Parents oppose plan to expand math offerings

Eunice Lee

About 30 Evanston/Skokie School District 65 parents loudly protested a proposal for middle school geometry classes at the school board meeting Tuesday.

In a departure from protocol, parents stood up and shouted during the meeting, sharply criticizing the proposal as unnecessary and risky. Still, the board expressed its overall support for the program and members said they would convey that message to the administration.

“I’m at pains when I hear the consistent negativity directed towards math teachers coming up in our middle schools,” board member Keith Terry said, to which several parents interjected, saying that Terry misinterpreted their opinions with this statement.

The proposed program would implement one geometry class at both Haven and Nichols middle schools, said math coordinator Suzanne Farrand, during a presentation to the board. Middle school students who are eligible to take geometry are now taught at Evanston Township High School in an early morning class.

Four board members expressed support for the program, while two opposed it.

“There are parents there that want this,” board member Katie Bailey said. “I see no reason to not offer them that choice.”

Board members said successful programs, such as African-Centered Curriculum and Two-Way Immersion programs, also had no proven record in the district, but still flourished.

But parents expressed concern that their students were being submitted to an “experiment” that might garner “good” results rather than the “great” results produced by the high school program.

“I appreciate having a choice as a parent, but logically it doesn’t make sense to me, this duplication of effort,” parent Irene Freeman said.

Many parents offered anecdotes about their children’s enthusiasm about the existing geometry program, and opposed the idea that implementing the new geometry classes might increase the class sizes of lower-level math classes. Others mentioned the need for the district to prioritize and refrain from tinkering with such a successful program.

One parent, Pam Waymack, presented her own survey showing that fewer than 20 percent of parents want geometry classes in District 65.

ETHS geometry teacher John Benson also made a presentation about the difficulties in teaching geometry and the unlikelihood that the middle school teachers will be well-equipped to teach the subject, especially because of the use of proofs in problem-solving.

“Geometry is a significantly different class than any other math class,” Benson said. “In geometry, every problem is different.”

Board Vice President Jerome Summers sided with the parents who were at the meeting and expressed opposition to the proposal.

“Education should inspire greater learning, and that’s what the high school program does,” he said. “Bottom line: I like it at the high school.”

After a five-minute break, the board discussed an update to a strategic planning committee, an advisory group which will recommend a five-year plan to the board. The committee will consist of administrators, board members, parents and teachers who will discuss the plan in meetings throughout the year.

Only a handful of parents remained.

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