D86 board nixes social studies courses

Proposal for common freshman class fails 4-2, three others fail due to lack of a second

The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board has rejected a set of proposed course changes to the district’s social studies offerings for 2024-23 school year, with three of the four recommendations not even garnering votes.

Board members first voted 4-2 at the Oct. 26 board meeting against replacing World Cultures with Human Geography in the 2024-25 school year. Subsequent proposals to replace World Studies Honors and World History Honors with Human Geography Honors and approve the addition of AP Modern World History and Western Civilization to the program of studies failed due to lack of a second to the motions.

Board member Peggy James, whose resistance to the changes prompted the matter to be continued from the Oct. 12 board meeting, said she needed more data on the benefits of the proposed courses to earn her support.

“I don’t have that at this stage of the game,” she told administrators and Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South social studies department chairs who had advanced the recommendations.

James was joined by board President Cat Greenspon, Kally Gallo and Jeff Waters in the majority vote.

Mark Meyer, Central department chair, said board concerns in the spring prompted his leadership team to revise the plan, including maintaining AP European History as an elective for sophomores to seniors rather than eliminating it.

“We listened carefully to each group and made important alterations to the programs before they were presented for board approval,” Meyer said during his presentation.

District officials said their aim is to align with the latest state standards, unify social studies curriculum between the two campuses and give students greater and more broadly-focused course options that appeal to a wider swathe of the students. Having both AP Euro and AP Modern World History for sophomores, for example, would possibly address the drop off in AP participation during that year.

“The dip at Central is greater than the dip at South and we believe that’s, at least in part, because there are two choices at South for an AP course, and there are not at Central,” Interim Superintendent Linda Yonke said. “AP Modern World will provide another choice for a student who is interested in AP at the sophomore level.”

Jason Markey, assistant superintendent for academics, echoed that vision, and tried to reassure those on the board with qualms that the proposed course would lack the rigor of the ones they’d replace.

“The specific skills and the sort of history and the approach to history is the exact same. Whichever course a student takes, they’ll be just as prepared to go to that next level,” Markey stressed.

The proposals had drawn criticism from community members, as well, with many citing the historical success of the current offerings.

Board members Asma Akhras and Terri Walker, both participating remotely, cast the two votes to adopt the courses. Akhras implored her colleagues to do “what is best for the 3,800 students that we do serve in our district.”

Walker left the meeting before board had finished dispensing with the matter but during the pre-vote discussion took issue with the degree to which her board colleagues are weighing in on curriculum issues.

“Our role is not to micromanage the administration and not be a stumbling block to moving forward for our students and our district,” she said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean