Parents demand staff, curriculum changes at King Arts


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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