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A group of African American parents of students enrolled in the African Centered Curriculum at Oakton Elementary School were told by Evanston/Skokie District 65 board members this week that the ACC was on the way up…not out.

The parents had observed a great deal of activity at the school that had made them nervous about the fate of the program that focuses on Africa, African American culture, and the contributions of African Americans.

The ACC program at Oakton was started in 2006-07 with students in kindergarten through the second grade. Each year another grade was added until it encompassed grades K-5.

Oakton Principal Churchill Daniels, who oversees the program at the school, had expressed concern to the board in June of 2012 that students enrolled in the program were lagging in achievement as measured by standardized test scores.

Specifically, reading scores of ACC students had declined on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test at the same time that they were rising for all district students.

The percentage of students scoring at the 50th percentile or better went from 68.2 in 2010 to 70.6 in 2011 for all students in the district, while comparable percentages for students in the ACC program had dropped from 35.9 to 32.7.

The board authorized Daniels to meet with teachers, administrators, and educational experts to come up with a strategy for improving the program.

Parents addressing the board Monday night were concerned that they were not being adequately consulted and said they were hearing rumors that the program was on its way out.

Some of the black parents noted that Hardy Murphy, who resigned as superintendent last August, was black, that the voters had rejected a plan for a new school in the heart of the black community, and that no blacks are currently serving on the board.

They contended that discontinuing the ACC program would be one more thing that would lead them to feel that the board was being “disrespectful” to the black community.

That assertion raised the dander of Board President Tracy Quattrocki, who reminded the parents that the last school board election was uncontested “and we would have welcomed people to run…We really wish there were more people of color on this board. No one is more disappointed in that than the seven people sitting here.”

And as far as being disrespectful to the black community, Quattrocki said “it would be far more disrespectful to the ACC to not want us to inquire about ways in which we could make it a better program and a stronger program, because I think if this board had sat here and said those kids are not performing at the level we want them to but we’re going to look at all the other classrooms in the district and not the ACC, THAT would be disrespectful.”

Board Vice President Richard Rykhus echoed those sentiments and added: “We really are trying to work with (Daniels) to do what’s best for the kids.”

Former board member Bonnie Lockhart concluded the discussion with the observation that the problem apparently was one of communication between the district and the ACC parents and concluded that she was pleased to learn that “this is not about closing. This is not about diminishing. This is about improvement.”

Earlier story:

Doubts about ACC at Oakton School in Evanston

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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3 Comments

  1. Don’t look at ACC in isolation.

    One of the things that should be examined at Oakton is how there could be better coordination between various programs that provide support for minority students at Oakton. These programs have included ACC, extended day, various Saturday enrichment programs, Y.O.U./21st CCLC, PTA sponsored afterschool classes and recreational activities and inschool support. Students are sometimes served by mulitple programs and in my experience there was not much communication between the leaders of the programs or even a calendar that was accessible to everyone so that events such as parent nights were not scheduled at conflicting times. Hopefully this has changed. It is also difficult to determine which supports are most effective. 

  2. Real truth about the 5th Ward School

    The fact is, many people in the 5th Ward did NOT want a 5th Ward school. Many people i spoke with from the 5th Ward who have or had elementary aged students liked their current school situation. Yes, there was a vocal group of citizens in favor of a 5th Ward school. And yes, our politicians jumped on the public bandwagon. However, residents in the 5th Ward who were opposed felt pressured to stay silent. It was popular and encouraged to be publicly in support of the 5th Ward school. But when it came time to vote only a small percentage of 5th Ward residents voted. Go back and look at the voting numbers. There was a lot of publicity, movies were made, and the weather was beautiful. But many 5th Ward residents didn't vote. Why? Because they didn't support the idea. It's time to move on and focus on helping all students achieve their potential. I'm happy to know that this school board is looking for ways to improve the ACC program and is not just accepting the status quo.

  3. Disrespect

    I am stunned that the black community feels they are being disrespected.  This program in all it's years has yet to fill a classroom and keep it filled.  There seems to not really be a need or want for this program because parents are not placing their students in the program.  The test scores are dismal and horrific.  I question the teaching that is taking place and if thie program is even effective for cultivating high student achieivement.  Also, how can the board justify ACC classrooms of 14 or less students while other classrooms around the district or in TWI sit at 23, 24 or even bigger.  Some ACC classrooms have been as low as 9 students!  It is unfair to the students, teachers, and parents whose classrooms are bursting at the seams and where teachers can not give as much one-on-one attention.  As well as, with such low numbers in the classroom, shouldn't the teachers be able to give more individulized attention and therefore most likely have better or good results?  I really question the effectiveness of the ACC program.  I am not being disrespectful, I only want what is best for our kids most at risk.

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