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OPAL demands better outcomes for black students

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The message at a news conference this morning outside Evanston/Skokie School District 65 headquarters was stark. Black students have been underserved and poorly educated for the past 50 years in Evanston, and the situation is not getting any better.

“We are at the point now where we are saying enough is enough.  We need to see some action,” said Roger Wiliams the president of OPAL, the Organization for Positive Action and Leadership.  He says District 65 has failed to narrow the achievement gap between white and black students.

Williams says despite a report on Black Student Achievement that came out in 2016, it has done little or nothing to change outcomes.

“There are no plans, no specific goals or programs in place. “ Williams says,

OPAL’s Melissa Blount says the achievement gap has actually got worse in the past 49 years.  

“A white student today is nearly three times more likely to reach college readiness benchmarks in reading, and nearly four times more likely to reach benchmarks in math,” she said.

The group says the district should hire a black student coordinator to advocate for underserved students, initiate a plan to hire black teachers where vacancies exist and to implement a result-oriented accountability system that focuses on improving African-American student outcomes.

“We will not be complacent while achievement gaps widen, property taxes increase and racial disparity continues for another forty years.” Blount says.

In an interview, District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren said he supports and encourages the efforts of OPAL and says it is an important voice at the table.

He says the district shares OPAL’s goals and he has worked hand in hand with the organization to improve outcomes for black students.

He says in the three and a half years he’s been here, he’s encouraged district staff to complete diversity training and the district has done a deep dive on cultural and race issues. He is confident that a better understanding of cultural differences will result in better students outcomes.

OPAL leaders say they also plan to voice their demands tonight at a joint meeting of the District 65 and 202 boards.  The meeting gets underway at 7 p.m. at the District 65 office at 1500 McDaniel Ave.

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