Evanston Township High School board members seeking re-election defended at a forum Tuesday night the district’s work with the Pacific Educational Group, a controversial San Francisco-based consultant on diversity issues.

Two challengers for board seats said they aren’t familiar with the firm’s work, while a third said board members and teachers should hear additional perspectives on the issue, beyond those of PEG.

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PEG’s advice apparently was a factor last year leading to a controversial decision by a school principal in Ann Arbor, Mich., to schedule a blacks-only field trip that drew criticism from local residents.

Pacific Educational Group has also drawn criticism from conservative school activists, while drawing praise from school officials in California and elsewhere.

About 50 peole attended the Tuesday night forum sponsored by the ETHS Parent Teacher Student Association in the school’s Upstairs Theatre.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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9 Comments

  1. D202 is clearly focused on a select group of students

    First, I'd like to know what PEG has done as a consultant and how much D202 is paying them. I bet PEG advised the D202 Board to vote for the elimination of the freshmen honors courses because as the superintendent observed – there are  too many white faces in the honors courses.

    It disturbs me that two candidates, Rochelle and Hanson, didn't know enough about  PEG to comment. If you're running for the school board you should know what the district is doing and it's consultants, especially the controversial ones. Rochelle, who supported teacher's raises in 2008 during a Recession, has lost my vote.

    Jonathan Baum is right – the lack of attention of race is not a problem in Evanston. I think too much attention of race in Evanston is the problem, and the hiring of PEG is exhibit A.

    If you go to the PEG website you will see that it believes there is "systematic racism" in schools that have a "devastating effect" on minorities. And PEG believes we need to heighten the awareness of "institutional racism." 

    My first thought is – Does the D202 Board and administration believe that D202 has problems with systematic and institutional racism?"  This would be a great follow-up question and perhaps by then some of these candidates would have done their homework.

    The incident in Ann Arbor – a university town like Evanston – is a glaring example of misplaced focus and hocus pocus excuse ridden curriculum that lead not to better education but but more division and lack of attention of certain students based on race.

    Long-term Board member Jane Colleton who taught at a private school for 31 years and  who opposes the consolidation of D202 and D65, says PEG has been asset. But to whom and why? What have been the results of this diversity consultant? Someone should ask Colleton if she thinks Chiaravelli needs a diversity cocnsultant.

    And I wonder why Metz thinks we need a diversity consultant to tell the Board, staff and administration about raising awareness of race in Evanston? 

    It is becoming clear to me that this current D202 Board and administration is NOT focused on ALL students.

    D65 Board candidate JB Rees said it best – It's time for D202 and D65 to consolidate. And soon.

    1. Which select group of students are YOU talking about?

      As far as I can tell from this discussion, Jane Colleton and Mark Metz are the only two candidates at the table who have thoughtfully considered both sides of this issue. PEG is being held up for the sake of political rhetoric instead of meaningful dialogue and is only part of this conversation.

      As a parent who has children at Chiaravalle and plans to send them to ETHS, I'll be the first to say that Chiaravalle DOES HAVE a Diversity Commitee and strategic plan, puts institutional value in these sort of discussions and has spent considerable financial resources in both exploring the same issues and in pursuit of greater diversity. In that way, I think Chiaravalle aspires to be more like ETHS and hope my kids will have the opportunity to benefit from these efforts at both schools. The fundamental difference between the two schools is that ETHS has an obligation to provide a quality education to ALL students in our city, not just those who can afford a private education.

      Many Chiaravalle and ETHS parents will continue to discuss and celebrate our community's diversity. We are proud of Jane Colleton's success in BOTH the private and public educational sectors. I look forward to my kids further benefit from her real world experience. Go Ms. Jane!

  2. Diversity/Muliculturalism or just plain education

    As I recall the talks by Michelle A. Rhee,  the talks/books by Wendy Kopp  [Teach for America] or many of the other people in good educational programs [like KIPP], they recognize that there have been discrimination children have been exposed to, and poverty/bad envirornment/parents that won't/can't help they may still face, but they don't run to 'diversity consultants' or set-up multi-cultural programs.  Instead of making excuses and assuming the students can't learn and so give into low expectations and teach them what you can.  No they believe they can learn just as well as middle class children in 'quality' schools, and teach them as such—as every much capable and intelligent. 

    Once the Evanston K-12 start accepting the students can learn, they will learn.  But keeping them 'on the plantation' assures they will always have jobs—repeating the failed policy year after year.  But then they see the same attitude works in government, how else could Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson keep people depending on them for crumbs.

    1. I think they would disagree with you.

      Michelle Rhee, Wendy Kopp, TFA and KIPP all may aim to separate race from achievement, but none of them would stop considering its importance or deride attempts at understanding its role in the achievement gap. Are you speaking from true knowledge of these people and institutions or an irrational fear of change and innovation? This freshman honors debate has been completely overblown and sensationalized and I encourage the informed voter to research the facts. I think that is what Wendy Kopp would do.

      1. Wendy Kopp

        People might benefit from reading her new book "A Chance to Make History."  She does not say there has not been discrimination in the past and that a lot of students come from bad homes and poverty. What she does say is they can succeed. 

        She says the schools she talks about do not 'cherry pick'—they are bad schools to start with.  Also it is not just dedicated parents [though very important];  in "Waiting for Superman" all the parents who were pat of the lottery wanted their kids to succeed.   Those children who did not win the lottery had to go back to bad schools and evidence is did not improve.

        She seems to point to the big factors being really good teachers and administrations that do not hinder them.  Money, caring parents and many other things can help but the teachers are the main item.

  3. PEG does not support kids

    Are racist Asians also holding whites back? What is entirely lacking from PEG is acknowledgement that every human being is subject to bias, no matter what their color, and so identifying white bias as the only kind that matters is insulting. And racist.

    The basic PEG premise is preposterous. Does anyone out there really believe that once we wipe up all the white racists and correct all the presumed institutional unfairness at school, kids who come from families where no one read books, no one went to college, employment for the adults is scarce, underpaid and unfulfilling, and no one holds any real expectation of  "success" by any definition – those kids will suddenly feel empowered and engaged?   

    "Systemic racism" – is the perfect scapegoat for superintendents who have run out of ideas for addressing the achievement gap.  There are plenty of good ideas out there that actually support kids. We need leadership that aggressively seeks them.  Time for a change.

    1. Yes, it is time for change…

      …but for change to occur, you have to VOTE

      District 65 – Vote for Katie Bailey, Eileen Budde, and Richard Rykhus

      District 202 – Vote for Jonathan Baum and Scott Rochelle

       

  4. The importance of data and quantitative results

    I am very concerned about the achievement gap.  However, I'm extremely concerned about using unproven methods to take on what is at best an incredibly complex set of issues.

    The PEG website offers no information on the program's success rate.  Even their own links to press coverage show very little information about the results of this program – one 2009 release mentions one positive trend in scores in a single school in a single year; yet this program was reported as entering that district in 2007 – where is the district-wide data since then?

    While test scores are not necessarily an accurate predictor of a quality education, they at least offer a point for comparison to other schools….yet I see no data on how PEG schools' minority test scores compare to those not using the program, even though anyone could find that data on the internet – if PEG provided links to which schools it serves.  In fact, beyond the PEG website I see little or no information about it at all, quantitative or otherwise.

    Our children deserve to be taught using methods that are proven to work.  I don't understand how we can discuss the merits of this program without knowing its long-term successes, and how that success is defined.  I am very uncomfortable that support for this program comes in the form of a few personal anecdotes.

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