Kindergarten through eighth grade enrollment in Evanston/Skokie District 65 schools rose slightly this year after a decade of declines, but the number of black students enrolled fell.

Enrollment in those grades totaled 6,110 this fall compared to 6,098 a year ago. Those numbers exclude students enrolled in special needs programs at the Park and Rice schools and students in the early childhood program at the Hill Education Center.

District Information Services Director Paul Brinson said enrollment has declined 11 percent over the past decade. “There’s a myth that it’s white students leaving the district, but in fact that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Mr. Brinson said.

The racial composition of the student body has shifted over the past three years, with the number of K-8 students identifying themselves as black declining from 39.1 percent to 33.5 percent of the total.

About half of the shift may be the result of an increase in the number of children identified as multi-racial. That number has gone from just 0.4 percent in 2005-06 to 3.5 percent this year.

The percentage of white students edged up from 42 percent to 42.8 percent during that period, the percentage of Hispanic children increased from 13.7 percent to 14.7 percent, the percentage of Asian children rose from 4.7 percent to 5.2 percent and the percentage of Native Americans increased from 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent.

Mr. Brinson said the district’s effort to tighten residency tests for enrollment may also have turned away proportionately more black students than whites.

Board member Jerome Summers said he believes rising housing costs may also be driving an increasing number of black families from Evanston.

Mr. Brinson also noted that a 2006 survey-based population estimate for Evanston by the Census Bureau indicates Evanston’s overall population may be 16.7 percent black now, compared to 22.5 percent black at the time of the 2000 census. However, the new survey has a substantial margin of error, and it also shows an increase in the number of people who classify themselves as multi-racial.

(Lindsay Wickman also contributed reporting for this story.) 

More information

Much more information on District 65’s enrollment levels can be found in the opening of school reports that are contained in school board meeting packets on the district’s web site:  

2007-08 Opening of Schools Report

2006-07 Opening of Schools Report

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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21 Comments

  1. You buried the lead!
    The

    You buried the lead!

    The critical fact is not the RACE of the students who have left District 65 but what doesn’t appear until the third paragraph of your article: “District Information Services Director Paul Brinson said enrollment has declined 11 percent over the past decade.” In just the past seven years, the District has lost more than 700 students — more than two elementary schools worth.

    We have important work to do. First we have to figure out WHY District 65 has lost so many students — and this means serious research, not speculation based on the race of the students who have departed. Why do some people simply assume that white families leave District 65 out of dissatisfaction but black families leave out of economic circumstances? It is not fair to the families in either group to make such a baseless assumption.

    Second, we need to PLAN for the fiscal and educational consequences that educating two elementary schools worth fewer students than the District used to has for a district facing looming budget deficits.

    Both propagating and refuting myths about the race of the students District 65 has lost is a red herring that diverts much-needed energy from the serious tasks at hand.

    Jonathan Baum

    1. Au contraire
      Hi Jonathan,

      When a widely-reported trend of enrollment declines that has been going on for a decade comes to a halt (or at least pauses) that, I believe, IS the lead.

      But getting beyond that superficial issue, perhaps you would care to explain the methodology you would use to answer the WHY question you pose? And assuming the cost of the research is non-trivial, perhaps you’d like to suggest a funding source for it.

      The census bureau’s annual population survey has a huge margin of error and results for Evanston that jump around wildly from year to year, but if one gives it any credence at all, one might well conclude that the elementary and middle school age population in Evanston has dropped by roughly as many students as District 65 has lost this decade.

      So perhaps the shift in enrollment levels has nothing to do with satisfaction with the schools, or lack thereof, but simply reflects population trends.

      If somebody could prove that, it might go a long way toward reducing the acrimony of some school debates.

      Also would love to hear more specifics about what adjustments you believe the district should make to deal with its lower enrollment levels.

      — Bill

      1. Data
        Jonathan & Bill –

        I would think that it would be a regular part of Mr. Brinson’s job to interpret census data, any other sources, and compare it all to district trends.

        If this has not been routine, I would wonder why not. It may not be 100% accurate, but it still seems worthwhile in respect to many questions.

        What data does the district currently use to predict enrollment trends?

        Diane

        1. Mr Brinson’s Job
          Mr Brinson’s job is to present the data in the manner in which Dr Murphy WANTS it presented. Elsewhere in this forum I provided numerous specific examples of intent to mislead – and his “analysis” of private school enrollment was one of them. To whit, Mr Brinson’s quote, “we didn’t look at Baker, because Baker isn’t in Evanston anymore”.

          Further, I strongly encouraged Mr Terry (a scientist) to get an INDEPENDENT analysis of various data sources, such as ISAT results – because we only see the percentages that the admin wants us to see if we’re looking at the data sheets that they’ve prepared.

          1. Mr Brinson enrollment data – is very weak
            I think Mr Brinson claim that whites are not leaving – may not be of much importance – the real issue is white are NOT moving into District 65 and those with pre-K kids never enroll. I took a quick look at Wilmette data – on a population basis the students represent about 12% of Wilmettes white population – in Evanston adjusting for NU students – It would appear white students make up about 6-7% of the white population. Thus there is a loss of white on a overall population basis – in the past we know about 1,000 kids are in private school – if you factor that in we approach Wilmette – but Wilmette also has kids in private schools so we still have an issue.

            In addition black enrollment is higher on a population basis than white – in both Evanston and Wilmette it appears in the range of 15% – that is many black families would not be sending their kids to private school district 65 is the only choice.

            As usually the district does not want to face the real issue high income families are not coming since they feel there are too many problems.

          2. Who cares whether or not it’s Blacks or Whites?
            Apparently, only population shifts related to white people in Evanston are considered significant and important to some.

            Who out there in Evanston Land that claims to embrace diversity will dispute the assumption?

          3. Only Junad
            Tressa,

            Apparently, this is a big issue for Junad. I have not seen a lot of other people posting about this.

            I am not concerned about population shifts or the demographics of who has left the district. The only thing I am concerned about is that people are choosing to opt out of D65. I am concerned that they are doing so because they feel their kids aren’t getting adequate educations or access to appropriate services. I don’t think it is important whether these families are black or white, high income or low income. I think it points to a problem within the district that needs to be addressed.

          4. Some people opt out due to trends
            Mindy,

            I do not dispute your charge. I withdrew my sons from a truly low quality school in Lake County for precisely the reasons you’ve outlined and more. But I think it’s similar to parents who change pediatricians, or switch churches or a nursery. I’ve done all three. As much as I was frustrated and concerned, the majority remained content. I doubt they miss me or my children 🙂

            Thank you for clarifying the population flight issue.

            Your explanation helped.

          5. Mindy how long I have you lived in Evanston?
            Mindy – I have to assume you have attended school board meetings and city meetings here? In district 65 for years the major topic was racial balancing the schools. The reason the present board is not even discussing this is the district is shrinking and the balance appears OK – but in reality it is changing with the decreasing white enrollment.

            Race and social status here are much bigger issues than most want to admit. While many white parents will claim the diversity is OK – when they see their children in a classroom where they are the miniority they quietly leave or when their kids are in a classroom were the majority of kids are below grade level they leave.

            As I have stated this does not bother me, since my children are long gone. I am not even that upset as a homeowner – since it effects my property value – I am really more amused by the whole thing – since so many of these people say one thing and in reality do something else.

            My feeling is the community needs a very real discussion on its future, not alot of feel good nonsense. A school system were the majority of kids are doing poorly and low income in a community which charges citizens with a very high tax rate is not acceptable. Things here will keep getting worst if the school system continues to turn its back on the high achievers.

          6. Long Enough
            Junad-

            I’ve lived in Evanston long enough to know that racial balancing of the schools was important until the Supreme Court made a decision that it was illegal, and then we threw up our hands and gave up. And we have not begun to discuss any alternative system (e.g. balancing by income), so our schools will end up more and more out of balance both racially and economically.

            But I dispute your notion that white families are pulling their kids out of schools because they don’t like having kids of color or poor kids in classes. It’s not about race or class. It’s about the quality of education. Whites and blacks alike are leaving D65 and Evanston because they feel their kids aren’t being sufficiently challenged. Their kids aren’t being taught critical thinking, they are taught to pass standardized tests. Their kids aren’t being asked to write creatively, they are being asked to write short answers or 5-paragraph essays. Their kids aren’t being given more challenging materials when they have mastered the content of a course, they are told to sit quietly and read to themselves. Their children aren’t being taught how to make a compelling argument either in writing or with technology, they are told how to use a piece of software.

