District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton, left, and Board President Sergio Hernandez at the Nov. 14 School Board meeting.

Author’s Note on Dec. 26, 2022: The headline and the first sentence of this analysis and viewpoint make clear that the analysis/viewpoint is discussing only School District 65’s college readiness goal in reading. The analysis/viewpoint does not discuss the District’s other three academic goals which are to reduce the percentage of students scoring in the bottom quartile, to increase the percentage of students who are meeting their growth targets, and to increase the percentage of students who meet or exceed standards on the Illinois Assessment of Readiness. I covered all of the District’s goals in  a lengthy article posted in November, and I covered them again more recently in an article posted on Dec. 20. Links to these two other articles are at the end of this analysis/viewpoint.

On Nov. 14, School District 65 Superintendent Devon Horton advised the School Board that one of the District’s five-year goals is to increase the percentage of students who are on track to college readiness in reading on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test.

Dr. Horton and other administrators, though, decided to significantly lower the bar to measure whether students are on track to college readiness in reading on the MAP test from the 60th percentile to the 45th percentile. A comparison of the new and former benchmark scores suggests that an eighth grader who just meets District 65’s new college readiness benchmark will be reading at about the same level as a sixth grader who met District 65’s former college readiness benchmark for sixth graders.

Other data indicate that students who just meet the District’s new college readiness benchmark in reading may be prepared to just get by in high school and in college (and by some measures be at risk of academic failure), rather than to succeed and to excel.

At the Nov. 14 meeting, the School Board did not discuss the five-year goals for the District’s five-year strategic plan. And the Board was not asked to approve the goals.

An Overview and Summary

Since 2016, the District has used a MAP score of 227 as the benchmark score to determine if eighth graders were on track to college readiness in reading. A score of 227 predicts that an eighth grader is on track to do B level work in college, and it corresponds to the 60th national percentile.

Now, administrators say they will use a much lower MAP score of 220 to measure whether eighth graders are on track to college readiness in reading. A MAP score of 220 predicts that an eighth grader is on track to doing C level work in college, and it corresponds, at best, to the 45th national percentile. [1]

This article analyses the extent to which the District’s new college readiness benchmarks for reading lower expectations for students. In summary:

  • Eighth graders who score a 220 on the MAP reading test in the spring (the District’s new college readiness benchmark) are an estimated 1.6 years of academic growth below those who score a 227 (the District’s former college readiness benchmark). Measured by years of academic growth, the new benchmark is 1.6 years below the former benchmark.
  • In a joint study, top administrators of Districts 65 and 202 determined that eighth graders needed to score 227 on the MAP test in reading to be deemed proficient readers when they entered freshman year at Evanston Township High School. Students scoring below a 227 need supports. Yet, District 65 is now deeming that eighth graders who score a 220 on MAP in reading are proficient in reading and on track to college readiness. As noted, that is 1.6 years of growth below a score of 227.
  • The new benchmarks for college readiness predict that students will be on track to perform C level work in college, rather than B level work. In light of grade inflation, a grade of C in a freshman year college course related to reading ranks in the bottom quartile; and students with a Grade Point Average below 2.0 are generally viewed as failing. Also, students who do C level work in freshman year college are much less likely to complete college than those who do B level work.  
  • A study conducted by the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA, the owner of the MAP test), determined that in order to meet standards in reading on the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) and to be viewed as being on track to college readiness, an eighth grader needs a MAP score of 231 on the Spring MAP test. Yet, District 65 will be telling students they are college ready if they score a 220 in reading. That is an estimated 2.56 years behind a student who scores 231.
  • The Illinois State Board of Education administers the SAT to high schoolers as the state mandated test. ISBE, however, does not use the SAT’s CRB for reading. Instead, ISBE chose an SAT score that corresponds to the 60th percentile as one marker to indicate college readiness.

By these measures, discussed in more detail below, District 65’s new benchmark scores for college readiness in reading set very low expectations for students.

They also set very low expectations for administrators and the School Board.

