Community members came together on Feb. 27 to share their input on the current draft of the District 202 goals, which are being revised as part of a planned three-year review. Despite the beautiful weather, Room N112 at Evanston Township High School had few empty seats for the seven-hour workshop hosted by the District 202 School Board and moderated by Barbara Toney, Field Services Director of the Illinois Association of School Boards.
Citing an African proverb quoted by U.S. Senator Cory Booker, who spoke in a public event at the school the night before, School Board President Pat Savage-Williams welcomed attendees and described the goal-revision process, saying that those involved in redrafting the goals could go “far together or fast alone” – referencing the fact that the Board was looking outside itself for input but that it was taking some time.
Prior to the community workshop, the Board discussed at several meetings how to update the goals, and solicited input from teachers and staff at the school. A rough of the new goals was then created and made available to the public for review and comment.
Ms. Toney began the workshop by giving an overview of the day, explaining the process, the expectations and the agenda. She described the unique roles of the Board, the superintendent and the community in effectively governing the District. She asked participants to take a “balcony view” of the goals and said of the Board, “We promise they will listen to you.”
Next, Ms. Toney set the stage for the goal review. Workshop attendees discussed the underlying values and beliefs that would guide goal setting and decision making. They broke into groups and reviewed the District’s Mission Statement and Equity and Excellence Statement. Drs. Eric Witherspoon and Pete Bavis provided a report on the status of the current goals.
Detailed work on the goals was done in small groups. In a session before lunch and in another session after, attendees chose a goal to focus on and discuss with their peers. The groups were asked to discuss what they believe is “powerful and important” in each goal, what progress they have seen as a result of each goal and what they think “needs more attention.”
Group Reports on Each Goal
After the two breakout sessions, a representative from each goal group gave a summary of their discussion. Notes from both the morning and afternoon sessions were written on poster paper and taped around the room.
Goal #1: Increase each student’s academic trajectory, while eliminating the racial predictability of achievement, as demonstrated through multiple measures.
Groups felt that eliminating racial predictability was important, but some felt that “race” was not broad enough; that English Language Learners, special education students and lower-income students were not covered in the goal; and that race is already covered in the Equity Statement.
Others felt that to make specific mention of other categories of students could “dilute” the idea that race predictability is important; that “race has scripted this institution” and “we need to change the systems;” that race “belongs at the forefront.”
Still others commented that the trajectory piece and race piece of the goal are not “mutually exclusive,” that all subgroups of students were covered in the language of the goal.
The “multiple measures” piece was seen as positive; that it was good not just to focus on test scores to measure the success of a students. Some of the measures listed in the goal draft include enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) or Project Lead the Way (PLTW) courses and the National Clearinghouse Database, which shows what students do after high school.
The draft of the goals also states that measures need to be determined to show growth and expected trajectories, growth measures for special-needs students and to show how many freshmen are on track to graduate.
The groups felt there is a “need for honesty” and transparency in how this goal will be defined and measured. Some students in the group expressed concern that, while Latino students’ achievement is improving overall, some black students are not improving overall, that their “experience is burdened” and they are looked at as “the voice of all African Americans.”
Students “have seen African Americans drop out” of advanced classes, yet the school continues to “brag on the numbers” of black students enrolled in those classes, they said.
Goal #2: Provide all students with resources, opportunities, supports, interventions, services, and curricula to ensure that each student will demonstrate significant academic and social-emotional growth during their experience at ETHS
The goal groups made specific recommendations on language, suggesting the goal read, “Provide and connect each student with resources…” and include reference to “intersecting identities” to address all unique experiences of each student such as English-language learners (ELLs) and special-needs students.
The groups felt that ETHS could offer “more organized, thoughtful and inclusive outreach” to eighth-grade students and parents including those at parochial and private schools, and that the recent summits – for black males and for black females – could be expanded to other subgroups.
Goal #3: Create a student-centered facility using 21st-century resources to support the needs of our diverse learning community
No group was formed around this goal and therefore no report was given. The goal’s language was not changed in the revised draft, but the targets and measures were updated to include targets to increase STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics – curricula by creating an entrepreneurship center. Other targets aim to improve WiFi capacity, migrate the security camera system to Internet Protocol (IP), continue sustainability and efforts to reduce the carbon footprint and improved building accessibility with the addition of bilingual and Braille signage.
Goal #4: Provide consistent and stable financial stewardship assuring: equitable opportunity and excellent education for each student; reasonable property taxes; leveraged and optimized resources; and values-based, cost-effective allocation of resources.
A small group looked at this goal and those involved felt the District “has a strong sense of financial stewardship” and has “weathered the storm so far” in dealing with financial uncertainties resonating from the State of Illinois.
The goal mentions “excellent education for each student” and questions were raised about the resources for students with an individual education plan (IEP). The District needs to make sure resources are allocated, “in a way to serve all students, not just the legal minimum.” It was identified that legislative advocacy will be, “increasingly important” in light of concerns over the proposed property tax freeze, the proposed shift in pension funding to local school districts, and the State budget crisis.
Goal #5: Strengthen relationships throughout the community which enrich engagement among all stakeholders and enhance student learning and well-being, and assure full continuity of effort with District 65
The morning and afternoon groups discussing this goal agreed that it should be split into two: one goal addressing community engagement and another dealing with the high school’s relationship with District 65.
Participants felt that there should be greater outreach to feeder schools outside the two Districts and that all parents need to know how and where they can have a voice, especially since the SIT (School Improvement Team) no longer exists. Joint D202 and D65 agreements are seen as a positive, as is ETHS’s role in the Cradle to Career initiative and the increase in Parent Shadow Day.
After the group reports were concluded, Ms. Toney thanked everyone for their input, saying the “Board promises” to provide input on how the workshop helped the goals process.
A summary of the group reports will be posted, she said. A special meeting of the Board will be scheduled to combine all input and complete the goals draft which will be voted on at the Board’s April 11 meeting. Ms. Toney gave kudos to the Board, saying they could have updated the goals on their own but chose not to do so.
Michele Hays, a parent from southeast Evanston, told the RoundTable she came to the workshop to help represent her neighbors, many of whom are the “targets of interventions” and “tend to fall off the radar.” Ms. Hays said she is “eager to see where it goes with goals 1 and 4.” She participated in Group 4, which dealt with financial issues, and said she learned a lot. “It’s hard to make a judgment if you don’t understand,” she said
Kristin James, PTA Council president, told the RoundTable she “appreciated the opportunity to brainstorm” and the “collaboration of parents, the community and the Board.” She hopes the Board will “continue to seek feedback” and hopes the input of the community “makes an impact.”
“Evanston really showed up,” Ms. Savage-Williams told the RoundTable. She said the workshop “captured many aspects of the community.” She said there is a lot of work for the Board to do to finish the goals and encourages everyone to watch for upcoming meeting dates to continue to be involved in the process.
Editorial on Defining College Readiness
The RoundTable, in an editorial, urges the District 202 School Board to adopt high expectations for students in defining “”college readiness”” for purposes of its five-year goals. While administrators say they have not yet recommended measures of college readiness to the Board, they told the RoundTable that they are in the process of examining the “”Redefining Ready”” metrics as they relate to outcomes for ETHS students.
The Redefining Ready metrics are being prepared by a group of superintendents. In its editorial, the RoundTable opines that Redefining Ready’s college ready criteria – in the context of high school students nationally – aims at preparing students to do C-level work in college. In light of rampant grade inflation where 77% of the grades given in four-year colleges are As and Bs, a C is just getting by. The editorial urges District 202 to set higher expectations.