A group of parents in the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school system held another meeting with the new administration last week, their second, and is pushing for speedy action from administrators who are also focused on the long term.

They first met with Superintendent Paul Goren on July 7 at the Evanston Public Library. At the time, Goren promised a followup meeting after the new school year began.  That meeting was held last Thursday.

One of the superintendent’s new hires was Jesch Reyes, who was brought in to oversee the STEM curriculum, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Reyes’ first day on the job was also July 7, and one of his first acts was to join the superintendent at the meeting with parents in the library.

They both were present at the meeting last week at the district headquarters on McDaniel Avenue.

According to Jennifer Phillips, who organized the parent group last year, the administration has a lot of short-term activities on its plate with the start of the new year, but they are attempting to look to the longer term while they are dealing with the short term.

Many parents in the Math Matters group, which has its own website and Facebook page, are eager to see all children challenged in math and accelerated to more advanced courses where they can achieve maximum progress, Philllips said.

“Most of us would prefer to see better differentiation in the classroom than grade skipping,” she added.

Differentiation is a big deal in mathematics education, as teachers must deal simultaneously with some students for whom math is a big mystery while other students see it as a piece of cake and are frustrated if they are not challenged by their teacher.

Phillips has been encouraged by the response from the new superintendent and his team so far, but she makes the point that a year represents more than 10 percent of the time a student spends in the district’s schools, which range from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“While thoughtful planning and action is essential,” she says, “so is urgency.”

What the parents would like to see right away, she said, is “better information via website and emails, a directive to principals and teachers about differentiation, and some plan for how to supplement the curriculum with educational technologies.”

Meanwhile, parents are sharing information as well as online resources with other parents on their website, as well as on an accompanying Facebook page.

Phillips told Evanston Now that there appears to be consensus within her group for future Math Matters meetings with the administration that delve into specific issues, incorporating discussions by age group, differentiation, acceleration processes, the curriculum, and ways to capture kids’ viewpoints about math.

She and others hope for more parents to join their group and to participate on the Math Matters website and Facebook page.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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