we move on.”

But board member Mary Rita Luecke said the geometry program was not one of the goals the board set last year and yet “we’ve veered off in this direction.” She said the action raised questions about the board’s ability to set priorities and stick to them.

She was joined in oppostion by board member Jerome Summers who praised the high school offering as a great program that serves the children well.

A survey of parents conducted by the district administration indicated that only Haven and Nichols middle schools have enough students whose parents were interested in the middle-school-based geometry class, and that even at those schools the classes would likely be small, with at most 10 to 14 students.

Students who take the class at the middle school, unlike those who take it at the high school, would not receive high school credit for the class, but would be not have to retake geometry at the high school.

School Superintendent Hardy Murphy said he expects to be able to offer the new geometry program starting this fall.

Related blog post

D65 ignores parental concerns to support parental choice – Mindy Wallis

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. Thoughts on D65 Geometry Program
    While it’s nice that D65 Administration is thoughtful to consider and offer choice to parents for the 8th Grade Geometry, it would be better if they prioritized key issues and dedicated their scarce resources to focus on issues that need to be fixed. Since they haven’t developed a “to do” list, may I offer my top 10 suggestions.
    1. Develop a comprehensive plan with high standards for D65 (Pre-K through 8)
    2. Upgrade the social studies curriculum (i’m not sure if one exists now)
    3. Enhance the writing program (written communication lasts a lifetime)
    4. Introduce analytical thinking in the schools (kids need to reason, not just color ovals)
    5. Read “In Search of Excellence” (emulate other successful organizations)
    6. Require all teachers to have a webpage (technology is our future)
    7. Work with the library to offer interesting reading and literary opportunities
    (The Evanston Library system is an underutilized resource)
    8. Analyze best practices at successful schools (may i suggest the KIPP Schools)
    9. Focus on excellence and demand it; don’t settle for anything less (we should aspire to be great)
    10. Improve the school food (my dog prefers Alpo)

    Please add to this list. I would conclude by saying that some in the Administration and the Board view the incremental cost as insignificant for this pilot program. While I agree that we should be willing to try new programs, I strongly believe that we need to prioritize. Also, the substantial time committed to this program which ultimately will impact a very small number of students isn’t worth the time, especially considering all the other issues that need to be changed and improved.

    1. More Fodder for District 65
      I like your suggestions Mindy. I would add the following:
      1. Offer Study Skills for 4-8th graders. This includes Time Management, outlining, taking notes, organization, test-taking techniques, multiple ways to approach problems, research techniques, etc.
      2. Make Opimal Zone groupings mandatory in the schools so that kids can be grouped within the classroom for maximum learning.
      3. Add foreign languages for all chidren K-8. The literature says this is the easiest time for children to learn another language and to learn without their native language accents.

  2. Not me
    Susan,
    The suggestions you are responding to were posted by “Anonymous.” While I also agree with some of them, I did not post them. When I have comments to share, I sign my name.
    I don’t think Anonymous goes nearly far enough. I suggest that District 65:
    – Allow acceleration in all disciplines, not just math.
    – Upgrade all the curricula, not just Social Studies.
    – Stop investing in fancy technological gadgets like Promethean Boards. Invest more time and energy in making sure the teachers understand basic technological tools.
    – Use more freeware and less expensive software (e.g. blogs and wikis)
    – Stop teaching kids technology skills (e.g. how to add images to PowerPoint presentations) and start teaching them when and how to use different kinds of technology, and emphasize what makes an excellent product. (The difference between teaching a kid how to use correct grammar and how to write an essay.)
    – Start treating parents like partners and not adversaries. Help them help you educate their child. Provide clear, logical rationales for placement decisions and provide information about the child’s performance on tests.
    – Solicit parental input and listen to it when it is given. No, you can’t please everyone, but you can at least be consistent and provide reasonable explanations for your decisions. (e.g. School Calendar; Honors Geometry)
    – Increase transparency of decision-making. Provide calendars, agendas and minutes for ALL district committees on the D65 website.
    – Stop having bogus “studies” to prove what you already know and which lead to conclusions that are already determined. (e.g. Differentiation/Enrichment Study; Technology Study)
    – Start taking responsibility for the NCLB failures at ETHS. Admit that many of the support programs that are in place at the high school are a direct result of failing to adequately prepare students. Consider working with ETHS to provide AVID support for students in the elementary or middle schools.

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