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First the good news: Evanston/Skokie School District 65 students are performing at or above national averages. Now the bad news: Those scoring in the bottom quartile are predominantly students of color.

Unlike Garrison Keillor’s mythical Lake Wobegone, all of Evanston/Skokie’s children are not above average, and the District 65 administration and board are working hard to change that, especially for black and latinx students.

(Note: The term “latinx” is a relatively new term designed to minimize sexual discrimination in describing persons of Hispanic heritage.)

In reading, for example, some 60.5 percent of students met the college readiness benchmarks last year, but for white students it was 83.7 percent, while for black students it was 30.6 percent,  and for latinx students, 36.2 percent.

In math, the percentage of all students meeting the college readiness benchmarks was 56.6 percent. For white students it was 80.2 percent, while for black students it was 22.0 percent and for latinx students it was 34.2 percent.

Asian students, on the other hand, did even better than average. In reading, they scored at 71.2 percent, and in math, they scored at 68.8 percent.

On the plus side, if you consider that, statistically, exactly 25 percent of all students are in the bottom quartile, the district’s scores do not seem to be all bad. Only 16.1 percent are in the bottom 25 percent in reading, and only 16.3 percent in math. 

“It is our mission,” declared Superintendent Paul Goren at this week’s district board meeting, “to continue to improve our schools, to improve instruction, and to improve school climate so that our black and latinx students and their families find places of learning that motivate and ensure the type of success experienced by many others.”

And the board, comprised mostly of citizens of color, appeared to back him in that quest.

Accordingly, the district has designated Racial Equity as its top priority.

Unfortunately, success in school begins at birth, and by the time the kids reach kindergarten at the age of 5, many are already well behind, and the district is forced to devote considerable resources to bring them up to speed, particularly in reading and mathematics skills.

Much of that work is expended on students in grades kindergarten through third grade, under the theory that if kids are unable to read by the time they finish those early years, it is almost impossible for them to succeed in their classes in the later years.

In those early years, Goren said, there are a number of interventions at work “to provide learning opportunities for kids before and after school.”

The district is also focused, he said, on “school climate work, emphasizing relationships and safety, using our equity lens on issues like suspensions and office referrals.”

All of the school principals, Goren emphasized, “are creating school work plans that address performance and school climate issues at their schools and are identifying avenues for improvement.”

The district itself, he added, is changing its hiring practices, “using an equity lens to frame questions for all hires, and expanding our hiring pool to include more educators of color.”

But the achievement gap that continues to frustrate educators and boards at both of Evanston’s school districts, “exists when children land in kindergarten,” Goren said.

Accordingly, he is convening a group of experts, practitioners, and community members “to examine our early childhood programming so we can understand our practices, our outcomes, and what changes we may have to make.”

That task force, he said, will have its first meeting in October. But in addition, Goren said he is “looking for the early childhood provider community and our community partners, including Cradle to Career, to consider how we all must address and improve kindergarten readiness.”

He said he is also looking to the entire community to assist in this effort “to support students during out-of-school  time with mentors, activities, and opportunities. We must work on these issues together, with a commitment to not stop until we see significant improvements.”

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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18 Comments

  1. Needed: Parental engagement

    All students in Evanston schools can be average or above if their parents would engage with them in their education, homework, and their environment. Make sure that they are doing their homework. Set down rules for being at home every night. Don’t let them hang out with  a lowlife crowd.

    Parents do your job.

    ( I have been aware of this fomula for many years. Maybe the school boards will catch on.)

    1. Help with homework

      This is one aspect that the high school gets.  ETHS provides significant free services for homework help and tutoring after school and Saturday mornings.  The servcies are for anyone who wants them.  Having someone at home to help with homework every night is simply not an option for everyone.

      1. I agree with you!
        I agree with you!

        Me and my wife are big on spending time with our kid but some families are not fortunate enough to have that opportunity for many different reasons.

        1. That is true but

          most of those parents that have failing school children just don’t care and don’t attempt to share time with their kids and help their kids to succeed.

