After discussion at two meetings and many revisions by the administration, the District 202 School Board voted on Feb. 22 to approve the goals for the school years 2010-12.
The vote was six in favor of approving the goals with one abstention by Board member Gretchen Livingston.
“I very much want to support the goals,” said Ms. Livingston, “but I’m not prepared to vote…tonight.” She maintained that “we’re not in any rush to get them adopted. We have goals in place through the end of this year.”
Ms. Livingston said part of her resistance was that “there are parts of these goals that I’ve just seen for the first time [tonight], and I had some lingering issues about some of the substantive provisions of the goals themselves.” She added that she wanted to see “to a conclusion the equity conversations we are having…because I think that relates to this whole vision statement.”
The vision statement approved by the Board is “To exemplify equity and excellence by improving the academic success of all students through eliminating the predictability of racial disparities in achievement.”
There are four goals: literacy, numeracy, well-being and financial/budget. These are the current goals for the District and were also the goals originally proposed at the Jan. 26 meeting when they first appeared on the agenda.
Since then Board discussions and the administration’s responses have resulted in some adjustments to the objectives supporting the goals and in more specificity about the strategies identified to achieve the objectives. In addition, the goals package has been expanded to include a four-page statement providing background and further details about the goals, as well as a glossary of terms and a data dashboard that spells out the quantitative and qualitative measures and benchmarks to be met on a yearly basis.
These documents can be found on the Evanston Township High School website, www.eths.k12.il.us/publications.asp.
Although Board member Deborah Graham voted in favor of the goals, she also had some concerns in advance of the vote.
“The only mention of differentiated instruction in the goals comes in the context of professional development,” she said. Ms. Graham said that not only was professional development in differentiated instruction important, but that it is “critical … that our goals specify that differentiated instruction actually is going to occur in classrooms.”
Board member Mark Metz countered by saying that such a level of detail was “really the responsibility of our professional staff. …We have the major goals we’ve set. …We need to let them use their professional judgment about what they’re going to do, and then we need to hold them accountable for the results.”
“The role of the School Board is to set the vision, the big picture,” agreed President Rachel Hayman. “We’ve got very talented professional educators whose role is to determine what the appropriate objectives and strategies are.”
Superintendent Eric Witherspoon emphasized that “all of the objectives can be measured,” although some of them had benchmarks yet to be developed.
“There is no question that if we achieve all of these objectives within the 24-month span, we will have achieved something significant,” Dr. Witherspoon concluded.