D65 Board Adopted College Readiness Benchmarks for MAP test in 2016

In August 2011, the District 65 School Board adopted a goal that the district would prepare students to be on track to college readiness and that it would increase the percentage of students who were on track to college readiness. District 65 was the first school district in the state to adopt a college readiness goal. One important purpose of the goal was to raise expectations and student achievement for Black and Hispanic students in the district. [2]

In August 2016, the District 65 School Board decided to use the MAP scores identified in NWEA’s research brief MAP College Readiness Benchmarks (2015) to determine whether students were on track to college readiness using the MAP test. The MAP scores identified by NWEA in that study equated to the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks, and they are referred to in this article as District 65’s former college readiness benchmarks. Those benchmarks predict that a student has a 50% chance of earning a B in a related course in freshman year college.

Those MAP scores currently correspond, on average, to the 60th national percentile in reading, according to NWEA’s 2020 norm study, called NWEA 2020 MAP Growth Achievement Status and Growth Norms for Students and Schools (“NWEA’s 2020 norm study”).

D65 Administrators Adopt Lower College Readiness Benchmarks in 2022

In July 2022, Superintendent Horton told the RoundTable that the district was planning to use MAP scores linked to the SAT’s college readiness benchmarks to determine whether students were on track to college readiness. “As far as why the shift from ACT to SAT, I’m sure you are aware that ISBE shifted to the SAT back in 2015,” he said. “This change should have been made back when the state shifted over. It’s really about aligning our assessment outcomes.”

Rather than predicting B level work in college, the SAT’s college readiness benchmarks predict that a student will have a 75% chance of earning a C in a related course in the first year of college. [3]

In a 2017 study called, MAP Growth College Readiness Benchmarks:
An Addendum with Preliminary Results Keyed on the SAT
,
NWEA identified the MAP scores that equated to the SAT’s college readiness benchmarks, and they are referred to in this article as District 65’s new college readiness benchmarks. These MAP scores currently correspond, on average, to the 44.75th percentile nationally in reading, according to NWEA’s 2020 norm study,

D65’s New College Readiness Benchmarks in Reading Significantly Lower Expectations

District 65’s new college readiness benchmarks in reading drop expectations for students from the 60th national percentile to the 45 national percentile. A comparison of the new and former college readiness benchmark scores suggests that an eighth grader who just meets District 65’s new college readiness benchmark will be reading at about the same level as a sixth grader who met District 65’s former college readiness benchmark for sixth graders.

The table below lists 1) the MAP scores that District 65 has just decided to use as its new college readiness benchmark scores for reading, and 2) the MAP scores that District 65 formerly used as its college readiness benchmarks for reading. The table also provides the current percentile ranks for each of the MAP scores, according to NWEA’s 2020 norm study.

The table shows that the recent change in MAP scores significantly lowers the college readiness benchmark scores that District 65 will use for reading. At eighth grade the drop is from a MAP score of 227.1 to 220.2 and from the 60th percentile to the 44.75th percentile.

One way to look at the magnitude of the change in terms of student learning is to calculate the difference between District 65’s new and its former college readiness benchmark scores, and to estimate what the difference in scores means in terms of academic skill level.

The table below lists District 65’s new and its former college readiness benchmark scores in reading for fifth through eighth grades The table also shows the difference between the two sets of scores.

 The difference in the benchmark scores at eighth grade is 6.9 points. While a 6.9 point difference may not seem like a lot, it is. NWEA’s 2020 norm study determined, among other things, that the average annual growth of students between the MAP test given in the spring of 7th grade and the MAP test given in the spring of 8th grade is 4.22 points on MAP’s scale of scores. So, a 6.9 difference in MAP scores at eighth grade represents an estimated 1.6 years of academic growth, calculated by dividing 6.9 (the difference in the benchmark scores) by 4.22 (the average annual growth). The result is 1.63.

Thus, an eighth grader who just scores a 220 on MAP (the District’s new college readiness benchmark for reading) is 1.63 years of growth behind an eighth grader who scores a 227 on MAP (the District’s former college readiness benchmark).

An examination of the MAP scores at different grades corroborates this estimate. MAP test results are scored across an even interval scale, meaning that a score of 220 in sixth grade represents the same academic skill level as a score of 220 in eighth grade.

The above table reflects that the District’s new college readiness benchmark score for eighth graders is 220.2. This is only a fraction of a point higher than the District’s former college readiness benchmark score of 219.6 for sixth graders. These scores are highlighted in yellow in the above table.

