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Even though Evanston Township High School has been recognized for excellence in several areas, it still remains subject to the sanctions of the No Child Left Behind Act because it has not shown Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for several subgroups of students for at least five years.
One of the requirements is to fill out a lengthy report describing the actions the school is taking to improve student achievement and evidence that those actions are having some effect. The report is submitted to an online monitoring system called “Rising Star,” said Dr. Eric Witherspoon, ETHS superintendent.
“I will not relate the frustrations we have with this bureaucratic request,” he told the Board at its April 22 meeting. “We take things that reflect the realities of what we are doing here and package them.”
Dr. Judith Levinson, director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment, said, “There are 154 ‘indicators’ [to fill out]. This is an exercise that we do every year. We have a coach who helps us fill it out, but we think that when we give it to the State, nobody looks at it.”
“Does anything positive come out of the experience?” asked Board member Rachel Hayman.”
Dr. Levinson replied, “No.”
“Does it allow one to take the goals that we [ETHS] have and see if they match with the State’s goals?” Ms. Hayman asked.
“You can look at the report and say, ‘Are we all right?’” responded Dr. Levinson.
“I found it very useful in terms of seeing where we are,” said Board member Jonathan Baum. “What is impressive about it is the candor,” he added. He also said the State puts an emphasis on a “healthy relationship between a healthy parent group” and the school. Given that the future of the ETHS PTA is somewhat uncertain – whether it will continue as a PTA or become a PTO or something else – Mr. Baum said, “We as a District have a stake in the continuing discussion about the future of PTA.”
ETHS still allows trips to different countries, but there is a shift to summer rather than school-year trips, said Dr. Witherspoon. Because the trips occur in the summer, there is less disruption to classes, said Assistant Superintendent Oscar Hawthorne. The trips planned for the 2013-14 school year are to Stratford, Ontario; China; France; Germany and Spain.
The school has an “equity and access” policy for school trips, under which parents and students are notified eight months in advance of the timing and the costs and of ways to raise funds for the trip so that each student who has qualified for a trip will be able to go, said Mr. Hawthorne. Students whose families qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and who meet the qualifications for the trip will receive a minimum of one-third of the cost of the trip, he said.
Mr. Baum said he is “still troubled about the equity aspect of the school-trip policy. I have a problem that any student who meets the criteria can go [on a trip], but if one student can’t go then the trip is cancelled.”
“The idea is that this is a class effort,” said Mr. Hawthorne.
“I don’t know that teaching our kids to be fundraisers is the best use of their time,” Mr. Baum said.
The Board approved school calendars for 2013-14 and 2014-15. Rhonda Present, founder and director of Parents Work, spoke at the Board meeting about the importance of having the ETHS calendar mesh with the District 65 calendar. She said one of the biggest causes of absence and truancy is older children having to stay home to watch younger children when parents must go to work. If both districts have the same school holidays, that can be avoided, she said.
The Future of JLTF
The District 65/202 Joint Legislative Task Force is in the process of becoming the Joint 65/202 Legislative Committee. School District 65 recently approved a resolution for the task force to become a committee, but a similar resolution was tabled at the District 202 meeting.
Board member Gretchen Livingston said that, although the members of the task force had agreed upon the language for the resolution, the resolution that the District 65 Board approved contained some differences.
“There are some differences between the two versions that I think need to be clarified,” she said. Two, she said, are “the subject matter of the committee itself and membership on the committee. I think there should be more than one community member. I am not sure ED RED (an education advocacy group) is appropriately a committee member, but they are welcome to attend.”
Everyone should see “Little Shop of Horrors,” being performed April 25, 26 and 27, was the main comment from Board members.
This was the last full-Board meeting for Rachel Hayman, Martha Burns and Deborah Graham. Ms. Burns said she would “begin her thank-yous” by thanking those who televise the Board meetings. Ms. Graham said, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as a member of the ETHS Board of Education. The last four years have been inspiring, sometimes exciting and always enlightening.”