On Aug. 29, I attended the first District 65 School Board meeting of the 2016-2017 school year. The School District adopted a racial and educational equity statement community members and leaders like myself helped craft. 

This statement will help guide the hard work ahead to ensure all students, particularly black and brown students, have better educational outcomes.  The District also provided a progress report on its strategic plan. 

When student achievement scores were shared, it was clearly evident there is so much work to be done.

According to the data shared by our District, only 25% of Latino students meet college-ready reading benchmarks, and only 17% of Latino students meet college-ready benchmarks in math, while White students are at 75% in reading and 54% in math. 

Over the summer, several parents, educators, and community members met to formulate questions to District administrative staff and Board regarding this information which was had been presented at the special Bilingual Parent Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting on Latino student achievement in May 2016.  Although there were some promising practices that individual schools with Two-way Immersion (TWI) programs shared that should be emulated in all schools with TWI programs, we were nonetheless very concerned with the academic gap in reading and math between Latino/Hispanic students in comparison to the rest of the District 65 student body.

We believe it is unacceptable that such gaps exist in such a well-resourced school district such as ours.

We also believe that as parents and community members, we have a responsibility to work with our school’s staff, our district administrators, and our elected school board to figure out how we can close the academic gaps and ensure the best of outcomes for our students.

We are glad to know that District 65 is open to answering our questions.  District administrators reached out to us after the BPAC meeting in May to assure us that they will dig deeper into the reasons why this academic gap exists, and find ways to work together as a community to close these gaps by building the capacity of our teachers and parents to help our students.

We aimed at developing a comprehensive list of questions that touch on a number of things; questions on the TWI program; its structure, mission, capacity, and impact.  We raised questions regarding district practices in communicating with Latino families.  We also inquired about the district’s support and capacity-building of District 65 teachers to support Latino students and their families, as well as how Latino student achievement is measured and supported.

We began raising these questions at the BPAC meeting on Aug. 15. At this meeting, we discussed these questions as well as requested school-based community meetings on the TWI program and a special school district board meeting on Latino student achievement be held as soon as possible to share information with the community at large.  We also reiterated this request at the Aug. 29 board meeting.

We are looking forward to working with the district and community stakeholders in improving outcomes for our Latino/Hispanic students, and also to continue being part of the ongoing work to ensure there is racial equity in educational outcomes for black and brown students in District 65.

We ask you, Latino parents, fellow parents, and community members, to join us in the important work.  Please contact Latino Resources at 847-866-5916.

Mr. Hernandez is Chairman, Consejo de Acción y Compromiso Latino/Latino Engagement and Action Council, Latino Resources

This essay also appears in Spanish on the RoundTable website.