Enough Is Enough


Some of the news in the Nov. 24 edition of the RoundTable doesn’t provide much holiday cheer for its readers.

City Council members are caught up in too many chicken coops, churches and libraries.

Because state funds are delayed and county tax bills are “two months later than expected,” Evanston must borrow money (obtain a “line of credit”). Mayor Tisdahl was downstate with a coalition appealing to the General Assembly for pension reform. Evanston isn’t unique. Other municipalities are also cash-strapped. Why wasn’t this group petitioning the State to fulfill its commitments? Why aren’t Robyn Gabel and Jeff Schoenberg voicing our needs? Thanks to the Democratic “Power Block” in both county and state, the tax bills were predictably held back until after the election. Was any pressure put on Larry Suffredin to express our discontent?

The Council doesn’t seem to have any problem in finding $560,000 to buy vacant property, or, previously, to offer $700,000 to entice a company not to move out of Evanston. All this was readily available from TIFs.

Jan Schakowsky is laying out a federal deficit reduction plan for 2015. What is she or her peers in Washington doing for us now?

 We citizens, after surviving this election, are still not represented by the candidates put back in office. It’s finally time to tell them that we will no longer be manipulated at their discretion. Enough is enough – we have no more money for you to waste.

–Fred J. Wittenberg

Pearl Harbor


Sixty-nine years prior to today

President Roosevelt did not say

What people still misquote

In Congress speech of note

When date of infamy becomes day.

                           — Robert Bagby

Community Must Be Able To Trust ETHS Process


The indispensable ingredient missing from the Evanston Township High School Freshman Humanities/Biology Restructuring Proposal is trust.  Trust will not come from simply articulating – however enthusiastically – noble aspirations. 

To build trust, the District 202 School Board must do the following:

Be honest.  If the high school is pursuing detracking, then Board members should be straightforward and not beat around the bush.

Be truly open to the input of stakeholders: This means really listening to, and incorporating, suggestions and critiques, not simply going through the motions of “public hearings” on the way to what is already a “done deal.”

Keep past promises: This means completing the evaluation of the current mixed-level experiment –including the very first set of PSAE scores from students who have experienced it – and proceeding based on a thorough analysis of the data that evaluation yields.

Do its homework: This means thoroughly canvassing all the various approaches comparable school districts have taken, including what worked and what didn’t, what had a long-term track record and what was tried and abandoned.

Plan – not just for one year but beyond: This means not revolutionizing our students’ freshman year experience without simultaneously explaining what their sophomore, junior and senior years will look like, and how all four years will fit together.

Get the “mix” in “mixed-ability” classes right. This means making sure that we set all the percentile levels (such as 40th percentile as the line between Humanities and Humanities With Support) at precisely the point that maximizes the opportunity of students at all ability levels to achieve their full potential.

Take the time to make sure that all the pieces necessary for this project to succeed are in place well before it becomes the only freshman experience hundreds of our students will ever have. This means making sure that the full, revamped curriculum is in place and the requisite professional development has been completed, not merely begun.

Test its hypotheses: This means building a comprehensive evaluation component into this proposal so that, after a suitable period of time, we are able to judge which of the changes worked, which need to be tweaked, and which should be discarded.

Make differentiated instruction, or “skillful teaching,” real: This means defining precisely what is meant by this and rigorously monitoring every classroom to ensure that it is actually happening. One of the studies in the bibliography observes that “all the successful cases [of detracking] involved differentiated instruction within the mixed-ability setting.”  In these cases, the study explains, “differentiation meant carefully analyzing students’ skill levels, matching skills to particular instructional strategies, and arranging students for instruction within classes in such a way as to match the skill levels with instructional approaches.” 

The District 202 Board should consider including in the proposal a mechanism that will reassure stakeholders that this will actually occur. It should do what needs to be done to generate the trust that is essential to the success of this endeavor.

— Jonathan Baum

More Concern About ETHS Freshman Honors


The proposal before the Evanston Township High School Board to eliminate freshman honors humanities courses is very troubling.

ETHS should give bright, hardworking and motivated students every opportunity to achieve their full potential. Eliminating freshman honors-only humanities will not achieve this goal. Rather, this policy will drag bright, motivated students down to the lowest common denominator.

Unfortunately, the lowest common denominator at ETHS is very low. This proposal will probably result in college-bound students’ taking freshman humanities with students who are barely reading at grade level.

The School Board seems intent on providing opportunities for low-performing students. That is all well and good, but where is the concern for those who have the ability and motivation to succeed? Rather than pursuing excellence, ETHS is turning down a path toward winning a race to the bottom.

I suspect that many families that have the ability to move to surrounding communities or place their children in private schools will do so.

My family will probably leave Evanston because of this and because of other, similar, problems in the Evanston schools.

— Andrew N. Plasz 

Temple Only Seems Jewish


Your Nov. 24 article about Howard Street churches states that their signs identifies them as either Christian or Jewish.  None of the institutional names quoted, however, identify the institution as Jewish. Perhaps your reporter was fooled by the word “Temple” (YHWH and YAHSHUA’s Temple).  No Jewish institution would incorporate the unpronounceable name of God in its name, nor would a Jewish institution feature the name of Jesus (in Hebrew, Yahshua). 

Even if the congregants of this church want to link themselves to Christianity’s Jewish roots, their acceptance of Jesus disqualifies them for acceptance by any Jewish denomination as a Jewish institution. 

When I first moved to Evanston, some 35 years ago, there was a Jewish storefront synagogue on Howard Street, Agudath Jacob, which has since moved to Skokie.  And the Sephardic Congregation occupies its own building, not a storefront, at 1819 Howard, near Dodge. 

You may want to correct this error in a future issue of the RoundTable.

–Laurence Kaufman