At the District 65 School Board meeting on Feb. 22, Matsuo Marti, District 65’s director of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and Stacy Beardsley, Interim Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction, presented the math team’s plan to strengthen math instruction and achievement at all levels. The presentation was a follow-up to a presentation about a proposed Compacted 6/7 Math course to the District’s Finance Committee meeting on Feb. 8.,

During the present school year, the math team has implemented the fourth edition of the Everyday Math 4 curriculum (EM4); revised math report cards to align with EM4 and the Common Core State Standards for Math; developed a “cohesive math acceleration plan;” developed math frameworks for grades K-5 and grades 6-8; and supported opportunities for differentiated math, according to a memo from Mr. Marti and Dr. Beardsley.

Math Priorities

Priorities for next year include improving core classroom math instruction; increasing cross-grade-level articulation, starting at the fifth/sixth grade transition; continuing the support of differentiated opportunities; supporting the Compacted Math 6/7 course and Math 6; and investigating combining the three different algebra courses now offered by the District.

The math program at District 65 is designed to meet the needs of students at all levels of the achievement spectrum, Dr. Beardsley said. Steps to promote equity and access include providing high-quality daily math instruction that challenges all students and clearly defining math supports that complement the existing math curriculum and connect students who need them with these supports.

“Some of the supports will be available within the classroom day; some are beyond the school day or beyond the school year,” said Dr. Beardsley. As an example, the District may offer a summer pre-algebra course for students targeted for Algebra 8 but who, with supports, would be able to take Algebra 1 in the fall instead.

Mr. Marti said the District follows the Common Core State Standards for Math in not endorsing course-skipping. The Compacted Math 6/7 course will offer rigorous content and acceleration while ensuring there are no gaps in structural learning, which is a risk when students skip an entire year of content.

Board members were supportive of efforts to support high-achieving as well as struggling students, curious about the rollout of the Everyday Math 4 curriculum and cautious about consolidating the three District’s Algebra courses into one.

Board member Candance Chow said she would like to have a further discussion about how instruction, resources and professional learning work together in the math curriculum.

“There is no family engagement,” said Ms. Phillips. “Is that something to think about?”

“That was definitely a miss on our part,” said Mr. Marti. “Part of our team is working at Family Focus to engage parents, and we can use that as a model.”

“A lot of professional development is going into Everyday Math 4,” said Board member Jennifer Phillips. “How heavy a lift is that?”

“Everyday Math 4 is a brand new curriculum,” said Mr. Marti. “Our professional development is focused on providing teachers with a clear understanding of what documents are available, what’s brand new and how to access all the resources. … I think as the teachers are becoming more aware of the possibilities of the curriculum, we’re having more positive feedback,” he added.

Algebra Unknowns

At present, the District offers Algebra 1 to high-achieving math students, with the intention that, if they are taking Algebra 1 as eighth-graders they will enroll in geometry in freshman year of high school. Students who take Algebra 8 will learn the rudiments of algebra in eighth grade but take Algebra 1 at the high school. A mixed-level pilot course that was supposed to combine the two courses is also offered to eighth-graders; about three-fourths of the students in the Algebra Pilot enroll in geometry in high school, according to the District.

“How long would it take to put the algebra courses into one course?” asked Board member Claudia Garrison.

“It would not be ready in the next school year,” said Dr. Beardsley. “We want to take a look at what influences student success and make revisions and try them out next year – make shifts in the courses, bringing them closer together but keeping them separate for one more year.”

Board President Tracy Quattrocki said she would not support the consolidation without ample data. “When the algebra pilot was rolled out, there was a commitment from the administration that not only would we see data from the pilot to see how the pilot was working but we would track the kids to Algebra 2 [at the high-school level]. … We haven’t had had clean data even for the pilot. … Your timeline seems really aggressive to me, given that we have committed to looking at the kids not only in Algebra but in Algebra 2 and we don’t even have one year of data. I would not say I would be ready next year to say ‘Go ahead’ until I’ve seen that data.”

“I would like to know how kids in Algebra 8 are doing [at District 65]  with the full dose of algebra,” said Ms. Phillips.

“That’s a good question,” said Ms. Quattrocki. “But it’s a complicated picture and we need to be very careful as we move forward. I would just caution [the math team]: a lot of data and keeping it at a pace we would all feel very comfortable with.”

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...