New math, social studies classes proposed

A new geometry in construction class and a standard freshman year geography class could be available to high school students in the fall of 2024.

The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board heard proposals four new courses for the 2024-25 academic year at its meeting Monday.

Geometry in Construction would be a two-period class taught by a certified math teacher and a woods teacher.

“It is exactly as it sounds — a geometry course that will construct something,” said Eric Martzoff, assistant principal of instruction at Hinsdale South. “All topics in geometry will be covered in this course. It’s simply a different way of teaching this course.”

A similar class is being taught in several comparable high schools, including Evanston and New Trier, he said, noting the course will answer a question he often heard as a geometry teacher: “When am I ever going to use this?”

The other three new courses are all in the social studies department. Educators would like to create a common human geography class for freshmen, which also would be offered at the honors level. The four classes freshmen currently can choose from — some of which teach geography and some of which teach history — would be eliminated.

“This would provide all District 86 students an opportunity to look at a thematic, geographical understanding of social studies,” said Chris Cirrincione, assistant principal for instruction at Central.

The class meets the Illinois Social Science Standards for geography and will help students develop strong literacy and historical thinking skills, Cirrincione noted.

“This course, because it provides a thematic understanding, really sets students up well for some of our other courses that they’ll take,” he said.

Jason Markey, assistant superintendent for academics, agreed.

“I really see this as making a lot of sense for students,” he said.

The team also proposed adding an AP modern world history (1200 to the present) class that would be open to sophomores, juniors and seniors. Students would be equipped with the same thinking and writing skills they learn in AP European history and AP U.S. history with a global perspective, Cirrincione said.

The final proposal was to eliminate the western civilizations course that is taught only at Hinsdale Central.

Board member Peggy James questioned why administrators are proposing the changes after the board voted in June to halt implementation of a previously approved social studies curriculum. At the time, the program team had put three years of work into developing the plan. She said she thought the work would remain paused until the board provided direction.

“I don’t think we’ve had a discussion around the board table of what that direction is yet,” James said, adding that she would like to look at the social studies curriculum holistically.

Markey, whose first day in the district was July 1, said after listening to recordings of previous board meetings, he came to the conclusion that the objections to the new social studies curriculum were focused primarily on the process, specifically the need for more input on course proposals. These proposals, which have been in discussion for a year or two, have gone through an expedited version of a new course approval process developed by the Academic Committee, he said. They have been discussed by the district curriculum leadership team, at the academic committee meeting, with parents and students and by the new faculty curriculum committee.

Interim Superintendent Linda Yonke said no objections were raised by the three board members on the academic committee when they reviewed the proposals.

“No one said to us, ‘We can’t go forward because we need to talk again about social studies,’ ” she said.

Having that discussion is important, she added, but did not negate the proposals before the board.

“We’re not presenting this big, multiyear proposal,” Yonke said. “We’re not proposing eight courses, 10 courses, a three-year sequence.”

Board President Cat Greenspon encouraged board members to listen to the proposals and emphasized that in the future, the course approval process will unfold at a slower pace.

“This year it feels very uncomfortable,” she said. “It feels uncomfortable because we’re operating in a very expedited time frame for these courses to be presented to the board.

“Moving forward, we will have the full process in place so it that won’t feel so rushed and immediate,” she added.

The board plans to vote on the proposals when it meets at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at Hinsdale South High School.