Thus, an eighth grader who just meets District 65’s new college readiness benchmarks is reading at about the same level as a sixth grader who met District 65’s former college readiness benchmarks for sixth grade.

D65 and ETHS Jointly Determined That an Eighth Grade MAP Score of 227 in Reading Is Minimally Needed to Show Proficiency When Entering ETHS

In January 2014, the School Boards of Districts 65 and 202 adopted a Joint Literacy Goal. The goal states: “District 65 and District 202 will ensure that all students are proficient readers and college and career ready by the time they reach 12th grade.”

How to define “proficiency” and to measure progress in meeting the goal consistently across the K-12 span has been a challenge, because the Districts have used different tests. ETHS currently uses the STAR test, and District 65 uses the MAP test.

As part of its assessment of freshmen entering ETHS, high school administrators determined that an incoming ninth grader needs to achieve at least a grade equivalent (GE) score of 8.3 on the STAR test in order to be viewed as reading proficiently. A GE score of 8.3 means a student is reading at the level of a “typical” student in the third month of eighth grade, according to information provided by STAR.

Ninth graders scoring below a GE of 8.3 are “not reading at grade level,” Scott Bramley, then Associate Principal for Instruction and Literacy at ETHS, said in a Jan. 10, 2019, memo.

Indeed, a ninth grader who has a GE score of 8.3 is reading at the level of a student in the third month of eighth grade. Students who are reading below that level receive supports at ETHS.

In February 2019, administrators of District 65 and ETHS presented to the School Boards a joint study in which they determined that a score of 227 on the MAP test given in the spring of eighth grade equated to a GE score of 8.3 on the STAR test given to incoming freshman at ETHS. “There is a high degree of consistency” between the two measures, said Pete Bavis, then Assistant Superintendent of District 202.

The administrators then jointly concluded that an eighth grader at District 65 should obtain a score of at least 227 on the Spring MAP test to be regarded as “proficient” in reading when entering ninth grade at ETHS.  Administrators confirmed this finding on at least two occasions since 2019. RoundTable articles in 2020 and 2021 go into more detail about the joint study.

Yet, District 65 administrators recently decided to use a MAP score of 220 to indicate college readiness in reading at eighth grade, which is far below the score of 227 which minimally indicates proficiency in reading for freshman at ETHS.

D65 Is Linking to a C, Rather Than a B

As noted, District 65’s new college readiness benchmark scores are equated to the SAT’s college readiness benchmarks, which predict that a student has a 75% chance of earning a C in freshman year college. A C is a relatively low grade. An extensive study of grading practices at more than 135 four-year colleges with more than 1.5 million students found that 43% of the grades given were As; 33.8% were Bs; 14.9% were Cs; 4.1% were Ds; and 4.2% were Fs. See “Where A Is Ordinary: the Evolution of American College and University Grading 1940-2009.” (2012).

An update to that study found that in 2013, 79% of the grades were As and Bs, and that the average college student had a GPA of 3.15. “GradeInflation.com” (Updated, March 2016).

So, 79% of grades given in college are As and Bs. Aiming for a grade of C is aiming to be in the bottom quartile.   

In addition, in most colleges, a GPA of 2.0 is the borderline between passing and failing. In many colleges, a student must have an overall GPA of 2.0 to continue from one semester in college to the next, or else the student must qualify for academic probation. See e.g., DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Oakton Community College, Northeastern Illinois, Northern Illinois, Northwestern University, Roosevelt University, Southern Illinois, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign (with some variations), and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Thus, a grade of C in college is just getting by, and a GPA of 2.0 is the borderline between passing and failing in many colleges.  

The ACT gave three reasons for linking its benchmarks for college readiness to B level work, rather than C level work. Its paper, Updating the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks (2013), says, “1) Grades of D and F are uncommon, thus the parameters from a model for a C or higher criterion are less precise, 2) Anecdotally, grades of A and B are viewed as successes, while a C grade is viewed as satisfactory or ‘just getting by’, and 3) Students who earn first-year grades of B or higher, on average, are much more likely to complete a postsecondary degree.”

