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At a recent District 202 School Board meeting, the agenda item called for a report on “The Year of the Black Male,” but it turned out to be a preview of what could become a dramatic shift in the way they “do schooling” at Evanston Township High School.

“Every time I think of this, my head explodes,” declared Board member Mark Metz, who has been attending these meetings since his appointment to fill a vacancy on the board in 2009.

And Superintendent Eric Witherspoon predicted that teachers at the school will no longer state “I am a math teacher.” Instead, they will say “I am a teacher of students, and I do it through math.”

Or to put it another way: “We are not here to teach math. We are here to look out for the well-being of a child so that they can learn math.”

And Board president Pat Savage-Williams added:  “This is what we’re all about, and we’re just starting. We…are…just…starting.”

The presentation on the year of the black male was presented by Assistant Superintendent and Principal Dr. Marcus Campbell, himself a black male, and by Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Peter Bavis.

They began by citing statistics comparing the performance of black ninth graders in the most recent school year with that of their predecessors a year earlier.

What they found was a higher percentage earning more A’s and B’s, a lower percentage making D’s and F’s, more grade point averages above 2.5, an increase in credits earned in ninth grade, fewer tardies in the ninth grade, fewer behavior incidents, and a higher participation in extracurricular activities.

From there the report dipped into such educational jargon as adaptive and technical changes, systematic inequalities, courageous conversations, organizational obstacles, and institutionalized systems and beliefs.

But in looking ahead, the administrators promised “to continue to examine our structures, practices, policies, and procedures to make systemic improvements, reflect on what needs to change, focus on students’ differing needs, and have high expectations for everyone.”

Last year, they said, they started curriculum reviews in science and world language, while this year, U.S. History, 2 Algebra, Project Lead the Way, and Photography “will participate in this ongoing process.”

The effort being put forth by teachers and staff, according to Dr. Campbell, “is not a program nor an initiative. It is a new way to do schooling.”

And both Campbell and Bavis concluded that the procedures and processes being developed will not only result in improving data for black males, but will ultimately be reflected in better performance measures involving the entire school.

A copy of the written report on the Year of the Black Male is available on the district’s website.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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