Evanston Township High School administrators told members of the school board on Monday that they have ongoing concerns about student achievement data and are “not happy” with the latest available numbers from the 2021-2022 year.
Earlier this month, the RoundTable covered Illinois school report card assessment performance data for ETHS juniors over the last several years. That data showed declining English and math scores for local high schoolers over the last five years and a persistent gap in educational opportunities for students of color.
Addressing those trends at a Monday evening meeting, both board members and school officials agreed that ETHS needs to rethink its standard teaching practices to offer a better education for students from underrepresented backgrounds, especially in math. As Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Pete Bavis mentioned, sociologist Sean Reardon has told ETHS leaders in the past that the school offers an extremely high-quality education for white students, but its education for students of color just don’t match that level.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere near where we were pre-pandemic,” Bavis said.
“When we look at our SAT scores, you’ll see that our math achievement is really struggling, and that points to the direct impact of an interrupted school year, plus the direct impact of an interrupted quarter, plus a transition year.”
Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment Carrie Levy also joined Bavis in presenting data on student achievement, well-being and long-term outcomes. Using responses to a survey last spring that about 75% of ETHS students completed, Levy made the charts below detailing students’ sense of belonging, connectedness and relationships with their teachers.
Overall, 56% of all students said they feel like they belong “quite a bit” or “completely” at ETHS, though only 25% said they feel “quite” or “extremely” connected to the adults at the high school. Students identifying as non-binary or transgender reported feeling the least sense of belonging or connectedness at ETHS.
And, on the achievement data side as well, 93% of ETHS freshmen last year were on track to graduate on time, meaning they completed at least 10 semester credits with no more than one “F” semester grade in a core class. When breaking that number down by different demographic groups, though, 86% of Hispanic freshmen, 86% of freshmen with an individualized education program and 83% of low-income freshmen were on track to graduate.
Looking to tackle some of those concerns about achievement and performance, Superintendent Marcus Campbell announced Monday that he and Bavis are working on creating a new “Instruction and Assessment Vision Casting Committee.” The two administrators have already contacted about 40 different ETHS educators and staff members to participate on that committee, which will make instruction, assessment and programming recommendations to Campbell and the board.
“Coming out of the pandemic, there were certainly things that we needed to revisit regarding instruction, and really examine our beliefs around instructional practice,” Campbell said. “I think this is an opportunity to really engage our stakeholders for a vision around teaching and learning that’s consistent with the goals that we currently have for the district.”
Moving forward, the ultimate aim of that committee and its suggested changes will be to help narrow educational opportunity gaps at ETHS and make concrete improvements in removing the predictability of achievement based on race, wealth or ability, among other factors.
“It’s going to take time to dig out, time to accustom ourselves,” Bavis said. “I think we’re enjoying an incredibly productive school year this year. I’m seeing a return to normalcy in the classroom, a return to positive relationships in the classroom, a return to more engagement from the students, and our teachers being able to push kids harder now than they could have last year or the year before.”