Evanston Township High School has rewritten course descriptions for some math classes that had specified the sections were restricted by race.

The rewrite came after conservative media sites late last week seized on course descriptions indicating certain sections of Precalculus and Advanced Placement Calculus classes were restricted either to students who “identify as Black” or who “identify as Latinx.”

Screenshots of course listings as captured on Friday, April 30 by conservative activist Dan Proft.

Chicago area talk show host Dan Proft posted the course descriptions to Twitter and wrote “Neo-segregation is the absurdity of identitarianism taken to its logical end.”

After the controversy spread to other conservative media, the high school rewrote the course descriptions, so that here’s how they read on Tuesday:

The updated calculus course descriptions.

The course descriptions now specify that the sections are open to all students, but “are intended to support students” who identify as being members of one or the other of the targeted groups.

In response to an email about the issue from Evanston Now, the ETHS Communications Office on Tuesday said the school has never had a process that restricts students from taking AP classes based on race and that the school has “dramatically increased” access to AP classes for all students over the past decade.

The message says the language in the course request guide “has been updated to accurately reflect our goal and practice.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. “the school has never had a process that restricts students from taking AP classes based on race”…..

    “This course code is restricted to students who identify as black”

    Nice ETHS – keep fighting racism with more racism.

  2. I am interested to hear from black parents on this. If your kid was good at math and was signing up for AP Calculus, what questions would you have to help you choose between the regular calculus and calculus for black students?

    I would want to know if they took the same exams regardless of what section they sign up for. My understanding is that different sections of AP Calc take the same exams.

    Do you see advantages from having a separate section for black students?

  3. Someone actually thought this was a good idea? For real? They should be let go. Would love for someone from ETHS to explain the rational, but I know better. They won’t. This kind of stuff happens when you hire individuals with the same thoughts, beliefs and convictions. Instead of challenging their thinking, doing some research, hiring people, or at minimum seeking advice from people with different perspectives who may not think this is a great idea…they do this. Perpetuating racism. Highlighting the differences in us, instead of treating everyone as humans and providing them with the same opportunities to achieve. That’s equity. This is not.
    It’s also the antithesis of progressive.

    1. From your passage: “treating everyone as humans and providing them with the same opportunities to achieve. That’s equity.” Actually, that is “equality,” and NOT “equity.” Both school boards have been very clear that they’re looking to have policies driven by equity principles, NOT by equality principles. This means giving MORE resources/opportunities/support to those groups from disadvantaged backgrounds, not the same. As part of the PTA Equity Program, for instance, money is given in larger amounts to schools that have a larger percentage of students with free/reduced lunch. If a school has fewer students meeting those thresholds, they get less money even if their parents had donated the most to the PTA. This is by design, and is a “feature” and not a “bug.”

      This distinction is part of the BLM curriculum starting in Kindergarten where a graphic shows people of different heights reaching for an apple in a tree. “Equality” shows everyone getting the same sized stool, “equity” shows the shortest person getting the tallest ladder so that everyone can reach the apple at the same height.

      One could have reasonable arguments in favor of “equality” or “equity” and I’m not necessarily arguing for one over the other. But there is a very important distinction between the two and Evanston School Boards are extremely clear that they’re looking for equity, and NOT equality. If you read the ETHS facilities reports and how they prioritize facility improvements, they analyze what percentage of Black and Latinx students use a certain facility as part of the “equity” score in determining how high of a priority the project should be. That’s certainly not the only component driving prioritization, but is a consideration in the evaluation process.

      1. Good distinction – I think many still don’t fully understand it. Equity is trying to make the outcomes less predictable by race, gender, class, etc.

        One of the primary reasons for it is historical injustices that have built gaps over time. A focus on an “equity mission” seeks to close those gaps, which at face value seems like a good thing to do. Where I tend to take issue with it is when more measures are being taken to bring the top down instead of the bottom up. So as long as there isn’t LESS access to AP calculus for non black/latinx kids as a result of this, it doesn’t seem like a big issue.

