I have had a chance to carefully read the report shared by District 65 regarding the Academic Achievement Gap of Evanston students.

The stark numbers and graphic details of disparity between white and black children from K-8 in Evanston make it one of the most disheartening reports I’ve ever seen.


As a matter of fact, I remain in a sort of “shock” regarding the engulfing disparity, in virtually every category that was assessed. It is appalling, reprehensible, and most importantly, completely unacceptable.

I commend Superintendent Paul Goren for the total transparency of the report, particularly in highlighting District 65 with neighboring municipalities. We did not fair well.

I emphasize “we” because I consider myself Evanstonian. I live in Evanston, work in Evanston and all three of my children go to school in Evanston (one is a senior at ETHS, one is at Chiaravalle and one is in District 65). With all of this in mind, it is perhaps my “work hat” (as much as my “parent hat”) that is prompting me to offer a public response to the report.

I blame no one specifically, for the dismal state of affairs that has created this widening disparity. I blame everyone for the dismal state of affairs that has created this widening disparity.

To say the district alone has failed black students is to put the onus of responsibility only upon the district. To be sure, there is significant responsibility that must be placed upon the district.

The Pre-K district-funded program is not preparing its children for kindergarten. From the outset, they are behind their counterparts who attended private Pre-K schools.

Other public funded Pre-K schools are also not fully preparing their children for kindergarten. From K-3, the gap between black students and white students increases.

The fact that the report shows only ten percent of black students begin college prepared, sounds like it comes from the Period of Reconstruction (1865-1875). It does not sound like it is from 2016 Evanston, a town known throughout the nation for Northwestern, progressivism and the benefits of diversity.

The percentage difference between black and white students in Math, English and Language Arts is revolting. All of this mind you, was made available for the general public. Page after page, graph after graph showed that race factored into Early Childhood Education, K-8 Education, Special Education and other programs. Without a doubt, there is an unacceptable, pervasive culture that has resulted in disparity at every level. So then, the district has culpability.

At the same time, various components of our community possess some responsibility. We are filled with community centers aimed at providing safe havens for our children. We are filled with amazing organizations dedicated to providing opportunities for our children. We are filled with houses of worship dedicated to achieving transformation in our children.

Yet in spite of safe havens are children are not safe. In spite of opportunities so many of our children are still failing. And in spite of our 115 houses of worship, our community has not been transformed.

So then our district is failing, our schools are failing, our centers are failing, our organizations are failing and alas, our houses of worship are failing to reach the least and lowest, the left out and lost.

That would be the Black and Latino children and students growing up in this eight-square mile town that has not yet reached “Beloved Community” status.

The problem is this, there is such an expected level of “Excellent Evanston” that no one wants to admit to failure. No one wants to say, “We have failed our black students in Evanston.” It is very much like people never wanting to say, “I am sorry for the institution of slavery and its aftermath in the United States.” To admit failure is to concede that that the system, the institution is broken. Such acknowledgement is to then invite a “fresh”, “new” and “innovative” approach in how we can get back on track. Those conducting the locomotive will never concede control.

Our system is broken. What we need is a “fresh”, “new” and “innovative” approach to get back on track. It must include every part of the district from superintendent to administrators, principals, teachers and staff, community leaders, houses of worship, parents, and children themselves.

I urge the district to be one of the leaders for creating a truly inclusive collaboration that will work on the various components of the most disappointing issue facing our community today.

While I have only been in Evanston a year, I pledge to avail every resource at my disposal in working with anyone willing to help our children.

Cradle to Career, the MaGaw YMCA, the YWCA, Fleetwood-Jourdain, Robert Crown, Chandler-Newberger, Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Levy Senior Center, Family Focus, Y.O.U., District 202, OPAL, the Evanston-North Shore NAACP, all of our 115 houses of worship, the Evanston Police Department, City Council, Northwestern University, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary — none of us can ignore the report.

The problem does not belong solely to District 65. It belongs to us all. We are failing the most precious gift in our community, our children. If your organization is not on this list, feel free to add it.

The urgency of now is upon us. We cannot wait another semester or year. In addition to the responsibilities of District 65, I am asking that representatives from the organizations listed (and others) anticipate communication within a week, calling for a Community Distress Meeting.

We must unite, come together and work towards transformation. I believe the potential of Evanston to become a Beloved Community, is great. But if we fail to utilize our excellence around this problem, we will remain a community in distress.

Rev. Dr. Michael C.R. Nabors is pastor of Second Baptist Church in Evanston.

Related stories

Study compares D65 gap with schools nationwide (4/30/16)

Gap meet: Many complaints few solutions (4/26/16)

Related document

Report on black student achievement in District 65 (4/25/16)

Join the Conversation


  1. Helping all students achieve
    While Rev. Dr. Michael Nabors is correct in his assertion that this report is disheartening, he misses the larger issue here, the district is getting worse. Over the 4 year trend covered in the report, the percent of students that are kindergarten ready has dropped from 61.3% to 53.2%. This drop is happening across the board at all measured grades. The gap is actually closing, but not because black students are performing better, but rather because white students are performing worse. White students have seen a 10 point drop in the number that are kindergarten ready. The districts efforts to close the gap, include ETHS having a black only pep rally, are working to close the gap, but only at the expense of white students and not from any gains from black students.

    Plus, there are students from other races and ethnicities besides black and white. How disrespectful to only include two types of students in the report. Shame on you all.

    1. Helping all students achieve

      Dr. Nabors, thank you for addressing this issue publicly. I am discouraged by some of the comments here. We do need meetings, they are important. It's important to meet face to face. To spend time, real time, being in each other's presence and listening. It's important to craft an plan and then follow it through. It's better to do that together, so that we can understand what talents are at our disposal. The disparity is not propaganda. That's a bit like saying, cancer statistics are propaganda. Statistics are just statistics. It is very clear from this report that there is systemic bias from some teachers. It is clear there is systemic bias in the system itself. We all need to share the responsibility to work together to ensure that all of our children are given opportunities to grow to their fullest potential. I do agree that white children have also suffered over the past few years, as well. It appears we have an educational crisis at the moment. Constant testing (my middle schooler lost 2 weeks of teaching because of 'extra' testing this year) has not helped. I would be happy to attend community meetings that address how we demand accountability of ourselves, our communities and our schools to dismantle the racist system that exists at the moment while also addressing the need to restructure our educational system as a whole. It's 2 parts of a whole.

      1. Please give us examples Kristine

        "it is very clear from this report that there is systemic bias from some teachers" -what evidence and examples do you have that demonstrate systemic bias?

        "It is clear there is systemic bias in the system itself" – what evidence and examples do you have that demonstrate systemic bias?

        "dismantle the racist system that exists" – what evidence and examples do you have that demonstrate the system is racists?

        You make very inflammatory statements and sound a little like Donald Trump

        Where are your specific examples and evidence instead of sound bites?


    2. Home Schooling in Evanston ?
      With all the reports of un-equal and poor and sometimes even dangerous events at or near the school, do we have statistics of home many students are being home schooled in Evanston ? For K-6, 7-9, 10-12 ?
      If you read up on home schooling [both for religious and academic reasons] and the academic [and yes social] results, you have to conclude there is really something there parents should consider.

  2. Community in Distress Demands Call to Action
    I am glad that another person from the faith community is calling for action. There are others within that community who are doing what they can to add support. Clearly, more is needed, but not in the form of meetings. What is needed is for those who recognize the problem to do the difficult work of changing school policies and creating new policies that create a more equitable school system. The organization OPAL Evanston is engaged in that struggle. That is the real and authentic work. No more speeches. Let us work together to change hiring practices, parent engagement strategies, and form meaningful and proven instructional practices that will help all of our children.

  3. Don’t believe the hype

    Here we are on another fine Evanston evening eating a large bowl of propaganda, and washing it down with false prophets, paper leaders, felonious reports, and pointless pirouetting around the real issues.

    Let's stop acting as if parents of failing children are holding back the dams against an enraged Katrina, and losing their children in the process when they couldn't find them in the middle of the night.

    Time is of the essence when you are are counting minutes instead of using hours to build strong men and women who value knowledge of self, self reliance , self respect, and community.

    I too have daughter at Chiaravalle whose genius has been marginalized in the classroom, socially minaturized by her peers, and terrorized by the administration to the point where she feels forced to identify that she is "brown" looking for the honesty in the other child's genuine request to play with her.

