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Members of Evanston’s two school boards expressed frustration with inadequate reporting on progress toward a joint literacy goal adopted in 2014 at a joint meeting this week.

In a reading goal update, administrators for District 65 presented the mixed results of efforts to improve reading scores for children in grades K-3, while District 202 administrators reported less than two thirds of incoming freshmen were reading at or above grade level the past two years.

Evanston Township High School board member Gretchen Livingston asked why the report didn’t show data starting in 2014. “Year-to-year changes don’t tell us very much. We need data for a group of years to see progress.”

Noting that the board didn’t get a reading report last year, she said, “We should be monitoring it all the time. I wish we could have that.”

“We monitor it internally,” said Scott Bramley, ETHS associate principal for instruction and literacy.

District 65 uses the Diagnostic Reading Assessment to assess early literacy (K-3), and Mastery of Academic Progress testing for reading in grades 3-8. ETHS uses the Standardized Test for the Assessment of Reading for all students at the beginning and end of each school year.


Jonathan Baum.

“I feel like we’re in Groundhog Day,” said ETHS board member Jonathan Baum. “We have MAP. We have STAR. This is not a joint report. It’s compilation of reports from District 65 and District 202. It’s just really frustrating.”

“I think we need some closer actual collaboration to make this all work,” he added.

“We adopted a goal that said that all students would be proficient readers and college- and career-ready by 12th grade. That was four and a half years ago,” said District 65 board member Candance Chow. “Today I don’t have a way to say are we closer to that goal or further away.”

“I agree,” said Joseph Hailpern, D65 board member. “Assuming both districts have an assessment tool that tells them whether kids can read, we should be able to put slides together for this year’s 12th grade cohort that goes all the way back to 3rd grade that says for all the students, and all the sub-demographic groups, what kids are meeting the expected target.”

“We need to be able to see, from 3rd through 12th grade, if we as an organization are having a positive impact,” he added.

“Telling the story is difficult,” said Paul Goren, superintendent of District 65, “because STAR and MAP are not aligned.”

Anya Tanyavutti, vice president of the D65 board, noted that a student arrives at ETHS with a MAP score. “If MAP says they’re proficient readers, does STAR also say that?”

Kiwana Brown, ETHS school-wide reading specialist, explained that incoming 9th graders are placed in classes based on their highest MAP score. If MAP says they’re not proficient, they’re placed in reading support classes.

Baum persisted, “Most of the time is the MAP score a reliable indicator or is it not?”

Brown responded that MAP is useful in placement but they don’t have data beyond that.

“STAR is useful at the high school. Carry on,” said Sunith Kartha, D65 board president. “But is there really no story we can tell from 3rd grade to 12th grade with the data that we currently collect?”

There was a lot of discussion about the benefits and challenges of using STAR and MAP for assessment and how “college readiness” is measured differently by MAP and the PSAT/SAT tests.


Peter Bavis.

“Let’s not lose sight of the 128 black students entering 9th grade who are not proficient readers,” said Peter Bavis, ETHS associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction, referring to data about reading proficiency for incoming 9th graders.

“We’ll get together and have a better report next time,” he said, “but we’re not exactly knocking it out of the park no matter what measure we’re using. The numbers here aren’t what they need to be. That’s on the adults, the educators.”

Looking at the 9th grade data, Livingston asked, “The majority of these kids came out of 65. Where were they along the way? We have no idea based on what you’ve given us.”

“None of us want data for the sake of data,” said Kartha. “We’re asking for data to help us understand how we are progressing toward the goal of reducing the red we’re seeing on that bar graph. We’re looking for longitudinal data. We’re looking for cohort data.”

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2 Comments

  1. Merge the School Districts

    Reading this is unbelievably frustrating.  Look at the disconnect here.  They can’t even get it together to give the joint board a decent report.  How can we expect them to work together at all?  Next time they’ll do better?  Oh, OK.  All I saw here was excuses on both sides.  And the truth is that ETHS will always be able to essentially lay the blame on District 65 if kids are entering 9th grade unprepared.  That is a waste of time, energy and resources.

    Merge the districts.  Most places around the country don’t split elementary and high school into separate districts.  Why do we?  There is no need for yet another layer of bureaucracy.  Shouldn’t we be putting that money into actual education and not more administration?

    One district.  One Superintendant.  One adminstration.  One board.  One unified vision.  One tax levy.  

    1. Merge the two districts

      I was part of three attempts, starting in 1980’s, to do just that: merge the two districts.  The reason? Because, “we need some closer actual collaboration to make this all work,” as board member Jonathan Baum says.  And because, as superintendent Goren says, the achievement tests in both districts are not aligned….  “If MAP says they’re proficient readers, does STAR also say that?” Asks board member Anya Tanyavutti.

       Watching all this since my kids first went to school in 1976…. And listening to the arguments of the opposing side during the consolidation hearings in the 80’s and 90’s, I ask, how could this still happen after years and years of new promises and more and more spending of millions of taxpayers’ dollars in “experts” and costly improvement programs?

       Because in spite of all the promises of more “articulation” between the districts, of more joined meetings, more “consolidation” of departments…. These are wishes, not realities. 

      Because D65’s main objective will always be to work towards the goal of his K-8 students being seen as “exemplary ” as they have this year.  

      However…if this is not exactly the reality for all D65 students, then District 202 becomes  saddled with students who are not as “exemplary” coming out of D65, and who will need elementary level “support” programs.  

      This means extra spending and kids who will be missing high school level subjects while they attend the lower level classes.  All this is beyond D202 superintendent’s control, because he has absolutely no authority to intervene and apply a remedy when it counts, during the first years of schooling:  Those years are under somebody else’s supervision, control, and authority.

      This then creates the situation where no one in the whole Evanston school system is fully responsible for the outcomes of our public school education for which we pay millions.

      What we need and never had is one supervising head that will be forced to take responsibilities for the faults of the system and be forced to make the necessary changes!  

      Our attempts to place a referendum for consolidation in the ballot failed 3 times! due to the teachers unions and Senator Arthur Berman’s opposition.  Evanston thus became the only city in Illinois with a coterminous student population (same students attend the two districts) to be denied the right to vote on a referendum for the kind of schools we want. 

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