Parents divided over change of location for geometry program

Eunice Lee

A pilot program to offer geometry classes in two Evanston/Skokie School District 65 middle schools has drawn both praise and criticism from Evanston parents.

Eligible middle school students currently take geometry at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave., in an early-morning class, but at its March 4 meeting, the Board of Education voted in favor of offering the classes at Nichols and Haven middle schools next year.

The Board’s vote was not binding and district officials said they will not move forward with the program unless there is enough interest. Though many parents would prefer to have their children take geometry at their middle schools, school board member Mary Rita Luecke said she doesn’t think there is sufficient demand.

“I’ve only been hearing from parents wanting the program at the high school because they know the quality of the program,” Luecke said. “The concern is that once it gets going, the high school program will be abandoned.”

Likewise, Mindy Wallis, whose children have taken the high school geometry course, said the current high school program is too good to abandon.

“The major concern that most people have is about the loss of the high school program because it is so wonderful,” Wallis said. “They’re the highest-achieving kids, and District 65 has not had the best track record of keeping kids engaged and excited.”

Pam Waymack, mother of a seventh-grader at Haven, created www.evanstonkids.org, a Web site dedicated to the geometry issue. She said the high school environment is better for teaching geometry.

“Just walking in the four doors of the high school creates expectations for youth,” she said. “The kids at the five different schools encourage each other to get engaged, get excited.”

But District 65 Math Coordinator Suzanne Farrand said offering geometry in the middle schools would not compromise quality.

“The instruction will be different, but these teachers are experts in dealing with younger children,” she said. “Children can be overwhelmed. The environment in middle schools is friendlier and less stress means higher success.”

Parent interest is strong, Farrand said, largely because some students have scheduling difficulties with the high school program. Currently, students often have to arrive late to their second period class and miss part of their morning extracurricular activities in order to take the course.

The middle schools would try to collaborate with instructors at the high school, Farrand said. There are two teachers in District 65 who have experience teaching high school geometry and others who are certified to teach high school math.

Still, others think that the discussion about moving the geometry course is a wasted effort.

“We have a great program already in place,” Luecke said. “I think it’s just a waste of everyone’s time and energy.”

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