            Yes, we need to have a discussion about the future of the district, and we certainly need to make demographic trends part of that discussion. But putting it in the terms that you have used does little more than inflame racial tensions in the community, which does nothing to move us forward.

            I say again, it is NOT about race or class but about providing a quality education for ALL STUDENTS.

          7. You may be missing my point
            It appears to me families are not coming into district 65 – white are not being replaced – the data for black families is more difficult to look at since it would need to be broken out over time by income and I have not looked at the data – but I would suspect higher income black families would be just as likely to leave as the white families. Also if you have ever look at the data there are almost No white children on free and reduced lunch – thus class ( economic ) is a big piece of the issue here.

            You bring up the topic about challeging kids – yet if you have kids who are mostly black and hispanic functioning a grade or two below grade level – these kids need alot of basic support – ( which by the way they never get )if the white students are above grade level – it is clear they would not be challeged in a class room that is set up for basic support. Do not tell me the teachers are providing class rooms that really support the high and low – it has not happening!

            If you look at the mess at ETHS – it appears to me about 50% of the black students graduating each year are well below grade level. Thus they could not even go to the worst 4 year college with ACT scores at 18 or less. That we would about 150 students!

            It has been about race here for a long time – I would agree with you on one point – it should not be about race – but as I recently recall a group of people pushed for a Afro-centric program – so lets not kid anyone it is about race.

          8. Income vs. Ethnicity
            A lawyer gave a presentation on the Supreme Court ruling at a d65 board meeting recently. Afterward, the board of ed and district 65 discussed replacing criterion in the policy from “race to income.”

            Since upheavals have subsided; i.e., contract extended, geometry bussed out, d65 middle school math teachers disrespected, a board member released, a new board member appointed, and continued accusations of dysfunction – – attention to the subject may return soon. There’re deadlines involved.

      2. Charge the Professionals
        Bill,

        I am neither a social scientist nor an educational administrator, so I don’t know how a study of why District 65 has experienced such a dramatic decline in enrollment should be designed, or how the school system should be reconfigured to reflect this reality. What I do know is: (1) these things have not been done, (2) these things need to be done, and (3) we employ highly-paid professionals in both these areas who should be charged with the task of getting these things done.

        Jonathan Baum

      3. Enrollment data and emotions
        According to ISBE (Illinois State Board of Ed), enrollment in public education has declined 11 percent the last several years in the State of Illinois. The trends in D65 seem to mirror those numbers. So, I am glad that Mr. Smith stated that “perhaps the shift in enrollment has nothing to do with satisfaction with the schools, or lack thereof, but simply reflects population trends.”

        Additionally, the birth rate data and the percentage of those students who eventually attend D65 has remained virtually unchanged over the last few years. I don’t have the data in front of me, but roughly 67% of the 1000 or so children born in Evanston’s hospitals eventually attend D65. The rest go to private schools, home school etc.. This number has not varied significantly.

        There has been a very vocal group of folks in Evanston who have stated, repeatedly (and anonymously on this post), that “whites are fleeing D65.” And familes are so dissatisfied with D65 that they’re pulling their kids and placing them in private schools. I am not disputing that there are some who may not be happy with our schools. And if they are, we should find out why. There are times when I have been frustrated. However, I do think that overall D65 is a wonderful school district with award winning students, teachers and schools. I would match what we offer to our students and families to any other school district across the state. There is always room for improvement. Those that go around disparaging D65 do a disservice to the employees of D65 and our community, and just as importantly, place a negative cloud over our schools and make them much less attractive to potential home buyers, and those contemplating sending their children to our schools.

        Greg Klaiber

        1. Freedom to Complain
          Greg,

          I take issue with your comments about those who “go around disparaging D65.” The implication is that those of us who have concerns about how our children are being educated should just shut up, suck it up, and celebrate the good things. Well, I’m not willing to do that. If I see a problem, I’m going to name it, and I’m going to fight to fix it. I am glad that there are award-winning students, teachers and schools in this district. I am glad that test scores are up. I am happy that we are not running a deficit this year. But please don’t ask me or other parents who feel that their children are not getting the education they need or deserve to remain silent because their comments may offend some D65 employees or may affect housing prices across town.

          Let’s stop making this a “if you’re not with us you’re against us” discussion. Can’t we agree to find some common ground and work on solving the problems that remain, even as we celebrate the gains that have been made?