    I also have a son at ETHS who is a Honors Student roaming the halls drinking coffee, texting friends, and pretending that the black teachers he has aren't fighting for the jobs everyday they wash the excrement of "His-Story" away; as they attempt to lay down clean sheets of truth of what it's really like to be black and gifted in America.

    My youngest son attends Haven Middle School where he receives a sub par education from teachers who would rather hold him accountable for white students inability to keep up with him.

    I have lived in Evanston for 8 years and have encountered nothing but young, gifted, and black students so I'm clueless to this outcry, but maybe I'm not looking hard enough to find the few bad apples in the orchard.

    This morning, on my way to work, I passed a group of black children, singing, dancing, horse playing, and carrying their school books, and as I stopped to watch them pass I smiled because their all destined to be something great if they DONT BELIEVE THE HYPE!

    Stop placing on these children your own failures and insecurities, CHALLENGE THEM AND THEY WILL RESPOND!

    1. “Fill the gap” is soft bigotry of low expectations
      Black parent has it right that this fill the gap crap is demeaning, insulting and condescending. But then she falls into the same race trap so many others fall into here in Evanston.

      What evidence does black parent have that Haven teachers want to make HER son “accountable for white students inability to keep up with him?” Does that include hispanic and Asian students? Perhaps her intent is to turn the tables and show how black parents must feel when they hear and read constant messages that black kids score lower than white kids in Evanston and that they should be held accountable.

      D65 and 202 administrators and board members have this consistently nutty, shall I dare say racist, habit to clump student’s academic abilities based on race. I am waiting for some wise soul to ask school bureaucrats to explain how some black students are in honor classes and some white students are not. And while we are talking about race how are the Asian students doing at D202 and D65. Are they part of this gap problem?

      Kids are malleabe. When school bureaucrats, race based groups and politicians constantly advance the notion that some groups based on race are victims and can not academically compete against others in another racial group, the “victimized” group will believe they can’t compete without special assistance and will perform accordingly. And those in the other groups will believe it as well. Academic achievement should have NOTHING to do with race.

      The words, fill the gap, is soft bigotry of low expectations.

    2. Community in distress demands call to action

      Everyone is entitled to his/her own opinions.  This is not a time for attacking others.

      The “bigger issue” here is a call for unity and action when the community is in distress over the historical continuation of the district achievement gap.

      When our children fail, we all fail. Let us not fail to take action now! 

      The invitation seems open to all.  Join in and be part of the solution!

  4. Omar Brown asked the right question
    At the recent meeting to discuss Black Student Achievement Board member Omar Brown pondered the question, “Why are some black students successful?” This is a critically important issue to pursue. D65 is fortunate to have many successful black students, and we’d like to see more, many more. But wishing upon a star doesn’t produce results. We know that 80% of black students are considered low income while only 10% of white students are considered low income. We know that only 34% of this years black students entering kindergarten were kindergarten ready relative to 64% of white students. In addition to race, what other factors facilitate and enhance a student’s ability to learn? Food security, shelter, lower stress environments, a priority on education are other factors that can enhance the educational experience for all children. When some of these factors are absent, how can the faith community or other community organizations provide necessary support?

    At a breakfast meeting today i spoke with 2 people who attended the Evanston Scholars last night and they were so impressed with the students they met and the overall program. They said that about 30 seniors graduating from ETHS, who are primarily hispanic and black students have excelled academically and now have outstanding college opportunities next year. Evanston Scholars has identified the hurdles confronting many of our black and brown students, and have designed interventions and supports to enable students to succeed.

    D65 and our community should understand why these students and prior year’s Evanston Scholars are so successful and try to replicate this pattern of success for more black, hispanic and other disadvantaged students.

    1. District 65

      Evanston has long been the school system that does'nt aďdress the issue of disparity in their test scores, achievement standings, learning disabilities etc., etc., Until the masses( parents), stand tall and say no, this is unacceptable, and the District pulls out all the stops to upgrade their priorities, this will continue to be a problem.  If the shoe was on the other foot and the "white" students were in that number of failure, left out, ignored, you can bet the powers that be would remain behind closed doors until a solution was created and implemented. Say what you will, this whole scenario brings back slavery mentality, Jim Crow, and the Black mans struggle for equality.

