Girls on the Run Program. Photo courtesy of District 65

School District 65’s 2019 Achievement and Accountability Report, presented to the School Board on Jan. 13, contains a new section that highlights achievements and accomplishments of students, educators, principals, and community members. The new section, which is distinct from the section reporting results on standardized tests, was included in response to a request by School Board members to report student achievement in a more “holistic” way.

This article focuses on the accomplishments of students, educators, principals, and community members reported in the new section of the Achievement and Accountability Report.

Student Accomplishments

Kylie Klein, Director of Research, Accountability, and Data for District 65, told members of the Board that her team had initially planned to devote one page of the report to student accomplishments, but that was not enough space because “there were so many really remarkable things in leadership opportunities, education opportunities that were provided through our schools, including things like the arts, STEM, student-led instruction, out-of-school learning, sports teams, chess teams, rock bands, programs that were student led and mentoring of other students, students leading charity drives to raise funds for really meaningful charities within our school community, and the accomplishments are really diverse and far reaching.”

Ms. Klein added that while the report included “only a small sample of the many accomplishments made during the 2019 school year by our students, we hope they provide the community with a window into the diversity of student learning experiences happening in our district’s schools.”

The report lists the following student accomplishments during the 2018-19 school year:

  • “Approximately 850 sixth-graders participated in Evanston’s Citywide STEAM Project Showcase this spring. Students tackled Evanston’s most pressing environmental issues using design thinking to develop solutions and prototype ideas for challenges as identified in the City of Evanston’s Climate Action & Resilience Plan.

    • “At Washington Elementary, over 30 fifth-grade students supported younger students at the school by serving as mentors and school leaders through academic, social, and emotional development learning opportunities.

    • “Staff and eighth-grade students from Chute Middle School led the first student summit focused on racial equity. 

    • “Four students at Dr. Bessie Rhodes School of Global Studies were  State Champions in Debate, with two placing on Varsity and two placing on the Junior Varsity team.

    • “At Lincoln Elementary, student vision and creativity was celebrated through the student-led yearbook committee and school newspaper! Students are also playing an active role in the Kindness Club, which meets monthly to identify ways to spread kindness within and beyond the school community.

    • “Five of the seven ‘Problem Solvers’ teams from Lincolnwood Elementary advanced to the State Competition, with all five attaining ribbons in the Oral or Video Presentation categories.

    • “Fourth- and fifth-graders from Walker Elementary participated in Battle 2.0, with 18 students participating in Walker’s Battle of the Books. Nine of the students accomplished reading all 18 titles.

    • “This year’s annual districtwide choral event at King Arts was a tremendous success and brought together students from schools across the district.  Students from Park School participated this year, using percussion instruments and instruments with switch technology to carry the beat for the performance, alongside peer students from Orrington Elementary. 

    • “Dewey Elementary students earned three team trophies at the annual districtwide chess tournament. Teams won First Place Overall for the second and third grade Championship section, Second Place Overall for the second and third grade Reserve section, and Second Place Overall for the Kindergarten and first grade Championship.

  • “Students from the Rice Education Center helped to organize and staff a lemonade stand in support of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a fundraising organization for Childhood Cancer. Students raised $125 for the charity.

    • “Over 100 fourth and fifth graders from Willard Elementary formed 19 school rock bands and performed at the school’s annual ‘Hootenanny Rock & Roll Concert’ at the Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center. Some bands went on to perform at local festivals and concerts!

    • “Nichols Middle School had a record number of students, totaling 30, participate in the student ambassador program during the 2018-2019 school year. Serving as an outreach program, student ambassadors met with new and prospective students and provided them with a familiar face within the school to help them get acclimated. The ambassadors also provided general information and training for parents and students during fifth grade orientation events. 

    • “The Boy’s Cross Country team from Haven Middle School achieved continued success earning fourth place in the State Competition this year.

    • “At Orrington Elementary, students from each grade level chose topics that were important to them and developed themes and opportunities for advocacy and action.  These included student projects such as fundraising for trees to be planted on school grounds, having a clothing drive for a homeless shelter in Evanston, and working on projects to beautify their school.

    • “At Park School, students participated in connected learning experiences in the classroom and in the community. In one experience, students learned about economics and budgeting and bought ingredients from a local store to make items to host a bake sale. In another, students learned about the water cycle and ecology and then connected that learning to Lake Michigan and its beach.

    • “Over 250 students from Chute Middle School contributed to the production of ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Alongside educators and staff from the fine arts department, students were leaders in all aspects of musical production from costume and set design to orchestra and marketing.”

    Educators’ and Principals’ Accomplishments

    “We also included pages highlighting just a fraction of the accomplishments of our educators in our school buildings and our school leaders,” said Ms. Kylie. “These are the sorts of contributions that really help create remarkable learning environments that value the wide range of skills and learning that we want our students to have to promote long-term success.”

    The accomplishments of educators and principals highlighted in the report are as follows:

  • “District 65 had over 45 Nationally Board Certified Teachers. Known as the “gold standard” in teacher certification, the National Board was designed to develop, retain, and recognize educators who show a commitment to improving education for all students.

