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While showing progress in some areas, much work remains to be done. That was the underlying message of a report on student achievement presented by Carrie Levy, director of research, evaluation, and assessment, at the Oct. 26 meeting of the District 202 School Board.

The report was streamlined at the Board’s request, Dr. Levy said, so it does not contain much of the data provided in earlier reports. It reports progress in meeting the District’s goal to “increase each student’s academic trajectory,” using various measures of success.

Meeting Expected Growth From EXPLORE to ACT

One measure of success is that 100% of students will meet “expected growth” from the EXPLORE test taken in 8th grade to the ACT test taken in 11th or 12th grade. Growth is measured by computing the difference between a student’s composite score in English, reading, math, and science on the EXPLORE test and the student’s composite score on the ACT test. Students who are not on target for college and career readiness on the EXPLORE test are expected to gain 4 points; students whose EXPLORE scores are on target are expected to gain 5 points.

Significantly, meeting expected growth does not necessarily mean that a student will accelerate his or her achievement trajectory. It simply means a student’s growth will be typical for a student who was or was not on track in eighth grade.

In 2015, the percentage of students who met expected growth was 71%, down from 74% in 2014 and 75% in 2013. Figure 1 gives the breakdown for black, Hispanic and white students, the largest three ethnic groups at District 202. The chart shows that in 2015, 89% of white students, 49% of black students and 44% of Hispanic students met their growth targets.

Enrollment in AP/Honors Courses

A second measure is that 84% of 11th and 12th graders will be enrolled in honors or AP courses. In the 2014-15 school year, 85% of 11th and 12th graders were enrolled in at least one honors or AP course in the first semester, compared to 82% in 2014 and 85% in 2013.

Figure 2 gives the breakdown for black, Hispanic and white students. The chart shows that 94% of white students, 67% of black students and 79% of Hispanic students were enrolled in at least one honors or AP course in the first semester of 2015.

With regard to enrollment in AP courses, Superintendent Eric Witherspoon noted that 12 or 13 years ago, 11% of the student body was enrolled in an AP course. Last year the percentage had risen to 78%.

Scoring a 3 on AP Course

A third measure is that 71% of graduating seniors will earn a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP test prior to graduation. AP exams are graded on a scale from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). Depending on the college, students earning a 3, 4 or 5 may be awarded college credit.

Of the 2015 graduating seniors enrolled in at least one AP course, 74% earned a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP exam. The percentages in the prior two years were 66% in 2014 and 69% in 2013. By comparison, 20% of Illinois graduates who took at least one AP exam earned a score of 3 or higher in 2013, said Dr. Levy.

Figure 3 gives the breakdown for black, Hispanic and white students. It shows that 86% of white students, 36% of black students, and 71% of Hispanic students who were enrolled in an AP course earned a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam. In raw numbers, that is 272 white students, 39 black students and 54 Hispanic students.

Dr. Bavis proposed this goal be changed from a certain percentage of “graduating seniors enrolled in at least one AP course” will earn a score of 3 or higher on an AP course, to a certain percentage of “seniors” will earn a score of 3 or higher on an AP course. He said this will make a more rigorous goal.

Meeting ACT’s CRB

A fourth measure is that 100% of students will meet or exceed the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks (CRB) of 22 in math and 18 in English. The ACT’s CRB is the score on a subject test that indicates that a student will have a 50% chance of earning at least a “B” or a 75% chance of earning at least a “C” in the corresponding credit-bearing college course.

In English, 74% of graduating seniors met ACT’s CRB in 2015, up from 71% in 2014 and 73% in 2013. Figure 4 gives the breakdown for black, Hispanic and white students. The chart reflects that 97% of white students, 45% of black students and 51% of Hispanic students met ACT’s CRB in English in 2015. By comparison, 64% of graduating seniors met the ACT’s CRB in English.

In 2015, 61% of graduating seniors met the ACT’s CRB in math, up from 57% in 2014 and 59% in 2013. Figure 5 gives the breakdown for black, Hispanic and white students. The chart reflects that 88% of white students, 24% of black students and 39% of Hispanic students met ACT’s CRB in 2015. By comparison, 43% of the graduating seniors nationwide met the ACT’s CRB in math in 2015.

Achieving a Composite Score of 24 on the ACT

Peter Bavis, assistant superintendent curriculum and instruction, proposed adding a more rigorous measure to the mix, namely that graduating seniors achieve a composite score of 24 on the ACT. The composite benchmark for college readiness is 21.25, so striving for a composite score of 24 would be a higher bar. Dr. Bavis said Montgomery County, Md., set a goal that students achieve a composite score of 24 many years ago. Students who score a composite score of 24 are in the top quartile in the nation, he added.

Dr. Bavis reported that 84% of white students, 23% of black students, and 30% of Hispanic students in the 2015 graduating class achieved a composite score of 24 or better.

Superintendent Eric Witherspoon noted that the percentage of Hispanic and black students who achieved a composite score of 24 is in excess of or close to the national average for all students.

Public Comments

During the public comment section, ETHS parent Jim Young said many colleges that give college credit for AP courses do so only if a student scores at least a 4 on the AP exam, and some only give college credit if a student scores a 5. He urged the District to report the percentage of students who scored at each score between 1 and 5.

Jill Calian, an ETHS parent and member of the board of Citizens for Appropriate Special Education, noted that the School Board’s goals call for 100% of all students, including students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), to meet expected growth targets. Yet, she said, the achievement report did not report the percentage of students with an IEP who met growth targets. She asked that the District report this data, and to develop goals to monitor the progress of students with an IEP.

Board Comments

There was relatively little Board discussion on the achievement report.

Board member Jonathan Baum said he thought there were a lot of good things happening, “But, I also think there’s a lot of challenges.” For example, he said, the number of students taking AP classes and the number of students scoring a 3 on an AP exam is “very impressive.” He said, though, he did not see any growth overall or by subgroup in the percentage of students meeting growth targets between the EXPLORE test and the ACT test. “So that’s concerning.” He also said “We continue to see a tremendous gap,” in the percentage of students meeting college readiness benchmarks.

“I think it’s really important that our black students are doing better than black, or even white, students in the rest of the country, but we’re here at Evanston Township High School,” said Mr. Baum. “We keep talking about disparities at our school and the gaps, and it remains profound, particularly when you look at the college readiness measure. It takes a combination of strategies. This is no magic formula. But it remains a challenge.”

Board president Pat Savage-Williams said, “I agree. There’s no question. Whenever we look at any data in this District, we see the disparity. I don’t want anyone to think I don’t see that disparity. My conclusion is that’s why we need to do the work, because it’s there.”

Monique Parsons said, “We have a lot of work to do. … We are nowhere near where we need to be. For us to think and only talk about the accomplishments when so many of our students are still struggling, we need to acknowledge that we still have a ways to go. That’s why the work is important.”