Members of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board expressed frustration this week over data concerning a pilot algebra program for middle school students.
District Math Coordinator Suzanne Farrand gave an update on the program Monday night, but met considerable skepticism from board members about whether the pilot showed improvement in math learning.
The experiment breaks the students into three classes: Algebra 1, Algebra 8, and Algebra Pilot.
Algebra 1 is for the students that test in the 80th percentile and above. Algebra 8 is for those who test below the 80th percentile. Algebra Pilot combines all students in the same classroom, where the teacher is challenged to offer differentiated instruction.
Algebra Pilot is being run this year at the two magnet schools—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School and Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies. The pilot was established last year to determine, among other things, if all algebra students can be taught in a single class.
The problem the system is trying to overcome is that some students start out behind in math and they stay behind, while other students do extraordinarily well and have a strong desire to be challenged to do even better.
After reviewing the available data, board member Candance Chow said “either it’s a wash or they’re not doing as well.”
Board President Tracy Quattrocki added that better data is needed in order for the board to know “what does success look like.” She also said that the district needs to “find more robust ways of evaluating how well we’re doing on differentiation.”
A number of parents representing top math students spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and expressed their unhappiness over a perceived lack of rigor in the district’s mathematics program.
Said one parent: “We should be celebrating our children who want to do more. We should not be holding them back to the point where school is a punishment instead of the joy that it could be.”
A number of parents have joined together to vent their frustration and to explore available research in mathematics instruction on a website and Facebook page that they call “Math Matters.”