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The summer at Evanston Township High School was anything but quiet. Aside from the usual classes and activities, the buzz of tools and heavy construction filled the halls as several capital improvement projects were implemented to provide greater resources and support to the ETHS community.
The HUB and STEM labs will open for use in mid-September.The Welcome Center and ChromeZone are already up and running.
The new 16,000-square-foot Student Success Center, or “HUB,” as the students named it, is comparable to a “college student union”, said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. “This is [the students’] space to come and go.” The center, which will open mid-September, will bring student resources together in one location. The space will hold the College and Career Center, community service programs, student activities, satellites of Youth Organizations Umbrella, the Youth Job Center and more.study halls, which were once scattered around the school, will all be held in the HUB. This will allow students to get support on more than one subject during the same period. The HUB will open each day at 8 a.m. and remain open after school and on weekends for Wildkit Academy.
Grant money paid nearly 75 percent of the construction cost, said CFO Bill Stafford. LED lighting is used throughout the space – and in all newly renovated spaces in the building – which reduces energy costs, said Mr. Stafford. (See May 8 story in the RoundTable or at evanstonroundtable.com.) A PowerPoint presentation detailing the plans for The Hub, including mock-up photos, is available on the school’s website, eths.k12.il.us.
Another room has been repurposed into the new ChromeZone, the “operational center” for everything to do with the new laptops distributed to this years’ freshman class, explained Marcus Campbell, Assistant Superintendent/Principal. “If students have any trouble [with their Chromebook] this is where they come,” said Mr. Campbell. The tech support center, now open and located at H-220, is completely student run, with those working there earning community service hours.
With donations from the ETHS Educational Foundation – including a $500,000 gift from 1963 ETHS alumni Leonard Schaeffer – and a unique partnership with Northwestern University, two new labs were added to bring the total to four remodeled STEM labs. The updated spaces on the third floor of the school will house mainly AP level science, technology, engineering and math courses. Each lab was built to accommodate multiple activities and will be “more flexible to teach courses we haven’t even invented yet,” said Dr. Witherspoon.
NU is helping to “bring us into the next century”, added Mr. Stafford, having provided assistance not only on the building of the labs but on the STEM curriculum as well. A full time NU staff person will work at ETHS to help with the transition. An NU professor will teach independent study classes in the labs.There will be NU science fellows helping with STEM classes as well.
Parents and guests to ETHS now have access to the new Welcome Center. “We wanted the community to have a space to feel welcome; a place to put coats and grab a cup of coffee,” said Dr. Witherspoon. The room, which once housed the College and Career Center (W201), also has space for small group meetings.There are plans to expand the uses of the room in the near future, said Dr. Witherspoon.
High Expectations, Support
ETHS is “serious about continued improvement, equity in excellence, student achievement,” said Dr. Witherspoon. The school’s recent “transformation is not only physical,” added Dr. Witherspoon. “We are seeing measurably better outcomes.”
Over the last six years, ETHS juniors have scored an average of 23.3 or higher on the ACT, according to Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. The State average is 20.8 and the national average is 21.1, he added. All juniors take the test. Out of the 42 years of ACT data for ETHS, Mr. Bavis added, the last six years have seen six of the eight highest scores recorded.
Aside from test scores, ETHS points to an increase in students taking Advanced Placement classes and increased career training as measures of improved student achievement. Enrollment in AP classes has tripled since 1996, sending ETHS graduates to college with coursework already under their belt. The number of certificate programs is also on the rise giving students the opportunity to graduate with real job training and credentials.
“The culture of this school is about high expectations for all students,” said Dr. Witherspoon. “If you expect a lot, you get a lot, research shows.” When there is a high expectation, there is a greater need for support, added Dr. Witherspoon. The recent building improvements “are the companion to higher expectations.”