        The wording in the new description is pretty awkward though. “if the other AP calc class is full and you’re not black/latinx, I GUESS you can come in here”

      2. I wonder if the PTA “equity” project has depressed donations to the pta. I used to give money to our school’s pta until they developed this system and I realized the money wasn’t going to help my kid’s teachers.

        Instead we have developed some in-kind workarounds so our donations are going to our kids schools. But no more money to the pta.

  4. You’ve got to hand it to ETHS. With one fell swoop, they get rid of Brown v. Board of Education and take us back to Plessy v Ferguson. “Progressives” actually regressive.

  5. Agreed, mostly I find them repugnant but who is else will speak up? Evanstonians are naïve, easily silenced, and live in fear of engaging in reasonable debate so they are not accused of racism and defamed in the community. This most recent school board election had even more abysmal turnout than the previous one. Nobody is paying attention, nobody cares, nobody is coming to the rescue of Evanston public schools.

  6. When I first read the headline I thought that this must be an internet hoax. But unfortunately this seems not to be the case. So the question I have is this – Why in the 21st century, in a town the claims to be progressive, does the local high school want to have racially separate classes for teaching AP math. Why shouldn’t the Black, Latinx, and White students all be in the same class? Isn’t this preferable? The public deserves an answer to this question.

    1. Maybe because there are only 1-3 Black/Brown students per AP class. Not to mention no AP math teachers that are Black/Brown. It boils down to being comfortable and feeling included in the class.

  7. Totally agree that this first appeared to be fake news. The rewritten course description is almost as idiotic as the original.

    It is no wonder young families from Chicago and beyond are skipping Evanston and favoring Wilmette and other cities further north.

  8. What have we come to when our officials, elected and reporting directly to elected, think it is acceptable to discriminate based on skin color or ethnicity? When I read things like this I’m ashamed to be an Evanstonian.

  9. The AP exam is the AP exam. So it’s not like there’ll be different lessons. I think it probably is an *attempt* to make non-Asian POC students feel like they’re not ‘the minority’ in a section because of (I’m guessing) low academic expectations. The same reason there’s sometimes girls-only STEM clubs and classes, which I also thought was stupid, but… as a female engineering student in college, it was hard to not have any other girls in class, especially when it was constantly pointed out that I was a rare unicorn woman who could do basic circuit diagrams.

    IDK if this measure is helpful or not. I guess time will tell. And if this experiment must be done, it’s good that the test case is math – there ARE right answers, and test scores will be the proof. If it does help, great. We’ve learned something. But it doesn’t seem like it should be a long-term thing, but treated as a temporary lab test. Race has nothing to do with being good at math, that is eye-rolling ridiculous, but having voluntarily segregated classes may promote that toxic idea.

    1. Katherine, I think your guess is probably accurate – ETHS is trying to increase the number of Black and Latino kids taking advanced math. But how is it that ETHS doesn’t know that it’s ILLEGAL for government actors to treat people differently on the basis of race?! Glad that they changed course quickly.

    2. That is an interesting viewpoint. This contravenes Brown v. Board of Education. Perhaps the voluntary nature of it provides an exception. Everyone is still going to have to take the same AP exam in May so the passage numbers will shed light on whether it was successful.

      I remember practicing law and meeting many Howard Law school graduates in the 90’s. They uniformly talked about how difficult and strict the training was. They had to stand up in class and be grilled in front everyone (a practice that has largely disappeared) and the grading system was very difficult. They said the intense training was justified because they had to be better prepared than white lawyers because they were going to have to deal with lower expectations. They were amazing lawyers who could take on any case or adversary.

      Upon reflection, I’m not opposed to this idea but I am interested to see what the rationale is of placing students in these separate classes, the drop out rate, who will teach it, and the outcome of mastery of material which is based on the results of the spring AP exam.

  10. This is what we get when people don’t vote. This is what we get when our community is not engaged.

    17% voter turnout when our children’s future is at stake. We can’t change the past, but we certainly need to learn from this. This school board allowed this blatant attempt at segregation to happen–to the detriment of our students and their future. Will anyone remember this the next time there is a school board election?

    Our society is a multi-culture society. Students need to learn in a multi-cultural environment that challenges each student in a particular class to the best of their ability.