      1. We reap the seeds we sow

        Joyce, you and others must remember that the disappointing results we are seeing in district 65 today are the legacy of Dr. Hardy Murphy and his inept leadership and administration. Recall that he led D65 for 13 years.

        Fortunately, we are seeing many changes in administrators and principals but it will take some time and a lot of hard work before we see improvements in achievement results. 


        1. Disparity in District 65 school system

          Please, i know there's always someone to blame, the system in no way shape,fashion or form became intolerable overnight.  My class was one of the first to be bussed to an all-white school, Orrington, back in the 60's.  It was the same situation then as now.Let's develop some solutions and quit pointing fingers unless they are showing us a better, brighter future

      2. We have seen the disparity

        We have seen the disparity addressed by the district for at least the last 40 years. Unfortunately, with rare exceptions, parents need to be involved with their children's education. ETHS has spent millions of dollars  in an effort to fix this problem but has little success in doing so. Most parent will need to spend the time to make sure that homework and studying come first.

    2. Community in distress demands call to action

      Responding to “Omar Brown asked the right question”

      The Roundtable January 29, 2003 page 17.
      Schools & Education section
      Title:  Raising the Bar for Middle School Students by Jennie Berkson and Larry Gavin reported three juniors at ETHS who started a program entitled “Raising the Bar” which focused on improving the achievement of minority students in the sixth and seventh grades in District 65 schools.

      The three talented minority students, founders of the program “Raising the Bar”, presented their program at the District 65 and 202 School Board joint January 21, 2003 session.  

      Under that program the founders along with 15 to 20 other students served as leaders during the meetings and met with sixth and seventh graders on two Saturdays a month at the High School to encourage students to be actively involved in their education. They assisted students to develop good study habits and their time management skills during individual study sessions.  (The founders and leaders were minority students taking honors and AP classes with exceptional grades and a record of participating in extracurricular activities.)

      This student driven program were students stepping up to the plate to help other minority students.

      The goal was to encourage students to move on to QUEST and Latino QUEST, student run groups that encourage African American and Hispanic students to take honors classes at ETHS and to teach skills needed in High School.

      At that time, teachers Keith Robinson, Marianna Romano and Erica Cooper were the sponsors of that program.

      After that impressive board presentations, one of the board members asked each of the three girls to explain what and how they managed to be so successful.

      The common thread in all three of those students were high expectations from their parent(s), persistent and consistent self-motivation and a desire to succeed and most importantly, a willingness to help others.

      Again as Rev. C.R. Nabors stated in his 05/08/16 Second Baptist Church sermon:  It’s A Family Affair”  honoring Mother’s Day and the importance of the family, how our first and primary educators are the parents.
      The recording of that joint District 65 and 202 session was aired on the district channel and perhaps should be viewed/aired again on the district channel.

      It will show that once again, this was done before.

      Note:  Currently those same three girls have outstanding credentials and are highly successful professional women who along with their own careers are still involved with community service and helping others.

  5. Parenting!

    Kids are allowed to spend hours upon hours watching TV or playing video games.

    Teachers are criticized for sending home too much homework.

    Kids who complain about doing the homework are coddled.

    Parks are not safe for children to play in. Every restaurant you go into has a television.

    Start educating parents and the gap will diminish.

    To focus on the schools is to focus on the barn door after the horse has run away.  

  6. For what it’s worth
    There exists data on student achievement in districts across the nation, including information on race. https://cepa.stanford.edu/seda/overview

    As some have noticed, there is a correlation between political ideology and the amount of difference between students of each race. https://archive.is/20160508132410/http://takimag.com/article/crevasses_in_the_classroom_steve_sailer%23axzz484QXBx8Ohttps://archive.is/20160508132433/http://www.baconsrebellion.com/2016/05/what-role-school-district-ideology-in-the-racial-performance-gap.html
    It is important to keep in mind that correlation does not imply causation. However, there are probably of factors that correlate with the size of the achievement gap. I invite others to investigate the data.

  7. As I read Dr. Nabor’s

    As I read Dr. Nabor's commentary I was pleased when he said that the responsibiity for the gap doesn't belong to the schools alone.  But as I read on, I was disappointed that he did not include the family among the institutions that contribute the the success – or failure – of a child.  It starts when the child is in the womb – is the mother doing – or not doing – the things that insure a healthy child?  As a child grows, is he or she getting proper nutrition and adequate rest?  Are there books in the home?  Does the child see parents reading – is he being read to?  Having worked in the district's elementary schools, I saw children who had no breakfast, or whose "breakfast" consisted of a Coke and a bag of potato chips.  I saw young children who couldn't concentrate because they hadn't gone to bed until midnight the night before.  More and more the responsibilty of raising children is falling upon the schools and other institutions.  I think we need to acknowledge the family is one of the institutions that helps to determine the success of a child in school – and life.

    1. General Consensus

      Talk to any teacher (black) and they are of the opinion that their children do not come to school ready to learn.  They have cited many reasons; the culture of society as a whole, the culture of the black community.  Talk to the teachers of many colors, ethnic background and students and you will gain much insight of the problems that exist.  What a parent has to jump through hoops to even get a concersation at review and then find out the 5 minutes  of  failrure.  It is easy to cite the  why and why nots against the have and have nots.  Typically the higher the income of the parent(s) the better chance to become  educated.  It is the respect of society.  It is the respect the teachers have for the affluent.  They have looked down on goverment funded food programs and the ghetto housing that created crime ridden communities. .  I would say that many black teachers do not know they are black themselves and look with disdain of the culture that has been exploited by the media.  To mainstream a child into a culture they no notihing of is the education of our students through testing and retesting;  Being called Negro, then Colored, and now African American.  Many don't know and are not taught the truth of  the spirituality of the black people.  Who named the precious country "Africa".  Ask any true black person theiir heritage. or where their roots are, most were from the south..  Many are of the Indian tribes.  Many are of mixed colors and cultures.  Government is based on statitistics and rules to make what we call a civilized existence.  A sancuary of trees, birds, and people that don't know the rules and don't want to be told of what makes a peaceful , safe community.  For many of us our freedoms of choice of where we work and play have gone to institutionalized chaos..  People are walking with therr heads down into a device with all the information they  want or need to know in their finger tips.  Why do teachers have a problem teaching?  Does every home have a functional computer in every room for every student..  Phones maybe.  Many teachers and parents start their day with coffee or a beer.  Lunch is on the run.  More food is thrown away than consumed.   American educational system is missing what it is to be human.   There is an identity crisis.  Testing one size fits all is incorrect.  We are all different and unique.   Try learning the human spirit and then teach where that spirit leads.  Talk to the children and let them teach you what they need to know.to get along and be successful in this world of rapid change.  

      1. Africa is not a country

        Talk to the children and let them teach you what they need to know ? hmmm – how will that work out?

        1. Community in distress
          i read all of the comments and do agree and disagree. Someone suggested to ask the students … well, I would suggest we need programs to engage the Parent(s), Guardian, ‘etc. And, the question as to why some students are honor students, again…we need to focus on Family. I can tell you, some Parents, Guardians, ‘etc are intimidated by the School System, not knowing the right questions to ask or do not have the education to coach or advise their young adults student. A lot of these people are just trying to survive. A lot of the adults in a Family may have barely made it out of high school themselves and have no clue as to how to prepare their Family from an educational perspective. That is why it takes a Village. We can spend all the money we want and have all the meetings we want and all the planning including think tanks, the problem is…we have to get to the basics. Until we provide family support structures and address the issues from birth, we will have a problem. This has been going on for years. We have come a long way and as I look around at the number of students getting a great education especially minority students, we have yet a long way to go. The problem now is, the so call majority students are gliding, all of a sudden it is a crisis and we are concern across the board. This is not a new problem,. I agree, stop meeting and help the parent(s), guardian, ‘etc in coaching and how to raise their child. Can we do this, sure we can…

      2. Distict 65

        Our class back in the 60's was the first to be bussed in the so-called new integration plan.  The whole undertaking was viewed as historic, yet here we are in the year 2016 and it seems like the system is failing our children on many levels.  The parents as well as the school officials are the ones who are suppose to mold, contol, inspire, and otherwise ensure the education our children receive is above reproach.  In this day in age it seems as though we are mired in finger-pointing, blame game, and no solutions are being presented.  And we wonder why we are cultivating a  prison bound generation

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