The District 202 school board unanimously approved a resolution promoting change in the federal No Child Left Behind legislation as Evanston Township High School faces restructuring under the law.

The District 202 school board unanimously approved a resolution promoting change in the federal No Child Left Behind legislation as Evanston Township High School faces restructuring under the law.

To initiate change, the school board created a resolution that outlines ways NCLB can become a stronger piece of legislation.  The resolution will be forwarded to the Illinois congressional delegation among others as they consider the reauthorization of the NCLB act, which chould affect schools like ETHS.
Because ETHS has fallen below federally-defined Adequate Yearly Progress standards five years in a row, the school may be forced to reopen as a public charter school, replace all or most of its staff, enter into a contract with a private management company, or implement another restructuring program with fundamental reforms.
“Basically what we want to let them know is that we have some concerns and we want them to know what our concerns are should it matter to those who are redrafting or reauthorizing,” said board member Mary Wilkerson.

The board states in its resolution that the government and the state have not provided “adequate supports” to carrry out the law.  Specifically, they have failed to reward schools for growth and improvement, they have failed to align the assessment tests in elementary, middle and high schools so that standards of proficiency are consistent across the board , and they have failed to show how the restructuring options will enable a school to meet AYP.
With the reauthorization of NCLB coming up, the board wants Congress to consider creating a growth model that would reward schools for student progress, establish high proficiency standards and set a reasonable timeline for schools to achieve those targets, provide adquate funding at the federal and state levels to address the effects of poverty on academic performance, and to invest in a nationwide literacy program.
“I think it’s compelling and concise,” said board member Missy Fleming. 
The resolution is being sent to Representative Jan Schakowsky, state representatives Beth Coulson and Julie Hamos, and State Senator Jeff Schoenberg as well as members of the Illinois U.S. Congressional delegation, the governor, the members of the Illinois General Assemby, local public officals, and the Illinois state superintendent. 
Attached to the resolution is the board’s position paper which explains its concerns in depth and the changes the board would like to see in the future.

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  1. Something needed at ETHS
    Something really needs to be done over at ETHS. I remember not to long ago ETHS was considered to be one of the best in Illinois. Now many schools on the North Shore like New Trier and Highland Park beat out ETHS at everything. New Trier has made much more progress in the past few years. New Trier had fallen behind Stevenson in Lincolnshire but has managed to move to the 4th spot ahead of Stevenson once again. While Evanston was placed at a disappointing 32nd spot. Many will say 32nd in the state is not bad, you have to think about the schools in the surrounding area. Every single school on the North Shore excluding Niles North and Niles West, Evanston places last. Schools in counties like Tazewell are outdoing ETHS. Maybe it will be good for ETHS to reconstruct itself as a public charter school, maybe we will learn our lesson. There are good things about ETHS also. But the most important thing we must consider are our property values and our childrens education. Evanston is a far nicer community than Highland Park, Winnetka, and Wilmette but in my opinion we have made those towns even more exclusive and raised their property values because we are not concerned about our schools and the way we develop our neighborhoods. No one needs to develop the downtown it is already over developed. Did we ever forget about all the people living in poverty in west Evanston. We need to redevelop that area and bring in a more educated, high-end population like Wilmette does every day. It is time to live up to the North Shore standard.

  2. ETHS isn’t the problem
    It is unfair to look at NCLB rankings and put the blame on ETHS for “failing.” Do we really want to believe that kids come into the high school as 8th grade successes and then fail on exams when they are juniors? No, we’re comparing apples and oranges. if you want to place blame, look to District 65. While touting their success on ISATs they have allowed themselves to be satisfied with just getting students to meet standards, and have failed to acknowledge just how low those standards are and how they fail to meet the standards required by the PSAE.

    Read this story in the last issue of the Evanston Roundtable and get educated on the issue.

  3. Holding ETHS accountable to the community
    I’ve noticed so many letters to the editor of the Roundtable and The Review recently, decrying the problems with the “No Child Left Behind” law, that has resulted in ETHS being deemed a “failing school.” What I haven’t noticed much comment about is the failings of the high school to meet the needs of its students. Yes, there are problems with NCLB, no doubt about it. Yes, Evanston is a diverse community with problems of poverty, lack of family involvement, etc etc.
    However, our former superintendent, Allan Alson, made a national name for himself creating the Close the Gap National Network to bring educators from schools and communities around the country together to strategize ways to support minority student achievement. Now he’s working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I hope he will be more successful there than he was at our own ETHS, because I don’t see many positive results from the many years of all the goals for school improvement at the high school being focused on improving the performance of the lowest end students at the high school, most of whom, in our community, are minority.
    The Gap has not closed, has not even narrowed much, yet parents in the community are complaining about the federal law and not demanding to know where all the money we are paying to this high school is going! I find this very puzzling…Niles Township High Schools spend much, much less per pupil than ETHS, as do all but two high schools in the state, yet Niles has the best arts program in the nation! We did not even have a major winter school play last year because of budget cuts!
    If you want to understand better why ETHS is “failing,” please look beyond simply our demographics. There are inner city schools in NY City that are succeeding with much less money than ETHS has, inspiring students to meet standards and go on to higher education, through personalized, innovative, visionary programs led by highly trained, highly motivated teachers. Why can’t we do this at ETHS, which back in the 60’s was named by Newsweek as one of the best high schools in the country?
    The reasons are many, but some of them have to do with the business and management practices at this high school. Why, for example, was it possible for a recently retired assistant superintendent to have so many close relatives working at the high school? Is there no nepotism policy at ETHS? When well-connected community members are able to bring in their friends and relatives simply because of their personal connections, quality often suffers. Take a close look at practices that have been going on at ETHS for years, and you will see some serious problems, and many opportunities missed. Why isn’t anyone demanding better oversight and better leadership from the school board and superintendent(s)?

    As for criticizing NCLB, I would suggest that people living in glass houses shouldn’t really be throwing stones…a good housecleaning may be in order first.

    Nancy Bruski

    1. ETHS and NCLB
      Ms. Bruski makes some interesting points. Money is obviously not the answer. NCLB has its warts, but remember it was a political compromise with the educational oligopoly opposed to it. One thing it has done is to attempt some quantitative measure of performance. It isn’t perfect, and states have watered the testing down, and many teach to the test, but it is what we have and it is better than not having anything.

      NCLB has made us see the problem as a glaring one, and districts should try to learn from districts or schools that have had some success. That is not easy, because there are entrenched interests that oppose some of the solutions. What we need is strong competition. Look at industries that have faced strong competition, they either improve or wither away. The pay phone is disappearing because cell phones are replacing them.

      I am a firm believer that the tax dollars for educating our children belong to the child and not to the educational oligopoly. Vouchers would be an excellent way to challenge the status quo, where the answer is always more money. Try it, and if it doesn’t work we will know that it doesn’t work.

      We know that what we have does not work.

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