    1. I think it is not that we don’t care. We do care, but we are scared by violence, and being labeled as racist, too. ETHS and DS 65 are making fool of its residents.

  11. I went to Evanston Township and this doesn’t surprise me at all. One of the biggest problems at ETHS is they base everything on race and try to make white people be ashamed of who they are which is wrong regardless of what happened in the past. Many people are scared to express their own opinions because they’re met with aggression. The idea of getting more black and latino students in advanced math is admirable but its how they went about it like cmon you guys taught me about Brown V Board and now you’re being hypocritical and backtracking. I guess it can be expected from the ignorant that run the scene.

  12. This is so unfortunate. I went to District 65 and ETHS at a time when you could get a really good education in Evanston if you applied yourself. I took 8th grade algebra which is not even being taught anymore because of equity concerns. Now I am considering moving to Wilmette to give my children the kind of rigorous education I received. It’s so sad that political concerns and DEI are taking precedent over academics. I don’t want my kids mired in this kind of divisive politics- I want them to know that if they apply themselves and immerse themselves in learning, it will be recognized and lead to substantive achievement. Academic excellence, not social engineering, should be the point of school.

  13. As a Hispanic-identifying parent of an ETHS student, I received the email invite in March to register for ETHS GANAS 2 Algebra for my son. As my son has a minor learning disability, I did initially consider registering for this class, in the hope it would help him. My questions as a parent consumer are: is the class going to be limited to a smaller class size for more individual ineraction? Would they be given a top ETHS math teacher (vs. just a random ETHS math teacher who happens to be Hispanic)? Would they be able to keep the same pace as a regular class? If the answer is yes to the above I would be interested, however I would feel some guilt to taking such class advantages, as the disadvantage my son has is that he happens to have a minor learning disability, not that he is Hispanic (he is 3rd generation). Ultimately I ended up not signing him up for the GANAS class due to concern over whether the pace would be kept to the same level as the standard class, although I might reconsider for the AP Calc later on.

    I have got to say though, that one of the big advantages of ETHS for it’s economically underpriviledged students is the fact that they are largely integrated into classes with upper income students and are able to gain the ability to speak English in a similar manner as the upper income kids (if/when they so choose). This is a huge advantage if they will ever be seeking customer-facing employment, because the cush/premium unskilled jobs, like working the counter at Hewn bakery or even Starbucks usually TACITLY requires good speaking skills to be hired (classism), not to mention the requirements of an unskilled career job such as a customer service rep., where middle-class English diction is one of the main skills TACITLY screened for. Based on the experience of my older family members as well as what I have seen elsewhere, integration works, so I am very concerned about the current trend for self-segregation. Top performing Black students self-segregating by attending Howard University is a very different situation than segragtion of K-12 students in a non-selective enrollment environment where they are surrounded by many other economically disadvantaged youth. Integration can greatly help the economically disadvantaged get the social skills to overcome classism, which I would argue is a critical dimension of the racism that exists in 2023.

    By the way, what ever happened to all the talk of how we all benefit from diversity in school, work, etc.? Is that no longer considered a valid statement?

    1. As a non white ETHS graduate (but not Black or Hispanic), you’ve captured my sentiments very well. Race is a relevant factor of identity, but hardly the only one and it’s easy for a lot of outwardly progressive Evanstonians to engage in identity politics rather than considering factors like class that might be more tangible. While Evanston obviously isn’t perfect, I can name countless cases of how proximity to those of other identities and greater privileges have benefitted the less privileged of my Evanston peers – and their outlooks have therefore been much brighter than, say, underprivileged kids from Chicago. But the direction ETHS is heading in defeats the whole purpose of having a school where all three large demographic groups in Chicagoland attend together.

  14. I’m so old, I remember when one rationale for ETHS “earned honors” programming was that students felt profoundly demeaned when classes segregated after the bell with whites disproportionately going into honors classes.

    That was so very 2010.

    Now, racial segregation is important for achievement. We’ll see how that works.

    The stupidest part of this is separating out LatinX and Black. So, now there’s a three-tiered classification. Jump ahead a couple years to Dan Proft or some other right winger pressing a FOIA on test results.

    No good outcomes to this narrow and backward thinking.

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