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After months of discussions, workshops, meetings and motions, the District 202 School Board approved language for the four goals that will guide the District’s work over the next five years.

The outcomes and measures that will be used to assess the District’s progress in in reaching the goals has been put on hold pending further discussions on, among other things, college readiness benchmarks and indicators.

Much of the ongoing discussion has focused on goal number 1 which provides in part, “ETHS will increase each student’s academic and functional trajectory to realize college/career readiness and  independence.” The goal also serves to codify the District’s equity work by “eliminating the predictability of academic achievement” based on several classifiers: race, income, disability and status as an English Language Learner.

Benchmarks and indicators for determining if District 202 has prepared students to be college ready, workforce ready and/or independent became a difficult, somewhat controversial task. Several Board members, as well as a RoundTable editorial, questioned whether some proposed benchmarks and indicators set the bar too low.

College Readiness Criteria to be Developed

As part of the May 23 Board Report, Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent, asked the Board to approve extended time over the summer to develop a “hybrid model of college readiness based on ETHS preliminary benchmarks and additional benchmarks” developed with the help of Dr. David Figlio of Northwestern University. The ultimate indicator of college readiness for ETHS would be whether a student persists into second year of college, said Dr. Bavis.

“We realize that there are students who do not fit [a particular] model and persist into a second year of college. We do not want to discourage students from applying to college nor do we want to privilege one content area over another. In order to avoid the pitfalls of an overfit model, the ETHS Office of Research and Evaluation will work with Dr. Figlio this summer to develop a sliding scale/hybrid model of college readiness. This will allow us to personalize this measure to each student and report progress to the Board,” said Dr. Bavis’s report to the Board.

Mark Metz, Board member asked, “When we set this up, we aren’t lowering expectations, correct? We’ve said for years we want high expectations for all students, have as many as possible take our most rigorous classes. I don’t see how this lowers any of that. This is data telling us that you have a high percentage of persisting.”

Carrie Levy, director of research at ETHS, said, “We are forecasting outcome but looking at persisting; where students are performing well enough to persist. That’s a pretty high standard. It doesn’t have anything to do with our expectations.”

“A sliding scale enhances this more,” said Dr. Bavis.

Board member Gretchen Livingston said she felt the administration was asking the Board to “sign a blank check” by approving a model that had yet to be developed.

“This is not random,” said District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. The District can, “look at data and predictive value. This is totally research-based. We can look at every kid in the school and see what percent are on track to succeed.” 

D65 Input and Collective Impact

The Board also discussed a letter sent by members of the District 65 School Board to the District 202 Board, which asked that they participate in the deciding the  benchmarks for college readiness.

District 202 Board member Jonathan Baum, referencing the letter, said that college readiness is “not just a concept for District 202 but part of our collective impact … the capstone from which everything is directed and from which we back-map.”

“The tension is that the District we partner with likes single measures. We are proposing multiple measures,“ said Dr. Bavis.

Dr. Witherspoon said the District 65 letter is, “a more compelling argument that we set the direction” and establish a model.

Board Member Monique Parsons said she was “floored by the letter” – that she “thought we had decent relationship and could have discussions which didn’t take place. We need to move forward and approve goals so our District can move forward so we can hand this off to administration so they can dig deeper and do the work. I’m about District 202, and this is what I would like to do.”

Pat Savage-Williams, Board President said, “I agree. My focus is District 202. I too am upset about the letter. I see it as a distraction from the work that is so important. We need some closure.”

Mr. Baum asked that part of the work with Dr. Figlio include identifying a benchmark or criteria for college readiness that “is back-mappable” to eighth-grade and lower grade levels.

Dr. Witherspoon said that being “back-mappable” is the “only way it’s good for us. We would want them to back-map.”

Board member Doug Holt suggested a vote on the language of the goals, with a direction to staff to create measures, “with the caveat that when you come back there will be discussion. I appreciate the input from community.”

The Board voted to approve the language of the goals only and to review the outcomes and measures in the fall.

The goals, as approved, are as follows:

“Goal 1: Equitable and Excellent Education. ETHS will increase each student’s academic and functional trajectory to realize college/career readiness and independence. Recognizing that racism is the most devastating factor contributing to the diminished-achievement of students, ETHS will strive to eliminate the predictability of academic achievement based upon race. ETHS will also strive to eliminate the predictability of academic achievement based upon family income, disabilities and status as English language learners.

“Goal 2: Student Well-being. ETHS will connect each student with supports to ensure that each student will experience social-emotional development and enhance academic growth.

“Goal 3: Fiscal Accountability. ETHS will provide prudent financial stewardship.

“Goal 4: Community Engagement and Partnerships. ETHS will strengthen parent/guardian relationships to create an effective continuum of learning and seamless transitions into and out of ETHS.”

The next meeting of the District 202 Board is June 6.