    • “A team of bilingual educators from Washington Elementary was awarded a grant for family engagement. They used the grant to develop a Saturday morning program to empower Latinx families in early literacy.

    • “JEH Early Childhood Center educators collaborated to develop professional learning plans to intensify educator understanding on implementation of the very complex Teaching Strategies Gold Assessment. This document identifies a shared set of focus areas for teaching and learning with prekindergarten youth.

    • “At Park School, the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Crisis/Safety committees worked collaboratively to examine and update systems of support for students. As part of this work, teams identified opportunities for weekly celebrations to highlight student accomplishments and successes.

    • “Willard Elementary educators were instrumental in helping to craft protocols for Responding to Hateful Language and Discriminatory Acts, which ultimately were adopted for district-wide use.

    • “The Oakton Elementary Cougar Cares Team spearheaded efforts to implement school-wide mindfulness practices. Each day begins with a 90-second mindfulness meditation breathing exercise. Students also take part in mindfulness exercises after recess and at the end of the school day. These new practices aided in decreasing Office Discipline Referrals for students by 55%.

    • “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Literary and Fine Arts School earned the Exemplary Arts School designation from the National Arts Schools Network. King Arts was one of 16 schools across the nation to receive this honor.

    • “Rice Education Center expanded its community dinner program, which brings students and families from the community and residential programs together for dinner and evening activities. This expansion allows more students to participate in the once-per-trimester events.

    • “This year a new leadership opportunity was implemented for paraprofessionals. Five lead paraprofessionals are providing mentoring and coaching support and will also help to plan and facilitate professional learning opportunities for paraprofessional educators across District 65.

    “At Washington Elementary, Principal Kate Ellison and the school administrative team launched some of the first district-wide green initiatives including composting, installing solar energy, and creating opportunities for K-5 student leaders to engage in environmental activism throughout the school.

    • “Lincolnwood Elementary’s principal Max Weinberg and the administrative team developed the annual Lincolnwood Family Dinner which offers an opportunity to build a more cohesive, integrated school community.

    • “Jim McHolland, principal at Chute Middle School, was honored with the inaugural Lorraine H. Morton Committed to Community Award, an award that honors and recognizes a community member for their longstanding dedication and commitment to bringing the community together. The award honors the legacy of Mayor Morton’s commitment to Evanston, which started with her work in District 65.

    • “JEH Early Childhood Center’s principal Sharon Sprague led the school staff in the development of their three-year strategic plan which was designed to better meet the needs of all students and to improve kindergarten readiness outcomes.

    • “Adrian Harries, Nichols Middle School Principal; Bryon Harris, District 65 Truancy Officer; and Perry Hollins, Oakton Educator developed and supported the implementation of Men with Voices, an afterschool mentorship program for Black and Latino Males which served 28 students in 2019.

    • “Park School Principal Jill Anderson led a process to identify and pilot two new tools to support students’ development of communication skills. About one-third of Park students were engaged in the pilot and showed promising growth.  In the 2019-2020 school year, the pilot was expanded to serve all Park students.

    Community Contributions

    “We also had an opportunity to include some of the community contributions,” said Ms. Kylie. “I would love to see us expand this because I know there are so many more wonderful organizations and partners in our community who maybe weren’t represented in this year’s report, but we really wanted to make sure we had a space to acknowledge and highlight all of the different achievements that are part of what brings learning to life here in Evanston.”

    The community contributions highlighted in the report are as follows:

  • “District 65 educators, parents, district staff, and colleagues from Family Focus, Kingsley, and the Fleetwood Jourdain Center among others collaborated to organize an affinity group space for black students. Over the course of the three events, on average, 200 students participated.

• “Monthly Local Area Network 40 (LAN 40) meetings provide opportunities for mental health and service providers to coordinate wraparound services for families who may benefit.  Partners like Metropolitan Family Services, YWCA, Moran Center, and the Child Advocacy Center are critical community agencies providing important support for District 65 families.

• “Willard Elementary has a continuing partnership with Desire 2 Aspire, an organization that enriches the lives of girls through mentorship. Desire 2 Aspire teaches essential social-emotional learning skills, instills the importance of social advocacy, and exposes girls to diverse career paths and activities. More than 15 Willard students took advantage of these mentorship opportunities with Northwestern student mentors. The program also expanded to serve Haven students in the 2019-2020 school year.

• “The District 65 Community Welcome Center opened in 2019 and immediately began providing classes, resources, and meeting space to District 65 families. 

• “In the 2018-2019 school year, Foundation 65 had a record number of Responsive Grant applications from educators, with over 35 submissions.  They awarded 15 projects which provided over $27,000 in funding.

• “The Books & Breakfast Program reached over 150 students in four District 65 elementary schools with the support of over 160 community and parent/caregiver volunteers and 30 Northwestern student tutors. They served over 8,500 breakfasts and helped with more than 7,000 homework assignments.

• “The Evanston community, families, and school staff helped to raise $170,000 to renovate Park School’s playground to make it accessible so that all children can move safely and freely around the playground and use the equipment.”

The RoundTable will report on students’ results on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) tests – on both a District-wide and school-by-school basis – in subsequent articles.

Larry Gavin

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...