In a subsequent issue brief, What are the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks? (2017), the ACT further explained why it decided to use a grade of B or higher:

  • “Students who earn first-year grades of B or higher, on average, are much more likely to complete a postsecondary degree. Among students who began at a four-year institution and earned a first-year grade point average (FYGPA) of 3.00 or higher (i.e., B or higher grades, on average), 64% earned a bachelor’s degree within six years as compared to only 27% for those who earned a FYGPA less than 3.00.
  • “Similarly, among students who began at a two-year institution and earned a FYGPA of 3.00 or higher, 51% earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree within six years as compared to only 19% for those who earned a FYGPA less than 3.00 (Radunzel and Noble 2012a).”

Aiming for a C sets low expectations for students and low expectations for administrators.

D65’s New College Readiness Benchmarks in Reading Are Way Below the Benchmarks to Meet Standards on the IAR

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) began administering the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) in 2019. It is Illinois’ annual test administered in compliance with the federal Every Child Succeeds Act.

The IAR measures the extent to which students are meeting Illinois’ learning standards and what students should know to be on track to college and career readiness.

There are five performance levels for the IAR. Students who meet or exceed expectations are in the top two levels and “have demonstrated readiness for the next grade level/course, and, ultimately, are likely on track for college and careers,” says ISBE.

In 2021, NWEA issued its report,  Linking Study Report: Predicting Performance on the Illinois Assessment of Readiness (IAR) based on NWEA MAP Growth Scores, that identified the MAP scores in reading that equate to ISBE’s cut scores to meet standards on the IAR.

NWEA did its study using 2019 test data, which was pre-pandemic. In that year, the benchmark scores to meet standards on the IAR corresponded, on average, to the 61st percentile, which is very close to the percentile ranks of District 65’s former college readiness benchmarks.  NWEA did this linking study so that school districts could identify students who may need supports to meet state standards.   

The table below shows: 1) the MAP scores that District 65 is using for its new college readiness benchmark scores; 2) the MAP scores that NWEA determined equate to ISBE’s cut scores to meet standards on the IAR in reading; and 3) the difference between the two scores.

The table shows that the new college readiness benchmark scores for college readiness being used by District 65 are much lower than the MAP scores that equate to the cut scores to meet standards on the IAR.  

For example, the MAP score that District 65 is using as its new college readiness benchmark score for reading at eighth grade is 220.2. By contrast, the eighth grade MAP score that equates to ISBE’s cut score to meet standards on the IAR is 231. The difference is 10.8 points.

 As explained above, the average annual growth of an eighth grader is 4.22 points on MAP’s scale of scores. So, a 10.8 point difference in MAP scores at eighth grade represents an estimated 2.56 years of academic growth, calculated by dividing 10.8 (the point difference) by 4.22 (the average annual growth). The result is 2.56.

Thus, an eighth grader who just meets District 65’s new college readiness benchmark in reading is 2.56 years of growth behind an eighth grader who scores at a level to just meets standards on the IAR.  

Again, an examination of the MAP scale of scores at different grade levels corroborates the magnitude of the difference in academic skill levels. The above table reflects that an eighth grader needs a MAP score of 220.2 to meet District 65’s new college readiness benchmarks in reading. By way of comparison, a fifth grader needs a MAP score of 219 to meet standards on the IAR. These scores are highlighted in yellow in the above table.

Thus, an eighth grader who just meets District 65’s new benchmarks for college readiness in reading, is reading at about the level of a fifth grader who just meets standards on the IAR.  District 65’s college readiness benchmark for reading is almost three grade levels below ISBE’s benchmark scores to meet standards which is also ISBE’s benchmark for college readiness.

ISBE Has Rejected SAT’s CRB in Reading

While the Illinois State Board of Education decided to administer the SAT test as the State mandated test in high school, it has decided not to use the SAT’s college ready benchmarks in reporting whether high students are college ready in reading. ISBE said it chose a more rigorous standard “designed to reduce the likelihood that students would need remedial coursework upon entering college.”

In its 2021 Academic Indicatorsfor a “college and career scholar,” ISBE includes as an indicator for ELA (English Language Arts), a “Minimum SAT Subject Score of Evidence Based Reading and Writing of 540.” In contrast, SAT’s college readiness benchmark score in reading is 480.

