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District 181 Board member expresses concerns about math program

Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 parent Amy Alex addresses the board March 10 about the district's accelerated math program. | Chuck Fieldman/Sun-Times Media
Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 parent Amy Alex addresses the board March 10 about the district's accelerated math program. | Chuck Fieldman/Sun-Times Media

Feedback about the accelerated math program implemented in 2012-13 in Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 will be sought from teachers after board member Mridu Garg expressed concern about the program this week.

Garg removed a motion to add grade-level math back as an option to go along with the accelerated program started for third-graders in 2012-13.

The accelerated program has fourth-graders focusing on fifth-grade level math, with components of both fourth- and sixth-grade math available as needed, said Kevin Russell, assistant superintendent of learning for District 181.

Russell said the idea behind the accelerated math program was to increase rigor as school districts implement the new Common Core standards.

Garg noted there have been several concerns expressed by parents about the new math program.

Parent Amy Alex spoke of other top-level school districts in the country that failed when attempting full grade level acceleration and instead are offering grade-level math and accelerated tiers for those identified as being ready for that opportunity.

“We shouldn’t have to accelerate all kids,” Garg said. “Math acceleration is not working right now. Math is a subject where you want children to be confident. The fourth-graders should focus on fourth-grade math; not fifth-grade math.”

Board President Marty Turek didn’t disagree with Garg’s premise, but said he wasn’t prepared at the March 10 board meeting to make a change to offer grade-level math.

“I just can’t see doing this on the fly,” he said.

Superintendent Renee Schuster recommended talking first to teachers to get feedback from them about possibly adding grade level math as an option.

“We have to make sure that whatever we do, it doesn’t limit opportunities for our children,” she said.

Russell agreed teachers should provide feedback before any decisions are made.

“I would want to ask teachers and principals if they think we should offer grade level math again,” he said. “The logistics of offering grade level math again is a consideration. Nothing is impossible, but it would take some time to implement.”

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