The achievement gap between whites and non-whites at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 was top of mind at the last School Board meeting of the year.
Superintendent Paul Goren reflected on the district’s efforts on racial equity Monday night. He said the district has been focusing on this for almost two years, and progress is being made.
“How do we give opportunities for all children and especially our children of color to succeed at the highest level here in the district? We’re focused on changing the racial predictability of performance,” Goren said.
Part of the solution, he says, is hiring more black educators. In the past three years, out of 8 principals hired, 6 are Black and 15 percent of new teacher hires this year are black, compared to just 5 percent two years ago.
He acknowledged there is much work still to do.
Terri Shepard, a long time critic of the district’s efforts at providing an equitable education for African American students, spoke out at the meeting.
“The lack of African American achievement, it’s hurtful to have to address the board over and over and over again, year after year,” Shepard said, added she is hopeful that after twenty plus years that something is truly going to get done.
The non-profit Foundation 65, which supports literacy and art projects in the district, reported that a $230,000 grant supporting a three-year program that focuses on K-3 literacy skills called REACH (Roots of Evanston Achievement) is showing some early success.
Lise Jinno and Diane Lequar
Foundation 65 Executive Director Lise Jinno and Board President Diane Lequar say already in the first year progress has been made. They report more kindergarteners and first grade students have met the pre-literacy benchmarks this year. Kindergarten readiness among black students rose from 64.1 percent to 75.9 percent.
They praised the efforts of more than 20 volunteers and educators who are working together to improve pre-literacy skills.
The District’s winter break begins Friday. Schools will be closed until Jan. 8.