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School boards frustrated by literacy report

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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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