District 59 plans pilot program to beef up math curriculum

  • Art Fessler

    Art Fessler

Posted5/21/2019 5:30 AM

Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 math teachers will start to pilot two or three more traditional math resources in their classrooms next fall -- such as textbooks or digital subscriptions -- as district officials aim to beef up a curriculum that's come under scrutiny.

It's one of the more significant parts of Superintendent Art Fessler's 100-day action plan, an outgrowth of his recent evaluation with the school board.


Under Fessler, the district curriculum -- which emphasizes students' learning experiences over more traditional textbook approaches -- has been criticized by some parents and community members, leading to a crowded school board race in April. While one of the superintendent's harshest critics was elected, math was deemed by some to be the area most in need of help.

Fessler on Monday continued to defend the overall approach to the curriculum he's helped put in place since his hiring in 2013 and noted that teachers and administrators annually review resources and instructional practices.

What's changed, he said, is the involvement of parents and school board members in a 75-person curriculum committee that started in February to identify gaps and strengthen academic areas.

"The major difference is the scope of people involved and sending messages that if there are issues or opportunities that need to be addressed, we want our teachers to voice clearly what those are and be involved in a process to address those opportunities," Fessler said.

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Math teachers this summer will narrow down two or three core curriculum resources to pilot starting in the fall, ranging from traditional textbooks to free resources available online. They'll also identify interim curriculum resources this summer for teachers who won't be involved in the pilot program, officials said.

Various subcommittees of teachers and administrators covering math -- as well as literacy, science and social science -- could decide to purchase textbooks and online resources to include in the curriculum going forward. The earliest those materials could be in classrooms is the spring of 2020, but it could be later if additional teacher training is needed for more "backbone" materials versus supplemental ones, Fessler said.

He said the district also plans to restructure its resources to develop a "more intensive plan of support" for students who need extra help in math. Similar strategies already have been developed in literacy, he said.

The school board is expected to review a draft of a 2019-20 school year action document next month and vote on it in July.

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