Evanston news delivered free to your inbox!
Four District 65 School Board members supported the administration’s proposal to offer geometry at the middle schools at a working Board meeting held on March 4. While no formal vote was taken, Board President Mary Erickson said the Board gave a “sense of direction” and that the administration could proceed to offer geometry on an optional basis at the middle schools in the fall.
Under the proposal, geometry will be offered at a middle school only if a sufficient number of qualified students at the school elect to take geometry at their middle school rather than the high school. Based on a survey of 98 parents whose children will likely qualify for geometry next year, Suzanne Farrand, math-and-gifted coordinator, said 37 percent of the respondents said their first choice would be to take geometry at the middle schools.
“We have learned there are parents who would prefer their children not travel to the high school,” Ms. Farrand said.
Parents will have the option to continue sending their children to the high school for geometry, Board president Mary Erickson said. “We are in no way limiting any parent from being able to send their child who qualifies to the high school. Absolutely not.”
Superintendent Hardy Murphy likewise said the program “offers an option to parents who felt like there were issues of going to the high school for geometry, without limiting the option for parents who wanted to continue going to the high school to continue doing so.”
In addition to providing an option, Ms. Farrand said, “Having geometry in the middle schools would be a tool and an opportunity to increase the rigor of instruction and the quality of instruction in the middle school which was consistent with the middle school study.”
Students who take geometry at the middle schools will not receive credit towards high school graduation, said Ms. Farrand, but they would be eligible for placement in 2 Algebra Honors as ninth-graders.
Parents Voice Concerns
Fifteen parents opposed offering geometry at the middle schools. One elephant in the room seemed to be a concern that offering geometry at the middle schools would be a prelude to eliminating the program at the high school. A number of parents questioned why the District was duplicating a successful program that was already being offered at the high school when there were a lot of other things the District needed to focus on.
Cindy Wilson said, “I question why this program is a priority. The District has a lot of issues to work on. Adding an option that might benefit 10 or 14 children doesn’t seem like it should be the biggest priority right now.”
Jackie David said, “We’re talking about what feels like a threat to a program that is providing one of the very, very few opportunities that kids who need more challenges have. So when you’re starting to tinker with one of the few that we’ve got, I feel upset.”
Maret Thorpe said, “I want District 65 to leave geometry at the high school and instead focus on what might be accomplished in other curriculum areas.”
Pam Waymack questioned the amount of interest in offering geometry in the middle schools. She said less than 20 percent of the parents who responded to a survey she conducted wanted their kids to take geometry at the middle schools. She said some parents who responded to the District’s survey lacked adequate information about the program.
Board Supports Choice
Board members Katie Bailey, Ms. Erickson, Andrew Pigozzi and Keith Terry supported the program. Ms. Erickson said she liked “the idea of choice” and that offering geometry at the middle schools “would be something to show the high expectations we have for our students.”
“I support offering parental choice,” said Keith Terry. He added, though, “I hope, Dr. Murphy, we can offer courses like this in other parts of the curriculum so parents have additional choices.”
“I support choice,” said Katie Bailey. “There are parents who want to have this program in the middle school.” She added that she liked a suggestion that the District hold a meeting to explain the options to parents and that the program be evaluated over a two- to three-year period.
Mr. Pigozzi said, “The pressure’s on the administration to demonstrate this program will work. I don’t see any negative in this.”
Board member Mary Rita Luecke opposed offering geometry at the middle schools. She said, “My concern here is really sort of the camel’s nose in the tent.” She added that the middle school study contained 17 to 19 recommendations. “Not one of them suggested bringing back geometry to the middle schools.”
Ms. Luecke also said that she was troubled by the argument that somehow bringing geometry to the middle schools would increase the rigor in the middle schools. “What I think I hear you saying is that there’s an image that’s created. I don’t hear you saying that everyone should complete geometry by the end of eighth grade.”
Jerome Summers said, “Bottom line, I like it at the high school. I think it’s a great program. It serves those children well. It serves our District well.” He added that the proposal did not expand the number of students who would be offered geometry.