SAT says that a score of 480 corresponds to the 41st national percentile, and that a score of 540 corresponds to the 62nd national percentile.

Thus, ISBE has rejected using SAT’s college readiness benchmark for reading. Instead, it has adopted a benchmark score that corresponds with the 60th percentile, a percentile rank that District 65 formerly used for more than a decade.

                               …………………………………….

In summary, District 65 has significantly lowered its benchmark for college readiness in reading, and in so doing, significantly lowered expectations for students, for teachers, for administrators and for members of the School Board.  

By lowering the bar, administrators and the School Board may claim success if they prepare students to an academic level at which the students may just get by in high school and college or perhaps even be at risk of academic failure in high school and college, rather than be successful or excel.  

Footnotes

[1] The SAT says its college readiness benchmark score for reading and writing is at the 41st national percentile. Since NWEA identified MAP scores in reading that equates to the SAT’s college readiness benchmark score, one would think that the MAP scores that equate to the SAT’s college readiness benchmark score would also correspond to the 41st national percentile.

[2] The District 65 School Board also decided in 2011 to measure whether students were on track to college readiness using benchmark scores on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) that were identified by Paul Zavitkovsky, Urban Education Leadership Program at the University of Illinois Chicago. At the time, the ISAT was the annual test administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to all third- through eighth graders in Illinois.

The scores identified by Zavitkovsky were linked to the ACT’s college readiness benchmarks, which predict that a student will have a 50% chance of obtaining a B in a related course in freshman year of college. (ACT’s CRBs). The scores for reading corresponded to the 60th percentile nationally.

[3] In 2016, the College Board, the owner of the SAT test, revised the SAT test, and it changed its definition of college readiness. Before then, the College Board defined college readiness as the SAT score at which a student had a 65% chance of obtaining a B- in freshman year college.

In 2016, the College Board changed its benchmark to the SAT score at which a student has a 75% of obtaining a C. This shift significantly lowered the SAT’s benchmark score for college readiness in reading. After this change was made, much higher percentages of students met SAT’s college readiness benchmarks in reading.

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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...

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  1. There are seven members of the Bd off Education “who are responsible for working together to approve policy and provide over site of our district budget, curriculum, personnel and facilities “. “ Our Board keeps the best interests of students in mind and helps guide direction to further and ADVANCE the District s mission vision and goals “. We still have the lighthouse image on our District’s website. Someone just turned off the lights We can’t light the way for a better future for our children

  2. As a former D65 parent and school board member, this action in deeply disappointing on several levels. Less than ten years ago, the D65 community and board held the very uncomfortable but necessary conversation regarding the large disparity in opportunity to achieve based on race and income in our community. At that time our response was to elevate the expectations for all children – believing that with supports, commitment and holistic learning – all children can achieve progress and success. We increased the standards for proficiency from the 40% to align with career and college readiness standards developed jointly with the high school. We worked to reduce the number of students arriving at the high school under prepared. We tracked the data and the movement/progress closely at all levels. We posted questions of the administration and one another as a board regarding what’s working and what’s not. We weren’t perfect. We weren’t dogmatic. We were accountable.

    Certainly some of the new strategies and interventions being conducted in D65 are worthwhile. Yet instead of continuing to advance, we are retreating. We are moving the goal line for k-8 and it seems there has been no discussion or open dialogue about why or how this will impact students’ trajectory at ETHS and beyond. From what I can see the Board has not openly evaluated, discussed and voted to approve the five year strategic goals enumberated by the Administration. Moreover there was no public acknowledgement or discussion regarding the context or potential consquences of significantly lowering our standards for ELA proficiency and therefore College and Career Readiness. Not one question regarding why moving standards in reading/english/language from the 65 percentile to the 45 percentile is a good idea. Not one questions as to why you would make this change for ELA but no change in math if pedagogically it makes sense.

    Parents and the community deserves to better understand this change and to see longitudinal data by grade and for the past 5-10 years regarding the numbers of children reaching the high school at these standards. Lastly, we should demand a cross district, public conversation regarding the impact of these changes on the high school which appears to have also shifted their benchmark for 8th grade reading supports via MAP scores at the same time.

