At the Sept. 19 meeting of the District 202 School Board, Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, gave an update on the progress being made in developing a model to use in determining whether students attending Evanston Township High School are prepared for college.

Dr. Bavis said the model is much more sophisticated than the model presented last spring. In addition, he said, ETHS is working with administrators of School District 65 and David Figlio, a professor at Northwestern University, in developing the model.

Last spring, administrators of ETHS proposed that “persisting into second year of college” be the “outcome” indicating college readiness. They then identified three measures that they said predicted whether ETHS students would persist to second year of college. The measures were a high school GPA of 2.6, a C- in Algebra, and a passing grade in an Advanced Placement or a Project Lead the Way course. Under the prior model, students who met each of these measures would be deemed college ready.

A Joint Approach With District 65

Dr. Figlio met with representatives of Districts 202 and 65 on July 6 to lay the groundwork for a “multiple measures model of college readiness” that could be used by both School Districts, said Dr. Bavis. On behalf of Distict 202, Eric Witherspoon, Superintendent; Dr. Bavis; and Carrie Levy, Director of Research, Evaluation & Assessment, attended. On behalf of District 65, Paul Goren, Superintendent, and Maria Allison, Chief Strategy Officer, attended.

Administrators from Districts 202 and 65 agreed that:

• It is extremely important that the post-secondary outcome selected be the same for both Districts;

• Data will determine what gets put into the measure to optimize its level of prediction;

• Using multiple measures is essential to the model, and these cannot be simply a checklist;

• Information gained from this measure must be actionable to the student level.

Determining a Post-Secondary ‘Outcome’

Administrators decided not to use graduation from college as the ‘outcome’ that will be used to define college readiness.

Instead, they decided to identify the “earliest post-secondary outcome” (e.g., persistence to second year of college, persistence to a third semester in college, etc.) that “is highly predictive of ultimate graduation,” Dr. Witherspoon told the RoundTable.

Dr. Witherspoon said the reason for using the earliest post-secondary outcome rather than graduation is to enable ETHS to use more recent ETHS student data in developing the multiple measures.

Once they determine the “earliest post-secondary outcome” ETHS will determine “multiple measures” (such as a high school grade point average, a grade in an Advanced Placement course, etc.) that are predictive that an  ETHS student will achieve that outcome.

Dr. Bavis explained the “multiple measures” will not simply be a checklist, where “yes” or “no” can be checked off on list of multiple measures. Rather, the measures will be more of a “sliding scale index,” more of “an algorithm.”

Conceptually, the measures may provide a range of scores, and a higher score on one measure may counterbalance a lower score on another measure. 

Dr. Bavis said District 65 could backmap from the same post-secondary outcome, and determine whether a seventh-grader, for example, is on track to college readiness. “It really is groundbreaking in its potential.

“We want to use this model to really make a difference in a student’s life,” said Dr. Bavis, “maybe use it to develop an early intervention for students, or an early flagging system for a student who was on track but slipped off track. That’s our aspiration.”

 Dr. Bavis said he hoped to be able to present the post-secondary outcome at the joint District 65/202 School Board meeting in October.

Board Comments

Mark Metz said, “This is ground-breaking stuff. This will really help us identify what needs to happen with individual students going all the way back to keep them on track to succeed in college.”

Jonathan Baum said, “I would say don’t hurry. I think we benefited from slowing the train down last spring.” He said the benefits included obtaining the participation of Dr. Figlio, collaborating with District 65 in selecting the same post-secondary outcome, and shifting from persisting to a second year in college as the post-secondary outcome to a post-secondary outcome that is predictive of graduation from college.

“If it takes longer,” said Mr. Baum, “quality is more important than speed. I think we’re definitely on the right track.”

Pat Savage-Williams said, “This is great stuff, as you talk about all we can do with this.”

Monique Parsons said, “While I agree with my colleagues to take your time, my word for the night is urgency. I want us to strike the right balance. I want us to take the time that we need, but I don’t want us to get held up.”

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...