Parents of black students at King Arts school at a news conference this afternoon demanded that the Evanston School District 65 administration make changes to improve their children’s test scores.

Abdel Shakur, speaking to a group of about 60 people outside the Joseph E. Hill Education Center, said he helped start a black parents group when his young daughter asked, “Are black kids the bad kids?” and he saw that black children don’t see themselves as excellent.

Scores from the Measures of Academic Progress winter 2018 assessment provided to parents in January showed a “troubling trend,” he said. “Black students in four different grade levels showed zero percent in college readiness while white students in the same grades scored 50 or 60 points higher.”

He and other leaders of the Black Parents of King Arts group started to meet with teachers and administrators about what needed to be done.

“We see the need for radical change and we don’t see that the district is on the same page with us,” he said. “Instead of a plan for change we just see things shifted around. Something big needs to happen.”

He said the parents have four recommendations to address the persistent achievement and opportunity gap:

First, revise the hiring process to focus on equity. He said he saw a recent set of guidelines for hiring a principal that included nothing about equity or working with the community.

Second, change the accountability benchmarks for all staff to make it clear that everyone is responsible for equity.

Third, implement the African-Centered Curriculum at King Arts. “That program not only teaches us about ourselves but teaches in a way that is affirmational for all children,” he said.

Fourth, provide more support for teachers. “Many teachers care deeply, but they need more support,” he said. He suggested peer-teacher mentoring, more robust professional development of equity training and more clinical staff of color.

He also said that parents need to be involved in shaping the culture of the schools. “Parents are involved, but they’re often white parents,” he said, “and black parents feel like they’re in a box. Parents need to educate the school about how school should work.”

“There are 98 days until school opens,” he said. “We cannot wait for any of this. Action should have been taken when the test scores came out, not three months later after parents made a fuss.”

“We gotta figure out a way to do this,” he said. “What matters is effective action. The proof is in the next step.”

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  1. King Arts is a magnet school. Just enroll elsewhere
    I am assuming the parents realize you can take your kids out of King and send them to the school in their local attendance area. If you don’t like the instruction at MLK, go to your ‘home’ school.

    With regard to the ‘African’ centered curriculum I would point them to the recent Evanston Now story about the problems with that curriculum at Oakton. Be careful what you wish for.

    I could see a mass Exodus of students from King if they shifted to an all-AOC curriculum given it’s poor performance elsewhere in the district.

    Also, Bill: how many parents does Shakur’s group claim to represent? I know plenty of black parents who love King.

    1. King Arts Dissatisfaction Likely Very Small
      I don’t know how many people Shakur claims to speak for; but they have been encouraging people concerned with the state of affairs at King to “share stories of their experiences” with a specific hashtag. At their press conference they had people standing with signs listing the hashtag.

      When you search for it on twitter & facebook there have been ZERO stories shared.

      My sense is that this is a very small group with little to no widespread support.

      Carry on, King Arts. Most of us parents are happy with the school.

  2. Evanston Schools need a “Radical Plan of Change”

    Here’s my proposal for a “Radical Plan of Change”

    1. Intense focus on Zero to Five age for childhood development (holistically create benchmarks for Kindergarten Readiness – including social, emotional and academic) Cradle to Career is laser focused on Zero to Five, but they need the help of the ENTIRE Evanston Community.

    2. Intense focus on Reading at Grade Level (and beyond) by 3rd grade – K-3rd experience is critically important – it’s very difficult for kids to catch up when they’re not reading at grade level by 3rd grade.

    3. Merge District 65 and District 202 – not only would taxpayers save money, but the academic experience would become “seamless” between D65 and D202. For example, instead of having 2 heads of English Department and Math Department you have  one person who is responsible for curriculum from K – 12 (or preferably Pre-K – 12) You’d save time and avoid redundant “articulation” meetings between D65 and D202. Accountability is increased.

    4. Change the dialogue to how do kids learn and what resources do they need to learn and how can the Evanston community provide additional supports and resources to kids and families who need more resources.

    5. Ask/Expect/Demand that our School Board act like adults instead of cheerleaders. Many School Board members have for too long told the community how great our schools are, and how wonderful everything is, but the reality is different. Let’s establish goals, create plans and ask the Administration to execute – the School Board can then hold the Administration accountable since there are specific goals in place before a new plan or idea is implemented instead of “moving the goal posts” and claiming victory. Academic success should be celebrated.

    I applaud Abdel Shakur’s effort to implement a “Radical Plan of Change.”

    Let’s move this effort forward in a constructive manner that will benefit ALL students.

    Let’s engage all parts of the Evanston community and enable them and their loved ones to be highly successful in school and realize their dreams.

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