The Evanston Township High School District 202 Board heard good news Monday night about student  achievement, but most members expressed dismay that the gap between white and black students’ scores stayed about the same.

The good news:  ETHS seniors registered the highest ACT composite score in history, with Black, Latino, and White students outscoring their state and national counterparts on the ACT composite

More good news: The percentage of juniors and seniors taking at least one AP exam is at an all?time high with 60 percent of juniors and seniors taking at least one AP exam. In 2012?13, there were 1,293 exams with scores of “3” or higher and 843 exams with scores of “4” or higher. This is the highest number of exams with scores of “3,” “4,” or “5” in ETHS history.

Wait, there’s more:  The average PLAN composite score of 20.6 was the highest in ETHS history. Average composite scores for Black, Latino, and White students were also at their highest in history.

So why weren’t board members exuding delight over the scores?

Because the “gap” in scores between white students and black students had failed to narrow. In the preceding year, the gap was 9.6 points. Last year, the gap was still 9.6.

Actually black students at ETHS scored a point higher than the Illinois average—17.8 vs. 16.8. But white students performed much better than the state average—27.4 vs. 22.3. And the ETHS class as a whole scored 23.2 vs. 20.6 for the state.

After discussing the scores, Assistant Superintendent and Principal Marcus Campbell energized the board with an announcement that something “big, bold, and aggressive” was in the works that had the potential to be “a game-changer” in the board’s quixotic quest for narrowing the gap.

Superintendent Eric Witherspoon expanded upon Campbell’s pronouncement by saying that the changes being contemplated were likely to involve the entire Evanston community “and should be rolling out in the next few months.”

Board member Bill Geiger, who heads the McGaw YMCA, struck an optimistic tone and noted that when the whole community focuses its resources on a problem, “we can move the needle.”

And member Scott Rochelle added that “we can do only so much in the building, but we can be such a resource outside the building as well” in order to help students “overcome the things that are real life challenges to them.”

Member Doug Holt recommended that the board and administration be on the lookout for success models in other communities.

Past Board President Mark Metz said he is looking forward to hearing the recommendations, for “you just can’t dodge the devastation that you see in those numbers” and “we have to accept responsibility for the outcome.”

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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