At the April 13, 2015 School Board meeting, Jesch Reyes, District 65’s STEM Director, laid out proposed changes in the District’s math acceleration program.

Currently, math acceleration at District 65 is defined as “course-skipping,” said Mr. Reyes. Course-skipping has been a viable practice because a large portion of the math content under the previous Illinois Learning Standards in Mathematics has overlapped from one course to the next, he said.

The new Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) that are being implemented in the District are “really a big game changer,” said Mr. Reyes. “It really forces us to think about the sequence of our courses.”

The CCSS-M “raises the bar of student expectations, and requires more emphasis on deep, conceptual understanding and the application of mathematical practices,” said Mr. Reyes. The problem with course-skipping, he said, is that students may have gaps in their learning and conceptual understanding. These gaps, in turn, may create problems when the students take subsequent math courses.

To address this concern, the “guidance” accompanying the CCSS-M recommends that school districts that desire to accelerate students do so by compacting learning, rather than skipping courses.

The guidance says, “…districts are encouraged to have a well-crafted sequence of compacted courses…, which means to compress content, which requires a faster pace to complete, as opposed to skipping content.” The guidance adds, “Decisions to accelerate students into the CCSS for high school mathematics before ninth grade should not be rushed…it is not recommended to compact the standards before grade seven.”

Mr. Reyes proposed that the District maintain the status quo for next year, the 2015-16 school year, and that it implement compacted learning for the 2016-17 school year. Most Board members appeared to favor compacting. At the June 8 School Board meeting, Mr. Reyes, reiterated, “By 2016-17, we’re moving to a system of compacting versus course-skipping so content is not missed.”

For more detailed articles, see, District 65 Board Discusses New Math Acceleration Proposals, and More Students Qualify for Math Acceleration Under Revised Criteria at evanstonroundtable.com.