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The District 202 School Board finalized its list of goals for the three-year period beginning in fall 2012 and passed them on to the District’s administration for input about how they are to be achieved and progress measured.
The goal-setting process, put into motion last fall, incorporated discussions with teachers, parents, students and the School Improvement Team to gather feedback. The School Board held an initial discussion about the goals at its Feb. 13 meeting and another on March 17, which was open to the public and facilitated by a member of the Illinois Association of School Boards
“We’ve pretty much opened the door to anyone in the community to provide input,” Assistant Superintendent/Principal Oscar Hawthorne said of the process. In addition to scheduled meetings this past fall, the District also offered the opportunity for anyone who wished to respond to a survey.
The Board approved moving ahead with a total of six goals, five that had been extensively discussed and reworked over several meetings, and a sixth proposed by Board member Jonathan Baum at the April 23 Board meeting.
The first five proposed goals are as follows:
• Increase each student’s academic trajectory as demonstrated through multiple measures.
• Provide individualized supports, programs, services and curricula to ensure that each student will demonstrate significant academic and social-emotional growth during their experience at ETHS.
• Create a student-centered facility using 21st-century resources to support the needs of our diverse learning community.
• Provide consistent and stable financial stewardship to assure excellent education and opportunity for each student; reasonable property taxes; leveraging and optimizing resources; and values-based, cost-effective allocation of resources.
• Strengthen relationships throughout the community that enrich engagement among all stakeholders, enhance student learning and well-being and assure full continuity of effort with District 65.
The part of the fifth goal that refers to relations with District 65 had been left for further discussion after the April 23 meeting, but in the most recent meeting on May 7, Board members were in agreement about its inclusion.
Finally, the sixth goal, “Enhance the reputation of Evanston Township High School,” was also approved and passed on to the administration, but only after some further Board discussion. The goal also received some public comment support.
Mr. Baum suggested that the reputation of ETHS be enhanced by “identifying a series of markers of excellence” and “benchmarking” ETHS’ performance on those markers against “those of peer high schools.” Mr. Baum suggested such measures be used as “richness” of curriculum or extra-curricular activities, rate of acceptance into colleges “at all levels of selectivity,” median freshman GPA of ETHS graduates and campus safety.
This idea generated discussion, both pro and con, at the April meeting and on May 7.
President Mark Metz, absent from the May 7 discussion because of illness, said on April 23 that he supported the idea, but expressed the concern that it would be difficult to obtain data from comparable districts in order to accomplish the benchmarking.
“I love the idea of burnishing our reputation … but almost none [of the schools] will give [the data],” he said.
Board member Rachel Hayman also questioned the idea of comparing ETHS to other high schools, saying it would be difficult to find any with comparable demographics.
“We do benchmark. … We already monitor our progress. … We also collaborate with … metropolitan high schools and [Minority Student Achievement Network] schools,” she said. “We do share our data in the spirit of communication. … It’s understood that data won’t be published. Most of the data that Mr. Baum is suggesting is not public. It’s probable that the schools won’t share it.”
Ms. Hayman further protested the proposed sixth goal, saying, “Education is not a competitive sport. We should be evaluating how well we meet the needs of our students. … Our District has embarked on innovations in the past three years [such as] the earned honors model. These are bold steps. [We are creating an environment] where all students can succeed.”
Mr. Baum defended his proposal. “Our reputation is an asset. … Our school competes whether we want it to or not. … It is our belief that demography is not destiny [and] we believe in all children. … We can show that our curriculum is richer than other schools and that we offer it not just to a select group.”
Board member Gretchen Livingston also supported including the sixth goal but said, “It’s rightly left to our administration to determine what benchmarks should be. …. It’s distracting [for us] to focus on that level of detail. It’s the administration’s job to work with us on what’s possible.”
“If we had this in place it could become a tool for public communication,” suggested Board member Scott Rochelle. “One thing we don’t want to overlook, [is the potential for a positive] effect on students. This will trickle down. [We don’t want students] to feel inferior.”
Jim Young, an ETHS parent, said that he was “pleased to know” that the Board was going to include benchmarking in its goals. “A strong reputation is a magnet for talent,” he said. While acknowledging that benchmarking “is not a panacea … it has shortcomings …” he also said it could have “significant benefits.” There is a growing trend in education to use benchmarking and it could be useful in “resource allocation.”
Superintendent Eric Witherspoon told Board members that he and his staff would be able to provide strategies and measures for all the goals by the Board’s first meeting in June. Given that schedule, it appears that the Board will finalize the goals in September 2012 after providing opportunity for additional public comment and review.