    It took several years to get to the place of demanding improvement for all groups of children and for the Board to evaluate itself not on increases in achievement overall but in increases in achievement whilst at the same time reducing the gap in opportunity to achieve. We had a few years of good advancement, stagnation, which has now been followed by 4 years of progressive downward trends. Haven’t we come far enough in this community to admit where we are struggling, and acknowledge the work that needs to be done? Our equity commitment requires this level oversight, accountability and care.

    1. Thanks, Candace, for this critique.

      I would point out that you were part of the board who put into place the unprecedented process of hiring a superintendent without any public scrutiny of the candidate.

      I know you resigned from the board shortly after the superintendent search, but I don’t think the board ever adequately justified why they initiated such an opaque process for one of the most important decisions they can make.

      One of the arguments put forth by some board members at the time was that “we can only get good candidates if we make the process closed because good candidates don’t want to alienate their existing employer.”

      Of course that argument is problematic given the one candidate who the board hired had been applying for and participating in open searches all over the country.

      Who knows why Rochester, Indianapolis, Grand Rapids, Benton Harbor, or Patterson NJ passed on the current superintendent?

      I can tell you for sure that, as a taxpayer and parent, as soon as he was announced a simple search for his name on the internet yielded a plethora of information that would cause reasonable people to have questions about his background and qualifications. The community was not offered the opportunity to ask those questions before the hire.

      I appreciate your concern about the lack of public discussion about the changing standards; but I think this shouldn’t be unexpected given the way the current superintendent was hired.

      When you hire someone using such an opaque and unprecedented process, it gives them a sense of what the expectations are from the board. And I think we are seeing the fruits of this with the degradation of the standards.

      1. Mr. Randerson – Maybe my memory is not as good as yours, but as I recall, I attended a public meeting where Paul Goren and one or 2 other candidates provided community members the opportunity to listen to their perspectives on Evanston and educational opportunities and they also fielded questions from the audience in a public forum. Or was i dreaming ?

        1. Karen, Yes, that was absolutely true when Goren was hired. The same thing happened when Hardy Murphy was hired back in 2000 (or so). In both cases the board had public meetings with the candidates and the public had ample opportunities to give feedback.

          When Supt. Horton was hired in 2019 there were zero public opportunities for public scrutiny of the candidate. This is why I say the Board’s process was unprecedented.

          If you look back at the Roundtable article at the time of the search it makes you scratch your head as the board president Suni Kartha claimed “The Board remains committed to a transparent process that is inclusive of community voice. We are thoughtfully considering opportunities to obtain additional input while respecting the confidentiality requested by the candidates in order to remain in our search process.”

          As I mentioned in my previous comment, Supt. Horton was flying all over the country in 2019 participating in public hiring processes in other cities.

          If we take Kartha at her word we are supposed to believe that Supt. Horton told District 65 “I know I participated in public forums and had my name released as a candidate in Rochester, Grand Rapids and Indianapolis over the last few months, but I can’t let anyone know I am interviewing in Evanston, so let’s keep it quiet until you give me a formal job offer.”

          Of course that is ludicrous. If the Board had asked the candidate to appear in public settings or allow his name to be disclosed before an offer was given he obviously would have done so.

          The only rational conclusion you can make is that the Board did not want scrutiny of its candidate, plain and simple. That embrace of secrecy and opaqueness has permeated administration and board decision making over the past three years as Larry’s reporting has suggested.

          Here is Larry’s reporting from 2019: https://evanstonroundtable.com/2019/11/13/d65-school-board-is-interviewing-five-candidates-for-superintendent/

  3. If our goal is to improve the achievement of all students, we must focus not just on expectations but more importantly on practices. It is easy to say we want all students to finish eighth grade ready to flourish in high school, but the question this article ignores is how we can reach that goal.
    I am not suggesting that we give up on our struggling students, but we must be honest about the challenges students face. Most of my 9th grade students at Niles West, where I teach English, have reading test scores below grade level, and I am open to ideas for how I can help them progress. Currently, I assign them frequent essays and respond in writing to the issues in their writing, and they make incremental, slow improvements. I often remind them that I believe they can become better writers, but it’s very hard work. Without these efforts, announcements about higher expectations ring false.

