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Peoria Public Schools Working With Outside Group to Address Disparities In Math Success

WCBU: 210823 Peoria Public Schools Board Screenshot
Peoria Public Schools

The Peoria Public Schools Board of Education approved a contract Monday night to bring in The New Teacher Project (TNTP) to address disparities in passing rates among students.

According to Superintendent Dr. Sharon Kherat, just 7% of Black students in District 150 are passing algebra classes—a statistic TNTP hopes to get to the bottom of.

TNTP was formed in 1997 with a goal to “end the injustice of educational inequality” by providing teachers with new strategies and resources, and is currently working with more than 100 districts across the Midwest. The new contract with Peoria Public Schools is worth $300,000 and will last until May 2022 with the hope that a federal grant will allow the project to continue past that date.

Mya Baker, vice president of TNTP’s Midwest region, told the board Monday night the first part of the process is to analyze classrooms and identify weaknesses in instruction or available resources. Following a report of the findings, she said the district should prepare for changes in order to “move the needle” in student success rate.

“It will require the district to take on practices that are new and different from work they’ve done in the past in order to get to the results that I know you want to see for your students,” said Baker.

The agenda item drew a lengthy discussion, with board member Dr. Anni Reinking questioning why it was necessary to rely on outside assistance instead of tapping staff already employed at Peoria Public Schools.

“We have curriculum designers, we have curriculum overseers, we have a math person,” said Reinking. “Why are we going out of the district when we have people employed in our district who are just as highly qualified and can do much of the same analysis.”

Kherat defended the initiative of TNTP, saying the disparity has existed for years in Peoria Public Schools despite various efforts. She referenced schools in Peoria’s most impoverished ZIP codes lacking any algebra offerings as an example.

“We have to do something about it, and one thing I know—we need help,” said Kherat. “This is an exciting time for us if we understand what’s at stake.”

The contract was approved by a vote of 5-2 with Reinking and board member Chase Klaus voting against the motion.

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