A discussion of results of statewide standardized tests on English and math are on the agenda for Monday’s monthly meeting of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Board, and already a group of African-American parents has called for a demonstration at district headquarters.
Less than half the students tested last spring scored as “proficient” on the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and there was a decline in the percent of District 65 students meeting benchmarks for college readiness.
On the old ISAT test, last given in 2014, some 60 percent of District 65 students produced scores representing college readiness in English and 57 percent in math. On the 2015 MAP test, the equivalent scores were 50 percent in English and 39 percent in math, according to a release yesterday from District 65.
Superintendent Paul Goren said that a drop in scores between ISAT and PARCC was expected “given the greater demands of Common Core and the low bar of proficiency Illinois had previously set on the ISAT.”
He attributed the difference as “a result of changes in measurement and should not be considered a reflection of a change in student or teacher performance.”
He added, however, that “with slightly less than one-half of students meeting or exceeding standards, we must address the work that needs to be done with heightened urgency.”
At Monday’s board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. at district headquarters at 1500 McDaniel Ave., Peter Godard, the district’s chief officer of research, accountability, and data, will present an analysis of the state assessment results.
The meeting will be televised live on Evanston’s cable Channel 19.
A group of African-American parents has called for a demonstration at district headquarters at 6 p.m. as a “silent Sit-In Protest for Educational Equity.” They have asked their supporters to “come stand in solidarity for students of color who are being failed by District 65.”
Goren’s email addresses some of these, as well as other concerns that have arisen, including a lengthy story in Friday’s Chicago Tribune, about the statewide decline in scores under the new tests.
Following is a text of the email Goren sent to local parents:
As we review the results from the PARCC assessment, there is a heightened urgency for District 65 to serve all of our students, especially those students who are under-performing. There is also an urgency to listen and learn from members of the community, particularly our African-American and Hispanic families, to ensure that our actions reflect community needs.
It is essential that we first and foremost listen and learn, as the families we serve have real and valid concerns. We must also share the work in our Strategic Plan that I believe will have a significant impact.
In addition, we must work together across the district, with families and community partners, to ensure that what we do will have a meaningful impact on student achievement.
As we move forward to address student outcomes, I want to highlight several actions we are currently taking, via our Strategic Plan, to make a difference in the lives of all District 65 students. Our work includes the following:
Literacy Improvement – we know that working with our youngest students is critical to addressing achievement gaps and we are focusing particularly on literacy in grades K-3, while we continue our work across grade levels.
Priority Focus on high-needs children – we are focusing on children who are performing below the 25th percentile, English-language learners, and students with disabilities.
Interventions – we are implementing a new Response to Intervention plan that addresses the specific needs of children below the 25th percentile and who are in need of direct intervention.
Collaboration with ETHS – we are committed to working with the high school to serve all children, especially students at the 40th percentile and below, by proactively identifying children who have significant needs.
Expanding the Diversity of our Staff – we are developing strategies to recruit and retain staff members that reflect the diversity of our communities.
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy – we are working to develop instructional materials and techniques that engage students by reflecting upon and respecting their diverse cultures.
Social/Emotional Learning – we are working with schools to intentionally improve the social and emotional development of all children in order to become better problem solvers, and to ensure that children can express their concerns and feelings, and adults are able to recognize and respond to these needs.
Alternatives to Suspension – we recognized, and the Board challenged us, to change the way we use suspensions as too many children, especially children of color, were being suspended for too many days. We have improved the implementation of our Alternatives to Suspension program and are engaging schools in Sharing Circles and Peace Circles as ways to problem solve.
School Climate Teams – we have established and are phasing in school climate teams to review data on the impact of diversity on relationships and to address issues of climate, safety, and belonging for students and their families.
Whole Child Council – we have developed this council to understand the many issues that our families face so that we can create a welcoming environment that best serves our children.
Collaboration with Community Partners – we are working with local social service agencies on summer programs that emphasize reading and social/emotional growth, including a partnership with Evanston Cradle to Career focused on community literacy. This includes the recent development of a kindergarten readiness measure.
Collaboration of District Family Engagement Providers – family engagement staff who work across the district (from the JEH Family Center through our middle schools) are joining together as a coalition to improve and coordinate these efforts.
Principal Goals – all of our principals have specific outcome goals that address student achievement and achievement gaps.
The work we have underway is necessary yet not sufficient to address the concerns that we have and many families in District 65 share. I am committed to listen and learn from the broad cross-section of citizens and neighbors in Evanston and Skokie, and especially those families who feel as though the system is not listening or has not learned over time.
We have several community focus groups scheduled in January and February that will reach out into communities that have felt disengaged by the school system.
We are poised to act, and to act with dispatch. I would appreciate your comments and suggestions for next steps as we move forward toward the goals of improving student performance. You have an important role to play and I need your support.
Paul D. Goren, Superintendent of Schools