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Middle school math teachers want respect

District 65 middle school math teachers asked the school board Monday to stand up for its employees and claimed their reputation was blemished during a recent board discussion.

"Math teachers came under attack.  We are deeply distressed that this has occurred and even more dismayed that the school board did not immediately, publicly and passionately advocate for the teachers," said Dorothy Millard, president of the District Educator’s Council.
"Is this the message that the school board wants to send to its teachers that they can expect the board to sit silently by while they are berated?"
At a work session on Oct. 1 the school board decided to keep geometry at Evanston Township High School instead of implementing a program at the middle school level after hearing from high school teachers and district parents.
Gordon Hood, principal at Nichols Middle School, said at Monday night’s board meeting that many high schools including Stevenson, Glenbrook North, and Glenbrook South are not using the same model as District 65.
"If the best model for teaching geometry was the model we are currently using in District 65, it would be the model used everywhere.  But it is not," he said.  "Many other high schools do not use that model.  Why don’t they?  Because…many middle schools are providing quality geometry programs for their students."  

But school board member Mary Rita Luecke still stands by the board’s decision to keep geometry at the high school.

"I absolutely appreciate what you do and I know we would not be succeeding as well as we have been without the hard work of the teachers," she said.  

"I still believe that it is a different experience for a student to take a class from a teacher for whom this is the highest class they teach and from a teacher for whom this is not the highest class they teach. And I see people shaking their heads and I know you disagree with that." 
Board members also reviewed a middle school math program on Oct. 1 called Everyday Math Compacted, which covers similar content to established math classes but uses a non-traditional approach.

A student’s placement in Everyday Math or Pre-Algebra I is determined by standardized test scores, teacher recommendations, and a student interest and motivation survey, according to the district.

Because of the way Everyday Math is organized, there can be several different levels of achieving students in one class and the teacher needs to teach to every skill level and meet all the students’ needs.

On Oct. 1 many parents spoke during the public session stating that this diffentiation of teaching was not happening in the classroom.

"Many of us were outraged at the remarks directed at the District 65 math staff concerning the quality of instruction.  These comments came not only from the public but from the board itself," said Ruth Janusz, a district math coach. 

"We were discouraged that although many comments were clearly anecdotal they were then globalized unfairly.  This podium should not be the source of rumor and innuendo."

Board member Katie Bailey said that unfortunately the district doesn’t spend enough time lauding it teachers for their accomplishments.

"I often say we are a victim of our own success.  You guys have done implementation of Everyday Math so well," she said.  "There are so many more kids who are prepared to move ahead.  We don’t stop and think about how far we’ve come and who we have to thank for that–the administrators, principals and teachers.  What you guys do every day it’s amazing."

Joan Fujii, who has two children in District 65 schools, believes that parents do support teachers, but they were very passionate about the future of the geometry program.

"I think overall that you know that parents have very strong support of their teachers in middle schools and we truly appreciate all the challenges that they face.  On a subject where there’s a lot of passion, sometimes feelings get stirred up," she said.  

"Once the door is closed on a successul program like this it’s very, very difficult to get it back and I would hate to see us diminish something that has a strong history of known respect and appreciation by the community."

The board’s decision still stands and geometry will continue to be offered at the high school, but the administration is looking at ways to bring geometry into middle school classrooms.

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