Despite the fact that students are bused to various schools throughout the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 to provide diversity among the student body, there are still wide variances in student scores among the schools, according to data released by the district this week.
Nearly three out of four students at Orrington Elementary School in northeast Evanston, for example, meet college readiness benchmarks in math and reading, while fewer than half the students at Oakton Elementary in south Evanston do so.
At the three middle schools, Haven and Nichols are close, but Chute is lagging behind. In math, 64.7 percent meet the benchmark at Haven, compared with 56.8 percent at Nichols, but only 38.6 percent reach that high at Chute.
And in reading, the percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks is 66.9 percent at Haven, 65.5 percent at Nichols, and 48.8 percent at Chute.
The scores are closer at the two magnet schools, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., School of Literary and Fine Arts, and the Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies, where students are accepted from throughout the district, no matter where they happen to live.
The percentage of students meeting the benchmarks at King Arts is 49.7 in math and 56.5 in reading, compared with 59.9 in math and 61.3 in reading at Bessie Rhodes.
In math, the 10 elementary schools rank in this order: Orrington, 74.7; Willard, 69.0; Lincolnwood, 62.8; Dewey, 61.3; Washington, 61.1; Kingsley, 59.4; Lincoln, 58.0; Dawes, 49.7; Walker, 45.6; and Oakton, 39.7.
In reading, they rank in this order: Orrington, 73.7; Kingsley, 71.4; Lincoln, 71.0; Willard, 70.8; Lincolnwood, 70.6; Dewey, 69.2; Washington, 62.6; Walker, 52.1; Dawes, 48.9; and Oakton, 46.6.
While the 2016 Achievement & Accountability Report was the subject of considerable discussion by the board at its regular meeting on Monday, most of the concern was directed at the disparity in scores among different racial groups, more commonly referred to as “the gap.”
While 56.1 percent of all students meet the benchmarks in math and 62 percent in reading, there are—and always have been—considerable differences among students when broken out by race and ethnicity.
In math, the percentages were 79.5 percent for white students, 69.9 for Asian, 62.2 for multi-racial, 34.5 for Hispanic, and 23.5 for black.
In reading, the percentages were 84.9 percent for white students, 70.9 for Asian, 67.1 for multi-racial, 38.5 for Hispanic, and 33.2 for black.
On the positive side, the percent of students making expected gains between 2015 and 2016 increased in both mathematics (4.0 percentage points) and reading (4.8 percentage points). These are gains that took place since the present administrative team, led by Superintendent Paul Goren, took charge.
A greater percentage of students made expected gains in mathematics (51.9 percent) than in reading (42.8 percent).
While board members were heartened by the progress made in the last year, they made it clear that they are expecting further gains in the years ahead, particularly in reducing the gap among racial and ethnic groups.
One of the newer members of the board, Anya Tanyavutti, said “I know it’s important for us to celebrate gains—to celebrate progress—but these numbers are still jarring and they’re still really difficult to accept.”
Suni Kartha agreed, saying that “these numbers are still not good for our black and brown students…These numbers are not acceptable.”
Assistant Superintendent John Price cautioned the board that the report is a “blunt instrument” and that the board needs “a sense of patience for the right strategies that are going to take time to work well.”
The complete report is available on the district’s website.