On the heels of a report showing student test scores have fallen in the past year for Evanston/Skokie District 65 students, school board members spent a couple of hours at Tuesday night’s board meeting talking about how that happened.

Board members Candace Chow and Anya Tanyavutti both suggested it had been a difficult year on both a local and national level which could have impacted student success. 

“We spent a lot of effort and time and attention on addressing our financial crisis and so that’s a big environmental issue, we can’t quantify the impact but I’m sure there has been an impact,“ Chow said. 

Tanyavutti concurred, adding, “A lot of conversations were had post-presidential election by students in terms of their feeling about personal levels of safety based on immigration status racial identity, gender identity.”

Tanyavutti also questioned whether students may have faced technical difficulties during MAP testing which would have impacted their scores, a query that was shot down by staff.

Board member Sergio Hernandez wondered if changes to the tests had impacted student scores. But staff said tests this year and last were virtually the same template.

The specter of statistical errors was raised, again shot down by staff and the lack of support for statewide tests was also floated. In the end, no excuse could undo the conclusion of the report that shows student outcomes went down instead of up in the past year.

So who to blame? Board member Rebecca Mendoza was quick to sympathize with teachers, insisting the outcomes were not their fault.

When asked, where does to buck stop, Superintendent Paul Goren acknowledged the buck stops with him. “The responsibility lies with me.”

He said after two years under his leadership of seeing student performance rise, scores took a turn for the worse this year. Ironically that is as the district enters the second half of a five-year strategic plan aimed at improving student outcomes across the board.

Goren adds, changes take time and the district is implementing a new approach to school improvement planning which will energize and empower educators to focus on root causes of student achievement. He said, “The proof will be in the pudding this year.”

The discussion about student outcomes will continue next week when staff presents an update on the strategic plan. The meeting will see some proposed staffing changes including a proposal to add a director of African-American student achievement. That’s a role some in the community have been demanding for some time.

Join the Conversation


  1. Result of non-merit system?
    When you have a system, school or business or labor, where raises are based on years of service, union contracts, ‘Cost of Living’, ‘everyone needs more money’, ‘we have to pay everyone the same because we don’t know how or want to expend the effort to evaluated them”, “they will cry or even sue if we don’t give them a raise” or any number of other non-merit “reasons”, of course you should not expect different results.
    Reviews and raises/bonuses have to be based on merit to get good results. Bad reviews convey the need for improvement or “your in the wrong line of work.” Of course reviews must protect against bias but that can be addressed. Reviewers who are afraid to give honest/bad reviews, are themselves in the wrong business.
    But leadership is suppose to come from the top. It seems clear from the scores and other messes the Boards and Administration have created, that the house cleaning has to start there.

  2. Just don’t vote for a Democrat. It’s the only way.
    I guess that $110 million tax hike passed last year to keep D65 afloat is really paying off. Eh?

    This is another reason to support a school voucher system in Illinois. Many Evanstonians claim they love diversity but fork out the extra dough to send their precious little ones to private schools. Why? Because the education is superior and they can afford to pay for it. So why can’t low-no income parents send their kids to private schools of THEIR CHOICE!!!! We need to put back competition into our educational system and that means school vouchers for those who can’t afford private schools.

    Guess what. The political party that controls Evanston, Chicago, Cook County and Illinois has consistently shot down any school voucher proposal. Why? Because the Teacher’s union and other government unions give more than 90 percent of all their campaign contributions to the Democratic party. If you want to begin to end all this bloated bureaucratic nonsense from public schools and the powerful and well organized Teacher’s Unions then vote out every candidate associated with the Democratic party. It’s the only way.

      1. Yes, school vouchers are better for low income families

        Really? You provide a link to The Americans United for Separation of Church and State to make your point. This organization formed specifically to end government aid to Catholic parochial schools.

        Any research or report about school vouchers from this group is a little biased, don’t cha think?

        Try this link for another perspective.

        How can giving low income parents more school choices be a bad thing? A little common sense can go a long long way.

  3. Kudos to Superintendent Goren

    Kudos to Superintendent Goren for taking full responsibility.  Thumbs down to Anya Tanyavutti for the most embarrassing excuse for poor performance.If the teaching professionals were spending their time focused on gender and race (instead of teaching their students), the accountability lies with the administration for allowing this to occur.  

  4. To not only have not seen any
    To not only have not seen any improvement, but, in fact, to see results POORER than the 2014/2015 base, in these important reading and math base results, is simply inexcusable.

    Is this board and admin leadership focusing on the right things? From the board comments, it would appear they are simply grasping for excuses. Who will be made accountable, and how will it be done?

    Evanston voted for this leadership to get things done — not make excuses.

  5. Same old solutions ?
    The article says “…meeting will see some proposed staffing changes including a proposal to add a director of African-American student achievement.”
    Once again the answer proposed a new hire. Not an expert in education and fixing programs, but assuming black [ Hispanic heritage] students need something ‘different’ i.e. can’t be treated like white, Asian heritage, European, or whatever students. I bet the proposal will be for black math, black history, black language [and probably more Spanish], and other subjects/techniques to further differentiate students.
    Probably the problems range over all ethnic/racial groups.
    Usually when someone ‘takes responsibility’ that means consequences. Firing, cut in pay, probation [and action plan with termination for failure]. That might tend to focus the Administration. Change for that to happen ? Zero !

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