Evanston Township High School administrators told the school board Monday night that summer school enrollment decreased this year.

In his report, Bill Farmer, director of summer school, said enrollment was 1,132 in 2018 compared to 1,315 in 2017 and 1,226 in 2016, and offered two reasons:

  • There has been a 20-30 percent drop in academic recovery courses, largely because fewer students failed classes during the school year.
  • The incoming 9th grade class was smaller than previous years, even though more than half of incoming freshmen took a summer school course.

Farmer said that many of the summer programs are designed to provide enrichment and support, particularly for incoming 9th graders.

Particularly successful is the Access ETHS course in which 169 incoming ninth graders learn how to access various supports and resources, participating in such activities as a scavenger hunt to help them learn to find their way around the campus. Other courses help incoming freshman prepare for English and math classes.

Reading and Math in the Social Context is an invitation-only class for incoming freshmen that combines reading, math and enrichment and is designed to improve reading and math proficiency. Farmer noted that 29 students were enrolled in the 26-day, 2-credit course and all students raised their scores.

Board member Jude Laude asked if there would be a “deeper dive” into the lower attendance rates in the recovery classes, concerned that fewer students might not complete graduation requirements.

Farmer said that the number of students who are failing has decreased, which means fewer students need to make up credits.

Jonathan Baum.

Looking at demographic data, board member Jonathan Baum noted that the number of white students enrolled in Access ETHS is three times that of black students, which is not reflective of the overall population.

“There is an equity concern here that, for whatever reason, not all students are getting the value of that experience going into ETHS,” Baum said. “I wonder to what extent we are involving District 65 to encourage 8th graders to attend Access ETHS and other courses for incoming freshmen.”

Farmer said that ETHS tries to make sure that all students have access to these courses.

“One of the driving challenges is that summer school does have a cost,” he said. “Even a reduced fee for those who qualify for free or reduced lunch can be limiting.”

“For some programs we try to waive all fees if possible,” he added, or perhaps need to add more scholarships. “In communication with principals of the middle schools we always talk up the importance of summer school,” he said.

“Some parents are confused,” Farmer explained, and assume summer school is automatic. “If they’re new to the district they don’t realize they have to register kids for the summer programs.”

He said that registration for summer programs opens right after freshman registration and parents receive email encouraging them to get their kids in the summer programs.

Baum encouraged ETHS to engage District 65 teachers in identifying the students who would benefit from the reading and math prep courses.

Farmer noted that initially over 200 students were invited into the Reading and Math in the Social Context course, which is 100 percent free. After MAP testing, the school followed up with students who would particularly benefit from the course.

Board member Mark Metz suggested mining the data to determine if there’s a correlation between kids who take the prep courses and their performance in 9th grade, which would help encourage parents to enroll their children.

Farmer noted that the names of the courses and the curriculum could be made more enticing. For example, he said, instead of “Prep for Humanities” there could be a summer creative writing course.

Laude expressed a desire for increasing enrollment for upperclassmen who don’t go on to post-secondary education into courses for students looking for the shortest path to a career.

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