Three months after the District 65 School Board agreed to try out an African-centered curriculum at Oakton Elementary School this fall, some residents were still complaining to the board tonight that it should have set up the program at Kingsley Elementary as well.

“You have a responsibility to address the needs of children who are not achieving their potential,” Evanston NAACP President George Mitchell told the board. “The plan you voted on is just not enough,” he said.

Joan Hickman, vice-chair of the Evanston Commission on Aging, said the story of African Americans has been distorted in history books. She asked the board to reconsider the vote on the African-centered program.

“Where is you focus?” Ms. Hickman asked. “It is certainly not on the children.”

Kristen McCall, the mother of two grade-school students in the district, said more needs to be done to help all students failing to meet achievement goals — not just those in the African-centered curriculum program or the two-way immersion bilingual program.

She called for exploration of other options to help these students. “I would venture to say we have more resources than are being explored,” Ms. McCall said.

Board members noted that the district is making efforts to include more multicultural resources in classrooms and libraries throughout the system.

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  1. District 65 — Time to prepare to provide the results
    District 65 needs to preparing to provide the results of the Afro-Centric Curriculum program that is based in certain classrooms at Oakton School.

    We are concluding the third school year for this program. In the best interests of the children in the program, their families and the District’s budget, the District 65 administration needs to present the Board and the public with information on the program’s results.

    The third graders who began this program as first graders took the statewide standardized tests (“ISAT”) earlier this month. The ISAT results should be available before school adjourns in June.

    For example, District 65 needs to tell us:

    — How do the results for the third graders in this program compare to the other third graders in the school?

    — How do the results for the third graders in this program compare to the results for third graders at the school two years ago and even last year?

    — How many children began the program in the 2006-2007 school year and how many are still in the program two years later in the 2008-2009 school year? I understand that there has been considerable turnover so that fewer than 60 percent of the students who started in 2006-2007 are still in the program. Why has there been this level of turnover? Does it mean that there is dissatisfaction with the program?

    I fear, however, that we will hear very little. An example: District 65 has been unwilling to confirm how many children are in the program at each grade level.

    Everyone, including those who supported instituting the program, those who opposed it and those (like me) kept an open mind, should have this information. For the District 65 Board, this information is critical as it must begin to determine whether the program is returning the results that were anticipated.

  2. Validity of results
    Even though there have been 3 years of classes, to have any statistical validity, the children in the test group should be the same for all three years. If there is enough transiency among the children, then the results may not be valid statistically.

    1. Evaluating ACC
      The point about group composition and the validity of results of any evaluation of the ACC is accurate under most evaluation standards. Yet, high attrition out of the program is a powerful result itself. Is the attrition rate for ACC as great as it is for TWI programs or in and out of D65 schools? A careful evaluation would present such data.

      Beyond that, however, in D65 there was no random assignment of a pool of children who wanted to get into the ACC program into treatment and control conditions in order to control for selection bias–children opting into a program having special qualities regardless of the program that may influence “results.” There simply was not enough interest in the program to do that kind of careful study. What if caregivers of children with very complex learning issues disproportionately opted into the program or caregivers of highly motivated children opted into the program? As it stands, there is no reliable way of evaluating ACC.

      But I don’t think that matters at all to ACC promoters. In fact, I bet even if the program shows *worse* academic outcomes, the ACC champions will argue for continuation of the program into middle school, asserting that the children were not in the program long enough for an effect. These are the same people who ignored the longitudinal data in one school that had used the program, I believe a CPS school–initial gains disappeared by fifth grade.

      This is not about the kids or achievement. It is about the continued window dressing that passes for doing “something” rather than doing anything structural and substantial for lower income kids.

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