Several new classes in five departments could be added to Downers Grove's high schools in the 2014-2015 school year, including courses that are part of the district's ongoing implementation of more demanding state learning standards.
The Downers Grove-based High School District 99 school board reviewed the new course proposals Dec. 2.
The new classes are Advanced Placement Environmental Science, Multicultural Studies in American Society, Digital Tools & Communication, and the Math 2 sequence, part of Common Core Mathematics. The district's Music Theory course will be re-classified as an Advanced Placement course.
District administrators said earlier this year they wanted to increase offerings and participation in AP courses for district students.
Math 2 is the next step up from Math 1, which the district introduced this year. Freshmen as well as eighth-graders in feeder districts now taking Math 1 are expected to take Math 2 next year, according to Jon Heldmann, Downers Grove North High School's math chairman.
Additionally, administrators are proposing a Math 2S course, an extended period for students who need more time with the material, and an Honors Math 2 class for advanced students. All three courses are intended for freshmen, sophomores and juniors.
Both Math 1 and Math 2 integrate algebra, geometry and statistics instead of teaching each subject separately, officials said. As such, the Math 2 classes will replace three levels of geometry courses.
"We'll be studying some new functions in Math 2 but we'll also be studying some previous functions from Math I, allowing students to solidify their understanding of Math 1 at a level that isn't possible without that integrated approach," Heldmann said.
AP Environmental Science will be offered to freshmen, sophomores and juniors who have completed or who simultaneously enroll in physics. South High science chair Karen Eder said that it is designed to meet the level of the first semester of a college Environmental Science course but the work will be stretched over the course of a year.
Eder said that district students have expressed "overwhelming desire" for a class similar to this. Some points of study will be how humans affect natural systems, and the environmental and social contexts of environmental problems.
"This is a long time coming," board vice-president Rick Pavinato said.
The Multicultural Studies class targets juniors and seniors and will include exploration of several ethnic minority groups in American history. Officials said they have received numerous requests for a course like this.
"Our focus is really on the groups that are the minority groups within our community who have really called to say, this is a gap in our curriculum and we need to have a place in our curriculum," said Chris Esposito, chair of Downers Grove South's social studies department.
Officials said designating the Music Theory course as AP more accurately reflects the rigor of the class. About 80 percent of students have passed the AP Music Theory exam since 1992, officials said, even though they had not taken an AP course. Much of the content will remain the same but some topics will be emphasized more.
Digital Tools condenses the keyboarding, computer applications and emerging technology courses into one class, said Mark Mirandola, chair of Downers Grove North's Career and Technical Education department. The class also aims to teach computer proficiency applicable to several academic subjects.
"We went to each academic department to get a better understanding of what type of computer skills are necessary in those academic areas," Mirandola said. "What we want to do is take a lot of those computer skills off of those teachers' plates and teach that in this course."
The board is scheduled to vote on adopting the classes Dec. 16.