Evanston Township High School Superintendent Eric Witherspoon told an Evanston Rotary club Tuesday that the school he manages “is the finest high school in America.”

Acknowledging that he may be prejudiced, Witherspoon backed up his claim in a presentation before the Rotary Club of Evanston Lighthouse by noting that the two major organizations that rank high schools nationally—U. S. News & World Report and the Washington Post newspaper—consistently rank the local institution in the top 2 percent of high schools in the nation.

While they rank ETHS among the top 10 schools in Illinois, he said, when one considers the diversity of students at ETHS, “we’re No. 1.”

He noted that the summer break is particularly hard on students from low-income families, who typically fall behind in the summer while their peers from higher income families benefit by traveling worldwide with their families or enroll in high-priced summer camps.

At ETHS, he said, nearly half the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, which is the universally recognized measure of family income.

A great deal of board and administrative attention is spent on boosting the educational outcome of these low-income students, he said.

As a result, the dropout rate currently is the lowest in the school’s history, and the scores on the ACT exam are the highest, as is the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses.

As for diversity, he noted that the student body speaks 57 different first languages in their families, and a group of 10 representative students would include four white, three black, two Hispanic, and one Asian or native American student.

ETHS is a major partner in the communitywide “Cradle to Career” initiative, he said, which is currently focused on improving literacy among Evanston’s young people.

The school has also made great strides in improving its STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) labs, he said, “and our advanced manufacturing lab would knock your socks off.”

Witherspoon concluded that ETHS “is a model for what a high school in America could be.”

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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  1. And then he woke up from his dream

    Indeed, everyone in Evanston would like to think that ETHS is the "finest high school in America" but it's not reality, at least today. There are many great things happening at ETHS, but many challenges remain, and to claim that we're the greatest sounds somewhat "Trumpian" to me. 

    For example, there is concern in the community about the change of a program for Special Education students and the lack of communication with parents/guardians and the poorly implemented roll out of Chromebooks to seniors this year. Last year concluded with locker room thefts from the boys locker room and this has been going on for years and years, even with the current Superintendent's knowledge. Further curriculum alignment between D65 & D202 needs improvement, especially with Languages and English. Progess has been made, but more needs to be done.

    Let's celebrate the successess at ETHS, and work on areas that need improvement.

    A little humbleness will go a long way.


    1. Fine, indeed
      Mr. Paine appears to confuse “finest” with “perfect.” ETHS has its issues, to be sure, but I know of no other school that doesn’t. As a parent of current ETHS students (all products of D65), I have to say I’m pretty darn pleased with the education they are receiving, as well as the cultural experience of a big, diverse public school.

      I suppose I theoretically have the means to move north and send them to New Trier (my alma mater) or Stevenson, or shell out $15,000+ per year for a private school. But I don’t take that option, because I think my children can compete academically with the students at those other schools, and they are more kind and empathetic and worldly than many students at those other schools. Those schools aren’t “finer,” they’re just whiter and richer, honestly. And raising a smart kid in a bubble is not what I want, especially when I have a place to raise a smart kid with windows to the world he/she will inhabit as an adult.

      Keep it up, Dr. Witherspoon, and I agree with your sentiment . And let’s all give it up for the Wildkits, as it is each and every one of them who make ETHS what it is.

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