  4. I wonder how much of this stems from the fact that the superintendent had never actually run a school district before.

    Normally we have multiple candidates come to town with vast experience. They have public meetings where the community can see the finalists and hear their vision for the District.

    When the current superintendent was hired, the school board ditched precedence.

    They only brought in one candidate. His name was withheld from the public and it was done without any public opportunity for evaluating the candidate.

    The lack of experience and background would have raised a bunch of questions from the community. But the Board showed contempt for the public by hiding his identity until it was too late.

    Now we are stuck with an administration that shows little interest in accountability and doing the hard work of improving student outcomes.

    Instead we have seen three years of focus on ancillary issues and questionable fiscal decisions . To top it off we have seen many experienced educators leave the district.

  5. Larry Gavin is the real hero alerting the taxpayers of Evanston as to how our generous “education” taxes are being used by District 65. What we learn from this article –and a previous one in November- is that people who are being paid large sums of money to, as D65’s website says, “… inspire creativity and prepare each student to achieve academically, grow personally, and contribute positively to a global society. Every Child, Every Day, Whatever it Takes,” are instead, without our knowledge, lowering standards so that our children, especially those who are not lucky to have extra parental or outside support — will not have the chances in life that the district misleadingly professes to prepare them for.
    Please check what happens when parents go to board meetings complaining that the school “Is not educating my kids…!” What does the district do? They hire some lucky new “expert” to fix the problem. But wait! What happens with all the staff that is already there to “…prepare each student….whatever it takes?” Hiring more bureaucrats is only passing the buck on to us, over taxed Evanstonians! I have personally seen schools who address successfully the problem of kids who need extra help and I can give some suggestions. But lowering standards to allow struggling students to catch up is an abomination and betrayal to unsuspecting parents, and I cannot understand how the board members –who represent us– are happy with it.

  6. It is truly sad — appalling, actually — that District 65 is lowering its benchmark for 8th grade college readiness from a MAP score of 227 (which is already well below the MAP test owner’s benchmark of 231) to 220, basically a 6th grade level. Whom does this change serve? Certainly not District 65 students, to whom the message is sent: We really don’t expect much of you, and we aren’t going to work to get you where you should be. This is “equitable”? And, of course, this will have a ripple effect in District 202. How can District 202 educators possibly get students performing at a 6th grade level when they enter ETHS to a 10th grade level in a single year?

  7. Thank you Evanston RoundTable for your coverage of issues that matter ; and IMO education of ALL Evanston kids matters. The article describes in detail the fact that D65 is “dumbing down” it’s educational standards. And I do not use the term, “dumbing down” lightly.

    The bigger question is why ? WHY does the D65 Administration think this is a good idea? And why is the current D65 school board allowing this to happen? Yes, School Boards Matter.

    Another important consideration should be “what does D202 think about this change ?” And this should include Dr. Campbell, his administration AND the D202 school board.

    Lastly, from an equity perspective, these new, lowered standards will harm our black and brown students the most. And it’s this last point that infuriates me. To mislead students and their family members into thinking that their students are doing just fine because they are reading at “grade level” is a gross abdication of educational leadership and responsibility. In fact, it is morally and ethically repugnant.

  8. First off I want to thank Evanston Roundtable for an excellent article. I appreciate the level of detailed analysis that you presented. Your article raises an important issue which is that D65 appears to be lowering it’s standards. This suggest the unfortunate possibility that this is an effort to make the administration look better. In other words if you can’t improve the performance of the students through education at least you can make their performance look better by lowering the standards.

  9. Thank you for outlining this with such detail. It is infuriating that District 65 is lowering standards rather than doing the hard work of increasing readiness skills. By lowering standards they can report that more 8th graders are “ready for college”. And pat themselves on the back for their “progress”. Anyone who does not understand what you have laid out here will think-“this is so great”. When the spring of 2023 MAP scores come out the administration and school board will be doing a victory dance. I will be very interested to see a comparison of how many 8th graders in the past were “college ready” if the 45th percentile had been used. Also, how many 8th graders in 2023 are college ready if District 65 had continued to use the 60th percentile that used by ISBE and local colleges, universities, including community colleges.