Only two Evanston/Skokie District 65 schools received “exemplary” overall rankings in statewide report card data released Thursday, compared to four in 2020 and six in 2018.

All but one of the rest were in the second tier, called “commendable” by the state, except Haven Middle School, which fell from “commendable” to “targeted.”

The state says an “exemplary” school is in the top 10% of schools statewide and has no underperforming student groups.

A “commendable” school isn’t in the top 10% but has no underperforming student groups and, for high schools, a graduation rate greater than 67%.

A “targeted” school has one or more student groups performing at or below the level of the all students group in the lowest performing 5% of schools.

Haven, the state says, has both low income and black students in that low performing category.

None of District 65’s schools are in the lowest state category — “comprehensive” — which indicates a school in the lowest-performing 5% of Illinois schools as well as any high school with a graduation rate of 67% or less.

How each District 65 school has scored since 2018. Because of the pandemic, scores were not calculated for 2021.

Evanston Township High School has been rated “commendable” each year since 2018.

The ISBE says the new rankings may not be directly comparable to prior years because it amended the accountability system to account for the pandemic’s impact on school performance metrics.

District 65 Offices at JEH Education Center.

District 65 test scores improved last year, with 40.5% of students meeting or exceeding standards in English, compared to 34.6% in 2020. But that was down from 43.8% in 2019.

Trends in math scores were similar.

Statewide just 30.1% of students met or exceeded standards in English last year, compared to 30.2% in 2020 and 37.8% in 2019.

ETHS campus.

ETHS 11th graders out-performed their statewide counterparts on the SAT in 2022 with 49% of ETHS students above statewide standards in English and 42% math. But that’s a drop from pre-pandemic results of 52% and 50%.

For both districts, the racial and ethnic achievement gap continues to be a huge issue.

In 2022, White students in both District 65 and District 202 scored anywhere from 52% to 72% at or above grade-level proficiency in either English or math.

For Black students, the range was 11% to 17%, and for Hispanic students, it was 21% to 27%.

State officials are emphasizing the positive, focusing on growth from 2021 to 2022, rather than the gap between 2019 and 2022.

State Superintendent Carmen Ayala said the growth results show that “we are absolutely on the right track.”

She said the statewide 20% drop in 2022 vs. 2019 proficiency was in line with nationwide COVID-related trends, but, “We can expect more growth over the next couple of years” as programs aimed at catching kids up from the pandemic catch on.

Evanston Now has requests in to both local districts for comment.

District 202 says the results will be discussed at a Board of Education meeting on Nov. 14. We anticipate hearing from District 65 in the near future.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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