Math curriculum causes concern

Parents worry that Lake Bluff math does not challenge students

(Olivia Wycklendt) Students at Lake Bluff Elementary School practice ballroom dance during gym class. Outside of their gym class, the students' math curriculum raises concerns.
(Olivia Wycklendt) Students at Lake Bluff Elementary School practice ballroom dance during gym class. Outside of their gym class, the students’ math curriculum raises concerns.

Recent parent concerns regarding the education system at Lake Bluff focus on the advanced math curriculum.

“The math curriculums used in the district have not been reviewed in nearly 10 years,” said Vashti Lozier, parent and PTO co-president. “Parents … have been urging the administration to review what is currently used to see if it is the best choice for the district’s students.”

Previously, any child who wanted to be ahead in math had to study a year of math over the summer in order to skip that grade level of math. However, more and more parents are feeling pressured to do this with their children, because there are six levels of math at the high school and only four years to do them.

Additionally, being “behind” in math causes students to have a lower placement in 9th grade science, since math is also needed for those classes. The perception for most parents is that the math and science courses offered at the high school are not comparable to other North Shore districts.

The current issue focuses on the attention level of the students.

“There are some children at Lake Bluff who find math boring, either because it is too easy or because of the repetitive nature of the Everyday Math curriculum,” said Davida Amenta, parent.

According to Amenta, this is not the first time this issue has been raised. A few years ago, a group of parents approached the administration. Dr. Tabia Nicholas, director of instruction, and some teachers worked together to assemble a binder of challenge math worksheets for each grade level to be put in each classroom. Nevertheless, the worksheets ended up being separate from the lesson being taught and students had to complete them independently.

“I guess the feeling is that all children deserve math education that is challenging, that meets their needs and that allows them to reach their fullest potential,” Amenta said.

“The students deserve the best education possible. Until there is a thorough review of the current math curriculums versus other options, we don’t know if that’s what they’re getting,” Lozier said.

Additionally, the district also hired Henry Kranendonk, mathematics curriculum consultant for the MPS schools, in order to study and learn about the current math programs, how they are implemented and how they assess students’ achievements. However, the end result of this was that the program needed no adjustments, which caused frustration for some parents.

One solution proposed by the parents suggests hiring an instructor at each school who assists with extra-curricular programs like Battle of the Books and Wordmasters, but more importantly is involved in the curriculum and helps out during guided study periods.

“Advanced learners should not have to do it all as independent study. If necessary, let’s use online resources … [like] Khan Academy,” Amenta said.

Science and technology are becoming more important in schools, but with that comes different types of learning for students.

“I hope they know that we are advocating for them, but we may also be causing them some additional stress,” Amenta said, regarding the children and how the program affects them. “That’s the balancing act of being a parent.”

by Ananya Murali

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