A pilot program in mathematics at Evanston/Skokie District 65’s two magnet schools will need another year of testing before it is expanded to the middle schools, even though it shows early signs of success.
That was the prognosis of Board President Tracy Quattrocki after the board heard a report on the program at its meeting this week from the district’s mathematics director, Suzanne Farrand.
The board’s consensus was at odds with Farrand’s suggestion that the pilot be expanded next year to the middle schools. She reasoned that little information would be gained by running the program only at the magnet schools for a second year.
Before the pilot, there were two algebra courses taught to middle-school students—Algebra 1 and Algebra 8. Students in Algebra 1 were primarily from the top two quartiles, while Algebra 8 was fairly equally distributed among the three lower quartiles, with few students in the top quartile.
When the pilot course was implemented, at King Lab and Bessie Rhodes magnet schools, about a quarter of the students were from the bottom two quartiles.
The district’s primary objective was to qualify more students to enroll in geometry when they reached the high school in the ninth grade, as that would position them to be on a path to Advanced Placement classes in their junior and senior years.
At the end of the year, some 77 percent of the pilot students were tentatively placed in high school geometry courses for next year, including 70 percent of the black students, while only 35 percent of the Algebra 8 students qualified for geometry, including 23 percent of black students.
Farrand’s report said these results were a “strong indication” that the multi-level pilot course “is a powerful strategy for accelerating the learning of minority children and placing them on a pathway that leads to Advanced Placement mathematics in high school.”
Some board members expressed concern that there were no students in the pilot class from the lowest quartile, and they felt that more data was needed to determine the effect that it would have on that subgroup.
At the outset of the discussion, there was a bit of friction exhibited between Quattrocki and Superintendent Hardy Murphy. The board president said that the pilot was implemented last year before the board had a chance to examine the data, which is why they were looking at it now.
Murphy expressed regret that she introduced the discussion in that vein and said “we are presenting what we think is an exciting pilot to make sure that all students have the opportunity to excel in our district.”
Murphy added that “we think the results are encouraging…intriguing at the very least.”