          1. I have never implied or said for you or anyone elseto “shut up.”
            Mindy,
            Your last sentence is exactly what I would like all of us to do. I have never said you or others have no right to “complain” or you should remain silent. What I take issue with is irresponsible anonymous posters who I think spread misinformation. The enrollment data contradict the perception that familes are not enrolling their children in the same percentages as in the past. I am not looking at D65 with rose colored glasses. I know there are problems. All I am trying to say is that we all have a stake in the quality and PERCEPTION of our public schools. I would love to get to apoint where we celebrate the good things that are happening while at the same time address the concerns you and others have-with civility.

          2. Greg – Don’t you remember I stated white families were leaving?
            Greg – back when I ran for district 65 school board in the late 90’s ( I think you ran at that time )- I stated clearly that white families were leaving the district not one other person running would even discuss the issue. The night I went to the school board with a graph I created from the previous ten years the district’s overhead did not even work to show it. White enrollment most years had drop by about 100 students or more in most of the ten years prior to 1998. ( not to long along a former board member I ran into admitted what I was stating at the time was correct)

            Anyone can go back and check the write up in the Evanston Review – I clear stated this years ago!

            Lets get real here people you do not need big study – the district is 40% white – when my children were in it is was 60% and years before 80% white with much higher enrollment. Any one with a brain knows district 65 can not racial balance the schools anymore since they would mostly be just bussing around poor black and hispanic students!

            Yes I agree black enrollment is dropping – since the majority of black families in the district are lower income and being pushed out. Thus the loss of white students does not look so bad.

            Greg – as a school board member did you accomplish anything to raise test scores? Or did you help push more white families out the door? I do not blame you alone plenty of others here are responsible for the mess. Actually someone the other day who was involved with CNC admitted to me there is plenty of blame for the mess the schools are in.

            I am a taxpayer now – it appears to me the district is covering up the fact it is under enrolled and schools need to be closed and teachers laid off.

            This reminds me of the pension fund mess of the city – council members and the city manager did not want to talk about it in the last budget cycle they choose to not deal with it. I see a major tax increase for the screw up – maybe you want to give up some of your future fire fighter pension so we can fund some useless program such as the youth coordinator hiring more employees to help the kids district 65 could not educate in the first place?

            Greg in case you can’t see, we have a high crime rate here, public schools that are failing (ETHS) and high taxes – Why do so few fire department employees live in Evanston? ( please don’t tell me its too expense since 7,000 people here are below the poverty line)

          3. Let’s forget how many are leaving and ask why they are
            Greg,

            Perhaps i misinterpreted your point, but you did say that people should stop disparaging the district, so I not unnaturally thought that you wanted people to stop complaining. I am also concerned about people spreading misinformation, but often this is a result of a lack of real data, and is not be a deliberate attempt to mislead.

            To the question of enrollment, while there many not have been a statistically significant amount of attrition from the district over the past decade, we do know that many families have left the district because they were dissatisfied with the education their kids were receiving. I don’t think we should ignore this, even if the numbers aren’t large (and I admit, I have no idea what those numbers are). I think the district should consider doing “exit interviews” of families who pull their kids from district schools and decide to homeschool or place their children in private schools. Perhaps then we could begin to understand the circumstances that are driving them to leave, and look for ways to address those problems.

            I don’t believe that dismissing the suggestion that people are leaving advances the conversation. People are leaving and the administration knows it. Thus far, however, they have not chosen to see it as a problem.

