District 181 opposes D86 plan for new math courses

With the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board set to approve a new math sequence this month, board members in Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 made it clear Monday night they do not support the move.

The new integrated math curriculum would weave algebra 1, geometry and algebra 2 into three courses titled Math 1, 2 and 3.

“D181 is not really on board with the current changes,” said District 181 Board member Sheetal Rao, who chairs the academic success committee. “It’s important for our community to know that.”

The District 181 board packet included a letter the district’s department of learning sent to District 86 administrators in July.

“After carefully considering all of this information, D181 is not in support of the implementation of the integrated math pathway,” the letter states. “We have communicated this position both during the Math Pathway Team meetings and in our survey responses. As a result, we respectfully request that you do not use any D181 employee names or the district name in your public documents that imply that D181 staff and/or administrators are in support of moving from a traditional pathway to an integrated pathway.”

At the Math Pathways community presentation Sept. 28, the issue of feeder district support was raised. One presenter described the conversation with sender districts as fantastic, with “rich discussion.” Another presenter said it was not the committee’s place to talk about the position of sender districts.

An FAQ section on the District 86 website indicates the move, which has been under discussion for eight months, is designed to support the district’s mission to support the desired learning experience for students.

“Through this curriculum, we will be able to foster a strong connection between and understanding of key ideas,” the document states. “We will also be able to help students develop skill proficiency and teach them how to effectively investigate, critique and apply knowledge.”

In District 181, a new curriculum is piloted with a small group of students and teachers, Rao said, adding that it doesn’t appear District 86 has followed that process. She also noted that other high-achieving districts are continuing to offer a traditional math trajectory.

“There haven’t been other districts that have done this pathway, at least with evidence that it improves test scores,” Rao said.

Fellow District 181 Board member Meeta Patel said another area of concern is a District 86 plan to eliminate “G” level courses for students who need additional support at Hinsdale Central.

“The rationale for doing this from D86 is to achieve equity between their two high schools,” she said. “We’ve talked about our high-achieving students, but really it’s an impact on all students.”

Patel stated that four of the five states that adopted integrated math have returned to a traditional trajectory and that school districts in the Chicago area that have tried it have seen a decline in achievement scores.

The new District 86 curriculum, which will be phased in over three years starting in 2022, would affect this year’s sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, Rao said. Up to 73 percent of graduating District 181 eighth-graders will have taken algebra 1, said Assistant Superintendent of Learning Kathleen Robinson. Others complete algebra 2 and a few take precalculus.

“We do have a large percentage of students who leave taking at least one high school course,” she said.

The district has no plans to change its math curriculum to align with an integrated math model, Superintendent Hector Garcia said.

The D86 board is expected to approve the new math pathway at its Thursday, Oct. 29, meeting. The community presentation can be viewed at https://www.d86.hinsdale86.org under “Vimeo.”

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean