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It’s long been known that music education is an aid to enhancing a student’s math skills, but the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board this week received an update on plans for formalizing the process and to bring it into more schools.

It’s called arts integration, and the district has been dabbling in it through a partnership with Chicago’s Columbia College for eight years, thanks to research grants from the U.S. Department of Education, under a program called Project AIM (arts integration mentorships).

Much of the work to date has been in the district’s two magnet schools, King Lab and Bessie Rhodes.

But now they’re discussing the expansion of the model to the three middle schools—Chute, Haven, and Nichols– as well as a pilot program with the four elementary schools with the largest percentage of low-income students—Walker, Washington, Dawes, and Oakton.

Assistant superintendents Susan Schultz and Ellen Fogelberg assured the board that the program would enhance, not diminish, any fine arts education currently under way in the district.

Jean Luft, who heads the district’s teachers union, said at the outset of the discussion that, while the arts teachers are excited about the prospects for arts integration, they are concerned that they have not been actively solicited by the administration in the planning to date.

Schultz and Fogelberg said the arts staff would be involved as plans progress. They were supported by Superintendent Hardy Murphy, who said the objective “is to elevate the importance and presence of art in our school instructional program.”

Schultz asserted that “arts integration is a highly effective way to engage and motivate students to enhance their academic achievement.”

The initial programming would cost about $185,000, but most of that would come from grants and contributions, while only about $75,000 would come from district operating funds, they contended.

In a memo to the board, Schultz and Fogelberg said that “as support and expansion develop, District 65 will be well placed as a national model for showcasing how the arts support development of the whole child, including greater abilities for innovation, creativity, and academic success.”

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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19 Comments

  1. What about north side elementary schools?

    This sounds fine but once again the north side elementary schools are treated like an unwanted stepsister.

    Many D65 elementary schools don't have TWI. Why do some students get the specialized TWI education and others don't? Wilmette schools, meanwhile, introduced mandatory foreign language in all of their elementary schools. In Evanston, some schools are more equal than others.

    And now D65 wants to provide an arts integration pilot program to only a select few schools. Wonderful (for some).

    D65 school board members started a pilot program a few years back to mainstream disabled students into classrooms and schools like Lincolnwood get the district's behavior challenged students as it deals with overcrowding.

    We are so done with D65 and I know several parents who are either moving out of Evanston or transferring their kids to private schools. 

    I'd love to know the results of the D65 parent survey this year.

    1. The meaning of ‘fair’

      Fair does not mean everybody gets the same thing.  Fair means everybody gets what they need.

       

    2. ‘Tain’t true, Al

      Anonymous Al, you seem to just be looking for another reason to complain.

      Did you know that Willard has the TWI option which, OMG, is a north side elementary school, as does Dewey?

      Did you know that if you are interested in having your child included in a TWI program you can apply to have have them attend any D65 school that has the program?

      Did you also know that the arts integration program was first mainly instituted at King Lab and Bessie Rhodes, which are both magnet schools, which means any child in Evanston can attend regardless of the neighborhood they live in if their parents desire?

       

      1. Not all are accepted.

        Why don't ALL D65 schools have TWI? And the schools that do have TWI only accept a lucky few in the program. The other kids are SOL when it comes to foreign language instruction.

        And not every student who applies to D65's two magnet schools are accepted. 

         

        1. Size of TWI is limited by the number of ELL students in D65

          Can't have TWI unless you have (roughly) balanced numbers of Spanish and English speakers in each class.

        2. Agree on foreign language but not TWI

          Anon Al,

          You are right that all students in District 65 should have access to foreign language instruction beginning in kindergarten. Different languages stimulate different areas of the brain and Americans need to know how to communicate with others around the world.  Spanish, Mandarin, and French or Arabic offered. 

          But TWI would not be the approach for every school.  A little background will help explain why.

          TWI is designed for native Spanish speakers to acquire English at a high level that will help them succeed in school through high school and beyond. So for each classroom, you need at least 10 to12 native Spanish speakers whose parents have chosen TWI.  The classroom includes a roughly equal number of native English speakers. 

          TWI is a fabulous program (especially for native Spanish speakers) but it is not for everyone.  It's immersion beginning at age 5. Kindergarteners have at least 90 percent of their classroom instruction in Spanish. Again, fabulous if you like it but it is not going to be the best fit for every 5 year old. 

          I have encouraged the D65 School Board to offer foreign language instruction at every school.  Sadly, I gave up because I got blank stares every time. I am happy to try again if you will. 

          1. Good luck

            TheOriginalAnonymous1,

            I am quite aware how TWI works. It might not be for everyone but you know not everyone will have a chance to find out because only a small percentage of students are selected to enroll in the program.

            I applaud your efforts to get foreign languange curriculum for all D65 students. It is extremely important in a global economy. It's shocking that it hasnt' happened. But then, neither is the no brainer of consolidating both Evanston school districts, which will never happen because the status quo forces are too well-funded and politically connected. That's liberal Evanston, concerned more about "social justice" than sensible curriculum that benefits EVERY student. 

            I would gladly help with the cause of foreign language instruction but we are pulling our kids out of D65. Our energies will be focused elsewhere. We will be appreciated for what we do and believe in and we won't be judged based on our skin color or income. There won't be an expectation that we and our children will have to pay our "fair share." Our kids won't come home and wonder why some of their classmates got free festival tickets and so on. And the school of our choice OFFERS foreign language to ALL of its students.

            D65 and D202 seems more interested in "filling the gap" than educating ALL kids.  It appears to me the D65 system is laser focused on students of a particular income and race. That is why there is an African-American curriculm at Oakton and TWI, which I think initially was designed to attract and benefit Latino students. Although I think the opposite has happened.  I understand many Latino parents opt out because they understandably want to immerse their kids in English only instruction.

            ETHS has paid tens of thousands of dollars of our tax money to the Pacific Education Group, which holds seminars instructing teachers and administrators how ETHS must eliminate institutional racism. One of its disciples was just elected to the D202 school board. She wrote that she doesn't think she has "opportunity" in America because she's black yet she works in the New Trier school system, earning six figures. ETHS as we all know detracked freshmen honors because, as the D202 superintendent bellowed, "there's too many white students" in honor courses.

            We gone.

          2. Spanish speakers benefit from TWI

            When you asked why there wasn't TWI in every elementary school, I thought that that meant that you did not have knowledge of how TWI is structured and how it works.  Lincolnwood, for example, would not have enough native Spanish speakers to support TWI classrooms at K through 5.

            I disagree with the suggestion that native Spanish-speaking families are fleeing TWI.  It's not true.  On the contrary, the native Spanish speakers that I know are benefitted tremendously from TWI and are achieving at high to very high levels in middle school in all subjects (not just Spanish).

            I can relate to your comments about D65 and D202. For us, TWI and the music program are two highlights in an otherwise disappointing experience with D65. The year is coming to an end.  The end is Wednesday, June 12 if you can believe that.

            D65 could not figure out a way to get done with the school year by no later than the first week in June like virtually every other suburb and my frustration with all things D65 is very high.  I'll post my comments on our dismal experience with D65 in another post.

             

          3. Exceptionally brilliant music program

            I agree with the comment that TWI is not for everyone. I did not choose to pursue that route with my child, I strongly believe that was the best decision in our particular case. 

            As far as the music program in both Dist 65 and at ETHS, based solely on our experience in the traditional program in the Evanston schools, we have had an OUTSTANDING band experience. Please go to a high school concert, any one of them, and you will be surprised at the level of talent and quality of the performances. ALL Evanston kids have access to an exceptionally brilliant music program. Obviously, everyone's experience is unique but please know the amazing work and dedication our music teachers bring to the schools, it truly shows!!

          4. TWI is an awesome program

            Al-

              I agree with you about many of your points of concern about Evanston schools- especially your feelings about PEG. 

            HOwever, TWI is an amazing program.  I used to work in a TWI program in Highwood/HIghland Park.   BY law, when a school district has a certain % of speakers of one language, they are required to have a language specific English as a second language classroom. There are several ways to do this: 1. two way immersion (twi): both ENglish dominant and bilinguals taught together using the primary language for reading, and then the rest of the day is split (at least this is ideal)  2. transitional ESL class- biinguals only taught first in SPanish(or other language) with increasing amounts of English   3.  sheltered ESL-  only bilingual kids taught all in ENglish.

              Research in the field of bilingual education has proven that TWI is the best model for bilingual students.  It is also advantageous to monolinguals.    Is it fair that not all monolingual speakers can take advantage of this program?  As you say, what is fair? This model is best practice for bilinguals.

            If D69 is to go for excellence, and I believe they should, then sometimes not all kids get equal- in this particular case, it's the monolingual kids who won't get "equal" as there are simply not enough bilingual speakers to put everyone in a TWI program. On the otherhand, D69 could offer foreign language classes to all. WIlmette has spanish everyday, for example.

            By simliar sentiment, I agree that the elimination of the honors program is also not excellence.  In my mind, as kids go into 8th grade, the placement tests are only used as a guide. ANy kid who wants to sign up for straight honors will be allowed into the class(they may be already).  ETHS provides free tutoring to any kid, of any color, who needs it either during a study hall or as a supplemental before or after school class(I heard they do this in many cases already).  Kids who make a C grade or above can stay in straight honors, and those who do not move to mixed honors. 

            I send my own kids to Catholic school as I support character education using religious teachings as a framework,   but I absolutely support using my tax money for excellent public schools.  It is in everyone's interest for all children to have an excellent education.

              If you read this blog regularly, you might know that I am just about as conservative as they come when it comes to spending tax money.  However, education in all forms(libraries, job training, special education, regular ed, foreign language) would be the very last place that I would cut tax funds.  Investing in education is the best way to make our country better, at least in my opinion. The free market would only support excellence for education to those who can pay, and to me that's just un-AMerican.

               NOw, investing in bars and restaurants with tax money? Well… If anyone has found a way to drink themselves smarter on the tax money of others, then let me know how.  

             

             

                 

          5. The liberal social justice folks

            Having a TWI program in a school and offering a period of daily Spanish instruction is hardly the same thing.

            Al doesn't agree with you.  He's too concerned about the liberal folks in Evanston that are so concerned with social justice.  Only liberal social justice idiots would want everyone to have equal and fair access to an education.  So, don't go looking to him for any sympathy. 

          6. Just give ALL D65 students foreign language instruction!!!

            Hi Jen and TheOriginalAnonymous1,

            I agree with everything you say. TWI is a popular program that under its current constructs can not serve all elementary schools. I get that.

            I probably buried my main point in my rants. Here it is – I want my kids exposed to a foreign language at an early age and I think EVERY D65 student should have foreign language instruction from an early age when their minds are soaky sponges.  

            Keep TWI, even expand it if possible. But give ALL of our kids a foreign language curriculum. It should be priority No. 1.

            We are years into the D65 experience and hardly a peep about foreign language instruction. It's downright embarrasing. In that time, D65 gives us an ACC program that doesn't appear to be successful. It decided to transfer and mainstream the district's emotionally disabled (ED) students to overcrowded Lincolnwood in which a rookie principal says it's his priority to keep the ED students at Lincolnwood. PEG and detracking honor students at D202, school board members actively supporting an expensive new school when the district's finances are tight (and just wait when legislators stop state payments to school districts). And so on 

            D65 and D202 expound its energies and resources on programs to meet it's first priority – "fill the gap" – that benefit a select group of students as I outlined in my previous rant. As a consumer whose kids are not not in that group, I choose to take my business elsewhere. I hear a few other parents are doing the same.

            There are posts here that exemplify the mindset of those in control at D65 and D202 – some of us have more than our "fair share" and are expected to put up, pay up and shut up if we want something for our kids. Since we are the "1 percenters" we are expected to "be enlightened citizens" and advocate the school district's timeless focus on programs for a select group of kids even though it excludes our kids.

            This is the predominant culture at D65 and D202.  It's getting worse, in my opinion.    

            One more thing –  my kids WANT to go to another school!! We gave them a choice and we didn't have to sell it. 

          7. YEs-foreign language should be a priority

            Al-
              I am married to a European and speak SPanish and German, both of which have come in extremely handy both at my work in the public school system and in my life (aka my mother in law can't talk smack about me while I'm in the room 🙂

            I agree with you that foreign language should be a priority.    This is hardly an Evanston issue though.  Very few American public schools put foreign language instruction as a top priority or as a priority at all.

             I've sent my kids to Language Stars in WIlmette since they were one years old.  I recommend it highly if you would like your children to be learn more than the public education offers. I too wish that Evanston, and other American communities, would provide this through tax dollars, but I do not think the majority of people would want this. PUblic education is just this- public.  and democracy rules (at least in theory).

             

          8. Lack of adequate foreign language education at 65 is appalling

            Could someone clarify what foreign language is like at District 65?  I have young children who are not  yet old enough to attend so I have not had any experience yet, but my understanding is that you don't get classes until middle school and that you only take one foreign language.

            In continental Europe the norm is to take English beginning in the first grade and then continuing English and taking a second language through middle school.

            If the TWI program is all they have, that is just woefully inadequate.  

            I heard that they have some program called "African Centered Curriculum", but it does not appear to have any language component which is strange.  Arabic should be a requirement for this curriculum as it is the native language spoken by the most people on the continent.

            Instead of these niche programs, there should be mandatory Spanish (given its prominence in the US & globally) beginning in grade 1 and students should be given the option to take an additional language (Mandarin, French, or Arabic) beginning in Middle School.

  2. Are you the 1%?

    Anonymous Al:

    Some kids come to public schools needing more than others.  Specifically low income kids.  I thought that we all agreed that the best thing we,  as enlightened citizens,  could do for ALL of our kids is to support the children and their families who are in the greatest need.  To see if we could change things for these kids.  For their and our collective futures.

    This is not fair share, since some kids are born to a fairer share.  Public schools are supposed to change the odds for the most disadvantaged kids.

    1. What is ‘fair share’?

      AnonymousO:

      Fair share? What is that? 

      Is it when we pay more so you can pay less while you get more?

      A common denominator of low income families is single-parents. Most families have both parents working as we do. We work hard, make a lot of sacrifices for our kids and we give back by volunteering in our schools and community.

      Must my children have less educational opportunities because as you imply they have more than their fair share? It's not their fault. We didn't inherit wealth: we worked for it and we watch our expenses closely.  I came from a low income family and worked my way through college, paying about 95% of all my expenses. We are all free to make decisions, good or bad. If you don't like your position and place don't blame others or expect others to compensate for your perceived lack of fair share. Do something yourself to make it better.  

      Frankly, I don't like it when I read that many single parents decide to have children out of wedlock and the dads bolt. Should we all be responsible for those actions and carry the burden of their decisions, making sacrifices for them? Is that what "enlightened citizens" means to you?  

      How about taking your fair share of responsibility? Deadbeat dads, for example. Be men and marry the women of your children. 

      Life is not fair. And as you demonstrate, neither is your sense of entitlement.

      After all, based on your post, I don't think you have any interest in looking out for my kids or any kids on the north side, especially since you feel they "were born to a fairer share." I give you credit for not saying the buzz words, white privilege. 

      The first three words of D65's mission statement is "Educating each student…" There's nothing in there about "changing the odds."  

      Am I the 1%? Yes, in Evanston I feel there is only 1% who think the way I do. Evanston evidently doesn't have its "fair share" of conservatives. When it comes to politics, Evanston lacks in diversity. 

  3. Fairness

    All this talk about fairness and who should get what really bums me out.  66% of my real estate taxes (and yours) go to pay for the Districts 65 & 202 school systems.  After almost 30 years of paying these taxes and never sending any child to either system should I feel cheated?

    And if I had to guess, I'm probably not the only Evanston taxpayer who has never used either school system.

    Is that fair?

    1. Fairness?

      Really?  You don't use the school system?  So it would be all the same to you then if nobody around you got an education?  You would be just as well off if your friends, neighbours, local business owners, workers, etc. etc. didn't get an education?

      Education is a common good – that is, we all pay in because we all benefit from universal education and the same result could not be achieved if individuals with children in school had to pay for everything.

      I believe it's called "society".

      1. Childish bickering

        When I submitted my comments my subject was "Hey! Lets keep it down people."  I was trying to address all of this childish bickering about who got the bigger piece of pie.  I am not against public education and I dread to think of what any society would be like without it.

        I am not complaining about the unfairness of paying for something I haven't used.  In fact, there are many public services that I hope I never have to use.  It is just that if you read all of these comments you are seeing educated adults arguing like children!

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