After a year of discussion, the District 202 School Board unanimously voted at its May 10 meeting to approve a statement affirming and defining its commitment to excellence and equity at Evanston Township High School.
Since the spring of 2008, the District has been working with the Pacific Educational Group (PEG), which has conducted workshops and retreats for the Board and 40 employees from every functional area to discuss race and privilege and their effects on student achievement. Training for all other ETHS employees is in process.
“Using an equity lens to evaluate what we do and how we do it will help to eliminate disparities,” Board President Rachel Hayman told the RoundTable. “We pay a lot of lip service to being a diverse community. Race is the elephant in the room we don’t know how to talk about.” In a prepared statement on May 10, Ms. Hayman also said of race: “ETHS is a map of the community’s rich diversity reflected in the faces of its students” and of equity: “District 202 cannot continue to offer its wonderful education resources to a select group of students.”
Equity coordinator David Futransky, first brought the idea of a conversation about race and privilege and their effect on student achievement to the Board in his role as Teachers’ Council President. He agreed with Ms. Hayman.”We have had many well-intentioned efforts to address disparities in achievement over the years,” Mr. Futransky told the RoundTable. “Those good intentions have failed. We can’t be an excellent school for some of the kids,” he added.
The final version of the equity statement was crafted by Board members Mary Wilkerson and Gretchen Livingston. In discussing it Board members expressed the belief that positive changes would be coming to the high school.
Ms. Wilkerson said, “It’s not what we say, it’s what we do.” She said she, her daughter and many cousins went to the high school “and it was segregated. Now we can try to make things equal, and we will get there. … We have the laboratory to prepare out students to live in a multicultural society. … Blacks are missing out on the perspective of whites, and whites are missing out on the perspective of other ethnic groups.”
Deborah Graham said, “Going through this process … was … really an education for all of us on the Board. … The idea that equity and excellence are really intertwined is something I really want to point out.”
Mark Metz said, “If there is anyone who fears that ETHS becomes less for any group, they’re wrong. … Our best-performing students will achieve more and will bring the others along.”
“The Board’s statement sharpens our mission,” Superintendent Eric Witherspoon told the RoundTable. “The equity and excellence statement provides a clear direction and clearly establishes . . . the work to be accomplished at Evanston Township High School.”
Dr. Witherspoon described a comprehensive and wide-ranging approach that will be taken in response to the Board’s direction.
“ETHS will examine structures, procedures, policies, beliefs, and practices to determine what must change to achieve equity and excellence,” he said. “We will examine how students are assigned to classes, which classes students take, the rigor of the curriculum, the cultural relevancy of the curriculum, instructional practices, expectations for students, assignments, textbooks and instructional materials, grading practices, assessments, school rules and discipline, supports for students, outreach for parents, communication with students and parents, teacher training, and everything else at ETHS that can be addressed to eliminate disparities in achievement.”
School District 202’s Statement on EquityThe statement on equity and excellence approved by School District 202 at its May 10 meeting reads as follows:
• ETHS is committed to equity because excellence for all students requires equity. This commitment will be achieved by:
• Providing all students with access to resources, opportunities, supports and interventions to ensure that they maximize their abilities and potential.
• Giving students what they need, not necessarily equally, to meet their learning and well being requirements.
• Assuring that all ETHS staff members, with deliberate effort, continue to examine and eliminate institutional beliefs, policies, practices, and teaching that perpetuate racial disparities in achievement.
• Preparing all students to succeed in a multi-cultural, global society by teaching the contributions and viewpoints of all people in culturally relevant curricula.
• Raising the achievement of all students while eliminating the racial predictability of achievement.