Math teachers and department heads from Proviso high schools showed up at the Nov. 12 board meeting to show support for a proposed $617,000-over-six-years software program, Agile Minds, to be purchased by the district for the 2014-15 school year.
Proviso East Math Department Chair Andre Zabrodsky spoke to the board, encouraging them to vote to spend the money to install Agile Mind over the entire math curriculum. Currently, the program is used in the intensified algebra program for students taking a double math class.
A delegation of math instructors had a chance to see the entire math curriculum covered by Agile Mind when they visited Perspectives Charter School in Chicago and Pike High School in Indianapolis. Both schools have demographics similar to D209, according to the administration. Math teachers meeting with staff at the host schools found the program “significantly improved” math scores.
Noting that the Agile Mind was developed to meet the Common Core standards, Zabrodsky told the board, “Common Core is a brave new world.”
“We’re not solving for x, we’re solving for ‘why,'” he added.
“Teachers really love it. Students are more engaged. It’s a more student-centered program,” Zabrodsky said. The program is recommended by the West Cook Math Initiative. The district would use Agile Mind to teach all levels of Algebra, as well as Geometry and Algebra II.
Another benefit of the program is that it’s being created by the same company crafting the PARCC assessments, which will replace the Prairie State Achievement Exams. Zabrodsky said the company has included PARCC exam prototype questions in their programs and also provides teacher training and sample lesson plans.
All math teachers in the district got a taste of using the program in a teacher in-service session last year. A group of teachers stood at the meeting to show the board their support.
Zabrodsky demonstrated the program, including a computer simulation, designed like a video game, that helped students determine the angle of a curve in a graph.
Board member Kevin McDermott cautioned that the district needed to be confident the company would continue to offer product support over the six-year contract.
Board member Teresa McKelvy said she wanted reassurance the district would not be locked into a six-year contract if the program didn’t suit the schools. She was told the contract could be cancelled at any time.
Kim Echols, assistant superintendent for curriculum instruction told the board the program would be adopted like any other textbook, except it would be electronic. She also said the district would print the workbooks for students and put them in binders, just like a traditional textbook, in case students didn’t have Internet access at home.
Board member Brian Cross was enthusiastic about the program, saying it would help create a “paradigm shift” in teaching.
“A mindshift has to take place,” Zabrodsky agreed. “Students have to take ownership of their learning.”