          4. Why I flew & why I returned
            I sold my house on McDaniel in September 2005. The primary reasons were due to divorce and humble singular means. However, had I known there are citizens in district 65’s community willing to persuade families not to pull children from schools by donating large sums of money, which I lacked, please point me to the source. In practicality, d65 and d202 may have been able to address my family’s problems with empathy perhaps, but not solve them or offer me a way to stay rooted – – no matter their best intentions. Besides, I would have considered an “exit interview” by d65/d202 or parent/community groups or an independent contractor an invasion of privacy. The same holds true conducting exit interviews made by the same groups named above for employees. Sometimes the varied reasons staff and families leave d65 and d202 are personal or confidential. Additionally, I will not voluntarily partake in anything that will potentially label and add my children’s names to statistical reporting systems by either d65 or d202 committees categorizing them in any way disadvantaged, because they’re not. An exit interview carries the potential of reporting students derogatorily. During my preparation to move and with nerves on edge, I would have told both 65 and 202 in no uncertain terms to go to h_ll had they begun questioning me. Instead, I moved to a section of Lake County were living is economical. Before I made the decision to purchase a home out there, I researched the middle school and high school. I compared data with that of d65 and d202 and it appeared students of color in Lake County far exceed academic achievement than those at Haven and ETHS. I made appointments for tours of the buildings and grounds and interviewed principals, teachers, the asst. superintendent and the superintendent. I decided to purchase a home in Lake County and moved October 2005. I returned to Evanston before 2005 ended and sold the house. Lake County’s data in virtual reality does not support or reflect actuality in neither their middle school nor high school. For those who believe Evanston School District 65 lacks quality, commitment, credibility and protocols – – LEAVE! FLY AWAY! Take a chance… risk enrolling your children at one other than d65 – – a different school district in Illinois or the country for that matter. You may find all you seek elsewhere. Our children come first. They should be our first consideration and main concern. Right? So, if leaving Evanston is in your family’s best interests – – move on. On the other hand, you may find it easier to recognize lack of quality vs. quality and mediocrity vs. high standards through lived experiences in real time. You may also find yourselves agreeing with Greg Klaiber and Bill Smith 100 percent on this issue. Before I returned to Evanston, I spoke to two other families that had migrated to the same section of Lake County from d65. One family attended Walker. The other parent had a student at Bessie Rhodes. Although our reasons for leaving Evanston were different, not one is related to d65 or d202 specifically. BUT, the two institutions are the paramount reasons at least two of three families returned. In my life’s challenges and journey back home came many revelations. One thing I found holds true: Complaining does not solve problems. Mr. Klaieber and Mr. Smith your comments are absolutely correct, insightful and on target. Thanks.

  2. Vision Thing
    I’m glad you asked the question, Bill, but you’re asking the wrong person. While I think it would certainly be valuable to hear what Jonathan has to say about how the district should adjust to the lower enrollment levels, he is no longer a member of the school board. I would like to hear the current board members articulate their vision for the future of this district.

    While I have heard them pay lip service to formulating a vision, I have heard no actual specifics about what, when or how they will do that. Yes, Mr. Terry did propose a public forum sometime before the end of the year, but the goal of that meeting seemed to be more about “getting the word out about the good things the district was doing,” in Ms. Lockhart’s words, rather than soliciting input about the future of the district. I have heard nothing from this board about how to redress the imbalances of race and income across the district. I have heard nothing about how to increase the challenge for students across the educational spectrum. Beyond meeting the minimal goals of meeting NCLB, I have heard very little about how to address the achievement gap.

    I would welcome an opportunity to work with the board to create a series of community meetings to begin to articulate exactly what this district needs to do in the next 5-10 years. I’d like to see some demographic projections for future enrollments and consideration of the impact on the district as a whole. I’d like to see the board lead discussions about technology, enrichment, bilingual education, special education, and the middle schools, rather than constantly engaging in studies which are either disregarded or implemented in a desultory and piecemeal fashion. I’d like to see the district confront the achievement gap head on, looking at solutions that are working in other districts around the country, and harnessing the expertise of local individuals like Allan Alson and William Sampson on this issue.

    And I’d like to see a vision of the future for District 65 include how they intend to work with District 202 to ensure that our students will succeed in high school and beyond. They should be our allies in this process.

  3. Paul Brinson’s Analysis
    Mr. Brinson’s analysis using Census data was fine. He did a very good job explaining what margin of error meant, and he applied the approriate level of caution in interpreting conclusions from survey data.

    As a professional actuary I have quite a bit of experience interpreting data, and I would not have done anything differently than what he did with the data he had available.

    The key to improving the analysis is to purchase higher quality data than what the census provides. This will cost quite a bit less than hiring a consultant, who would charge the district for the data plus billable hours. As long as Paul Brinson has the capacity to do the analysis, and he does it objectively, then I see no reason to go outside the district. From what I saw Monday night, he is doing a good job with the data he has so far.

    The main question is whether the D65 community with school age children is shifting to private schools increasingly over time. It should not be that hard to determine this if the appropriate data is obtained.

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