          1. It is possible for them to get ahead
            I come from [though many years ago] a farming community where most farmer parents and even parents in town had at most a high school education. The parents could only offer limited help when the kids had homework or other school questions.
            For the farm kids they had chores morning and night. Evenings the kids were at home, maybe 10+ miles from their school, a library or town. Probably 1/2 mile from the next farm–which may not even had a child there. There were no cell phones, texting or internet and landline phones were not meant/able to handle long homework conversations—many phones for farms were party lines.
            Yet the parents made sure the kids did their homework and attended school every day. Almost 100% of the kids graduated high school.
            The school and public library would fit in the EPL ‘Loft’, the nearest bookstore was 20+ miles away. There was no Amazon to ship books to homes and most homes had few books.
            I expect parents and children in the generations before mine had even greater limitations.
            Farm income, over a period of time would probably make the poor in Evanston jealous of.
            Except for child abuse which we did not have, Evanston is well off.
            The schools and parents in Evanston seem to have one excuse after another.

      2. Maybe

        It is good that ETHS offers these extra time for controlled homework sessions but do they inform the parents or guardians that these sessions exist. Can the parents require that their children attend these sessions to help them succeed?

        How is the ETHS leadership’s plan to allow below average students to particepate in extracurricular activities, i.e. sports. I can’t blame the ETHS leadership. If encouraging students to try harder to improve their grades. to allow them to play sports, is not working, why not do the opposite, play sports and the ETHS teachers will be encouraged to raise their grades for them.

  2. Not all school boards are above average

    Why are white students scoring better? Are they getting different instruction? Are they sitting in front of the class? Why has this “fill the gap” issue been going on since the early 1990s? What has been the common element involving all D65 students for the past 25 years? Hmmm?

    Oh yeah, there is a direct correlation between student scores and parental units at home REGARDLESS OF RACE!!!! Students in one parent households tend to score lower and are poorer than students in two parent households. PERIOD! But once again, D65 bureaucrats ignore it and don’t even talk about the obvious fact. You’d think after taxpayers gave D65 a $110 million shot in the arm this year they’d figure it out. Rather, they hire a racial equity director whose main task is to focus only on a group of students of a particular color.  Race based programs are …well… racist and unfair to white and Asian students, some of whom need extra instruction..

    Maybe the solution is for D65 to hire only teachers and staff of color and replace the superintendent with someone of color.  I notice there are no Asians on the Board. Are Asians people of color? 

    Latinx – really? According to Wikipedia, “the word is intended to be inclusive of all individuals within the Latino community, including men, women, transgender persons, and those who do not identify with the gender binary. The term originally appeared online in queer forums.”

    A good number of Latinos are Catholics. I wonder how they feel about the term Latinx. 

  3. Why do I have to keep asking this question?

    Is there any school district in these United States that has found a way to close the achievement gap?

      1. KIPP
        The functions you listed, aside from uniforms, are exactly what dedicated parents do. However long it takes, high expectations, & reasonable accountability. Can you imagine how much more public schools would have to spend to duplicate KIPP on a large scale? The yokels who screamed about the recent referendum might have aneurysms if asked to fork over more $.

  4. Dear District 65,

    You’re never going to get the results you’re looking for. All you’re going to do is give Evanston’s liberal white people ever-greater masochistic thrills in their fantasy-lives as heroic repentant oppressors, and further convince too many blacks (less so “latinxs”) that they’re living in some holograph-world of unpuncturable white domination. What a nightmare. Does it not foster more self-respect and hope and drive and honesty in all of us to simply enforce common standards in education, regardless of race?

    Of course, though, white parents and–God knows–Asian parents don’t really want “equity” at all if it means that for the sake of equality of outcome the intellectually tallest kids must get the lowest stools, in terms of quality and pace of instruction, breadth of curriculum, and challenge in material. So, if they can, they’ll just quietly send their kids to Baker or Roycemore, or else move to Glenview or wherever.

    Is it not clear how this ideology of equity–besides making hypocrites of white liberals–actually damages race-relations, then?

      1. Negative progress compared to last year.

        Hi Bill:  Thanks for the link.  As I read this report it seems that most of the indicators are down from last year.  Therefore whatever they are doing doesn’t seem to be working.  Also according to the article Goren wants to hire more teachers “of color”.  Is there any reason to believe that teachers “of color” will do a better job?

        1. Is it cuz of institutional racism?

          Based on what I read and hear, there is institutional racism in Evanston schools and our police department is handcuffed by a white supremacist culture. So the thinking I guess is teachers of “color” would combat institutional racism while a police chief of “color”  might defeat that nasty white supremacy thing going on? 

  5. Some people are from inferior
    Some people are from inferior backgrounds and can not operate on a higher level regardless of what you spend. It is realistic that a percentage of people will be low performer. The school didn’t cause the issue and unfortunately for these children can’t resolve the issue.

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