I have had a chance to carefully read the report shared by District 65 regarding the Academic Achievement Gap of Evanston students.
The stark numbers and graphic details of disparity between white and black children from K-8 in Evanston make it one of the most disheartening reports I’ve ever seen.
As a matter of fact, I remain in a sort of “shock” regarding the engulfing disparity, in virtually every category that was assessed. It is appalling, reprehensible, and most importantly, completely unacceptable.
I commend Superintendent Paul Goren for the total transparency of the report, particularly in highlighting District 65 with neighboring municipalities. We did not fair well.
I emphasize “we” because I consider myself Evanstonian. I live in Evanston, work in Evanston and all three of my children go to school in Evanston (one is a senior at ETHS, one is at Chiaravalle and one is in District 65). With all of this in mind, it is perhaps my “work hat” (as much as my “parent hat”) that is prompting me to offer a public response to the report.
I blame no one specifically, for the dismal state of affairs that has created this widening disparity. I blame everyone for the dismal state of affairs that has created this widening disparity.
To say the district alone has failed black students is to put the onus of responsibility only upon the district. To be sure, there is significant responsibility that must be placed upon the district.
The Pre-K district-funded program is not preparing its children for kindergarten. From the outset, they are behind their counterparts who attended private Pre-K schools.
Other public funded Pre-K schools are also not fully preparing their children for kindergarten. From K-3, the gap between black students and white students increases.
The fact that the report shows only ten percent of black students begin college prepared, sounds like it comes from the Period of Reconstruction (1865-1875). It does not sound like it is from 2016 Evanston, a town known throughout the nation for Northwestern, progressivism and the benefits of diversity.
The percentage difference between black and white students in Math, English and Language Arts is revolting. All of this mind you, was made available for the general public. Page after page, graph after graph showed that race factored into Early Childhood Education, K-8 Education, Special Education and other programs. Without a doubt, there is an unacceptable, pervasive culture that has resulted in disparity at every level. So then, the district has culpability.
At the same time, various components of our community possess some responsibility. We are filled with community centers aimed at providing safe havens for our children. We are filled with amazing organizations dedicated to providing opportunities for our children. We are filled with houses of worship dedicated to achieving transformation in our children.
Yet in spite of safe havens are children are not safe. In spite of opportunities so many of our children are still failing. And in spite of our 115 houses of worship, our community has not been transformed.
So then our district is failing, our schools are failing, our centers are failing, our organizations are failing and alas, our houses of worship are failing to reach the least and lowest, the left out and lost.
That would be the Black and Latino children and students growing up in this eight-square mile town that has not yet reached “Beloved Community” status.
The problem is this, there is such an expected level of “Excellent Evanston” that no one wants to admit to failure. No one wants to say, “We have failed our black students in Evanston.” It is very much like people never wanting to say, “I am sorry for the institution of slavery and its aftermath in the United States.” To admit failure is to concede that that the system, the institution is broken. Such acknowledgement is to then invite a “fresh”, “new” and “innovative” approach in how we can get back on track. Those conducting the locomotive will never concede control.
Our system is broken. What we need is a “fresh”, “new” and “innovative” approach to get back on track. It must include every part of the district from superintendent to administrators, principals, teachers and staff, community leaders, houses of worship, parents, and children themselves.
I urge the district to be one of the leaders for creating a truly inclusive collaboration that will work on the various components of the most disappointing issue facing our community today.
While I have only been in Evanston a year, I pledge to avail every resource at my disposal in working with anyone willing to help our children.
Cradle to Career, the MaGaw YMCA, the YWCA, Fleetwood-Jourdain, Robert Crown, Chandler-Newberger, Noyes Cultural Arts Center, Levy Senior Center, Family Focus, Y.O.U., District 202, OPAL, the Evanston-North Shore NAACP, all of our 115 houses of worship, the Evanston Police Department, City Council, Northwestern University, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary -- none of us can ignore the report.
The problem does not belong solely to District 65. It belongs to us all. We are failing the most precious gift in our community, our children. If your organization is not on this list, feel free to add it.
The urgency of now is upon us. We cannot wait another semester or year. In addition to the responsibilities of District 65, I am asking that representatives from the organizations listed (and others) anticipate communication within a week, calling for a Community Distress Meeting.
We must unite, come together and work towards transformation. I believe the potential of Evanston to become a Beloved Community, is great. But if we fail to utilize our excellence around this problem, we will remain a community in distress.
Rev. Dr. Michael C.R. Nabors is pastor of Second Baptist Church in Evanston.
Gap meet: Many complaints few solutions (4/26/16)