Freshmen who hope to earn “honors” credit in Humanities next year at Evanston Township High School would have to demonstrate superior achievement during the semester in order to get it, under an administration proposal to be considered by the District 202 school board Monday night.

Freshmen who hope to earn “honors” credit in Humanities next year at Evanston Township High School would have to demonstrate superior achievement during the semester in order to get it, under an administration proposal to be considered by the District 202 school board Monday night.

No longer would freshmen be able to enroll in a straight-honors class based upon their scores on a standardized test given while they were still in middle school.

The objective, outlined in the proposal to be reviewed by the board, is to increase the achievement of all students and to point the way for high achievers to qualify for honors and advance placement courses in their sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Under the current model, the administration notes, many non-white students are excluded from pathways to honors and AP classes before they even step foot into the high school.

If the administration proposal is adopted, all freshmen next fall would take either 1 Humanities or 1 Humanities with Support, the latter being designed for students who need more attention in order to be able to read high school-level texts and materials. Humanities is an inter-disciplinary course that combines English and history. The same approach would be taken the following year with freshman biology.

“Our top students will benefit,” according to the proposal, “because there will be more consistency in holding our classes to very high standards, and all students in 1 Humanities will benefit from being in highly rigorous classes. Moreover, all students at ETHS will benefit from our school having higher overall student achievement, and that will even increase the ranking of ETHS.”

Classes that contain both regular and honors students have existed at the school for some time, with honors students being required to do more work, such as an additional paper, a longer paper, or additional readings, but the requirements have been somewhat different than those experienced by students in the straight-honors classes. The new arrangement is designed to eliminate such discrepancies by requiring all students to meet the same high standards for receiving honors credit.

The proposal is expected to meet resistance from some parents who fear that by putting all students in the same class, there will be a tendency for teachers to exert extra effort with the lower-achieving students, thereby “dumbing down” the curriculum for the better students.

The administration contends, however, that “by challenging more students with rigorous classes and providing a strong system of supports to ensure their mastery, ETHS can increase the achievement of every student,” noting that the course would be closely aligned with standards developed for the nationally recognized International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs.

An indication that the administration might need some extra time to convince parents, teachers, and board members of the proposal’s merits is that time has been set aside for discussion at the next four Board meetings, set for Nov. 8, 22, and 29 and Dec. 13. The board meets at 7:30 p.m. in Room N-112 at the high school at 1600 Dodge Ave. 

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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  1. So, are they also thinking of

    So, are they also thinking of "de-tracking" sports too? Would the basketball team be ALL JV level?

  2. ETHS is dumbing down education, pure and simple

    This is absolutely ABSURD!

    Humanities with support? What kind of support? Tutors?

    ETHS spends $20,000 per student and now it is basically eliminating the status of the honors program – an achievement accomplished  by  hard-working academically competent and intelligent students. 

    What Witherspoon and ETHS administrators forget that in the real world there IS COMPETITION!! There are winners and losers and sometimes the losers after hard work and dogged perserverance become winners.

    I would love for Witherspoon or anyone else try and explain how is that "non-white students are excluded from pathways to honors and AP classes before they even step foot into the high school." Is there racial discrimination going on at the middle schools that somehow prevents non-whites from entering AP classes? 

    It’s my understanding every student regardless of race take standardized tests. So what does race have to do with how someone scores on a widely accepted standardized test? 

    This policy is most certainly dumbing down education at ETHS and will make a mockery of that school. It will be another reason for caring concerned parents who want their kids to be rewarded and recognized for their academic achievements regardless of their skin color to move out of Evanston.

    Some people actually believe there is still desegregation in Evanston schools. The unchallenged term, "white priviledge" gets tossed around as if it were gospel truth. I know enough white parents in Evanston that are struggling financially to say that term is insulting.

    I happen to know a couple of African-American parents who decided to send their kids to private school (predominantly white) to get a better education. Why? Because they’re probably tired of their kids being lumped into classifications based on race.

    I bet if you look at the test scores you will find that those who score on the lower end come from single-parent families across racial lines. There are many high-achieving African-American ETHS students and probably most of them live in two-parent homes. 

    What happened to the diversity of achievement?  What’s the point of having an honors class if everyone can join? What’s next, the elimination of the valedictorian?

    It’s time to merge D65 and 202 and eliminate all this bureaucratic crap.

    1. ‘Humanities with Support’ is not an honors-eligible class

      Al  —

      "Humanities with Support" is a separate class for students who failed to learn to read sufficiently to tackle the texts used in high school classes. Its students would not be eligible for honors credit. The regular students would be competing with each other to earn honors credit. In the current model, all designated "honors" students get honors credit, even if they make a "D." That would no longer be the case under the proposed system.

  3. We send our daughter to a

    We send our daughter to a private school because we feel the public schools in Evanston are a failure. 

    The above article is confusing to me:  are there honors courses that include students who cannot do the work?  Or, will this proposal take a honors course and populate it with some students who cannot do the work and offer additional assistance to those students?   

    Either way it is a failure.  The problem with the scenario of populating a honors course with students who cannot do the work and offering additional assistance to just those students is that it is not legal.  Good luck with that ETHS.

  4. Competition and learning

    The first person commenting does not understand teaching and learning.  We live in a competitive society which requires skills and knowledge in order to be able to compete.  Learning does not and should not be competitive.  Students do not compete against each other to learn. They must meet the standards in the course in order to earn a good grade and it does not depend on how well everyone else does in the class.  If someone needs help to reach these standards that is fine.  The student has achieved the purpose of the course and learned the material. 

    1. Grading?

      Does anyone know how Evanston teachers grade their students? 

      If they are using any type of Bell Curve, then yes students are competing against other students.  The more students that do good, the more effort is required to get a better grade. Either teachers grade against exactly what is taught (student versus test) or they grade against what is taught and how all the students do (student versus test versus student).  Has no one heard the comment "bring out the best in you"?  Well competition sometimes brings out the best in people. 

      I don’t care what anyone says or does to bring about equality; the kids will always compete to see who does better on any given task.  If the kids aren’t doing on specific task, they have either given up or know that is the best they can do. 

      I continually hear that we need to be more inclusive when the material is plain cut and dry.  What we need is more menial homework, to ensure that practice makes perfect.  If they aren’t doing the homework, they are not going to pass the tests.

      Finally, I also don’t think the number of AP test that students take should be touted by any school.  If they are going to do that then I want to know how many passed those tests.  What I want to know is how many students we accepted by colleges and what types of colleges they are?

      We need to hold steady and find the true failure points. Moving pieces around with ever changing students does not help in identifying these points.


  5. How is that different from D65?

     Heterogeneous classes without tracking / high quality curriculum / training in differentiated instruction – isn’t that exactly what we’ve been providing all the kids at D65? 

    Is that what Witherspoon is saying?… – that D65 is preparing kids so well for the HS that they want to mimic their methods?

    What am I missing?   



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