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The District 202 School Board reviewed plans for school restructuring as required under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act at its meeting on April 14.
“We’ve seen this requirement to have a restructuring plan as a remarkable opportunity to really clarify our focus and redouble our commitment to what we at [Evanston Township High School] are passionate about making happen for all our students,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.
Last fall, the District was informed that, because it did not make adequate yearly progress (AYP) under NCLB for the fifth year in a row, it would have to submit a restructuring plan. Districts can choose from a number of restructuring options, including reopening as a charter school, replacing all or most of the school staff or entering into a contract with a private management company to operate the school. District 202 rejected all of those, opting for a fourth option which was to “implement any other restructuring of the school’s governance that makes fundamental reform.”
In December 2007, the Board approved eight strategies for improving student performance at Evanston Township High School, which administrators said “served as the framework for the development of the restructuring plan.” Over the past year, numerous innovations, including System of Supports, the summer school program “Access ETHS,” elimination of the Tardy Center and literacy initiatives in several departments, have already been implemented. They will be expanded in the restructuring plan.
Dr. Judith Levinson, director of research, evaluation and assessment, and Tyrone Nelson, fine arts teacher and co-chair of the School Improvement Team, presented the eight-point restructuring plan, which, pending Board approval, must be submitted to the state by May 1.
Dr. Levinson said ETHS is one of the first schools in the state to be in restructuring, but there are many others that will follow next year. Mr. Nelson told the Board the state requires “sweeping change” in governance.
The eight strategies are as follows:
1. Expand “Achievement Now,” the literacy program started two years ago under the leadership of Dr. Alfred Tatum, literacy specialist at the University of Illinois-Chicago. While the focus has been in English, history and special education classes, next year literacy work will also include math, science and applied arts courses.
2. Refine System of Supports, the comprehensive program “that helps all students improve academically and become responsible, self-directed learners.” ETHS restructured its school day to build in the mandatory personalized time for students at risk of failing and established study centers throughout the day with teachers to provide drop-in help for all students.
3. Implement an expanded test-preparation class for identified students. Administrators said test-preparation strategies have been taught to students across the curriculum for several years. Recently, ETHS has focused even more attention on teaching test-taking skills to students who would most likely benefit when they take the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE), used to determine AYP.
4. Enhance the value of instructional time. While the Tardy Center has already been eliminated, ensuring that students will go to class, even if they are late, other initiatives to improve student attendance will be implemented.
5. Expand math initiatives through longer Math Help Center hours and expansion of the “Algebra Allies” program. Algebra Allies is a program for ninth-graders that “focuses on developing students’ positive attitudes toward learning math.” This collaborative venture with the Dana Center at the University of Texas was started three years ago.
6. Raise expectations with more rigor and acceleration. In particular, more students will have access to honors-level work with the planned elimination of regular-level Freshman Humanities and expanded mixed-level classes, an initiative which saw extensive community discussion this past winter. The curriculum in the three ETHS support programs – AVID, STAE and Project Excel – will be changed to support classroom instruction by introducing curriculum material prior to its introduction in the subject classroom.
7. Expand summer school opportunities. Access ETHS will have more sections so more students can take advantage of this class, which provides an introduction to high school and its academic and behavior expectations.
8. Improve student personalization and personal well-being. Several programs are being proposed to support this strategy, such as discussion about race and achievement, a needs assessment of available resources for addressing student social and academic concerns, implementation of a gang-avoidance program, and implementation of a new student data management system, which will give parents greater access to student grades and evaluations.
The Board will vote on the restructuring plan at its meeting on April 28.