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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

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Nov. 13 District 202 board meeting covers academic trends, social-emotional student experiences

Report+on+students+perception+of+belonging+at+ETHS.+%28courtesy+of+District+202%29
Report on students’ perception of belonging at ETHS. (courtesy of District 202)

District 202 held its monthly Board of Education meeting on Nov. 13. The meeting covered many topics, ranging from the analysis of the 2022-2023 Illinois Report Card to the Board’s recent participation in the Summit for Courageous Conversations. The school’s response to the Israel-Hamas war was also addressed.

The first item on the agenda was the recognition of National Merit and National Achievement Scholars, from the class of 2024, a few of whom were brought up to shake hands with the Board.

“They are a few of the approximately 16,000 semifinalists in the 69th Annual National Merit Scholarship Program,” said Principal and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Taya Kinzie.

An Opening of School report followed, which contained data gathered from the first few months of the school year. Most of the overall statistics were reported to be similar to last year, although total enrollment at ETHS decreased by about 100 students.

“We’re exactly where we’re supposed to be,” said Superintendent Dr. Marcus Campbell.

The discussion then turned to the Year in Review, or an analysis of data from the 2022-2023 school year. The data was organized into three categories: social-emotional learning, academics and attendance, and post-high school planning. Once again, the numbers were similar to last year’s, although one figure in particular stood out.

Data on course levels taken by Class of 2023 students at ETHS. (courtesy of District 202)

“88 percent of [the class of 2023] took at least one Advanced Placement, Project Lead the Way or dual credit course,” said Dr. Carrie Levy, the Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment, who pointed out that this was an 18 percent increase from the previous year.

The conversation then switched to discussions surrounding social-emotional learning. According to a survey given to students last year, 56 percent of students feel like they belong at ETHS. Some board members were more satisfied with this data than others.

“We seem to be kind of holding steady with this, and it suggests to me that we need to be doing something different. A lot more than half of our students should feel like they belong,” said Gretchen Livingston, a board member.

That cause for concern only strengthened the resolve of many board members.

“I think these numbers just reflect how important our work is,” said Pat Savage-Williams, the board’s president.

The Board then moved on to average SAT scores and report cards from the previous year, and one change to the ETHS math program was brought up.

“[Ninth graders] who are placing into geometry with support were really taking algebra in that support period so that group will now be placed in algebra with two teachers,” said Dr. Peter Bavis, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. “What I would encourage all board members to do is to look at the Interactive Report Card online, it’s very interesting.”

After further discussion on SAT scores and standardized testing, the Board took a moment to discuss future plans for ensuring that tests like the SAT are fair for all students.

“Just like I told you some years ago, we’ve got stuff coming that’s pretty big,” said Campbell.

Several slides in the presentation disaggregated the data by race as well as many other categories, and the board members found that certain student groups, particularly Black/African-American students, had lower average report card grades and SAT scores. The board members spent a long time discussing the best methods to raise those scores and grades and support that group of student’s sense of belonging at ETHS.

“There are districts that are getting it right for these different groups, so I think we could learn,” said Mirah Anti, a board member.

The next item on the agenda was a discussion of the results of the Summit for Courageous Conversations, a conference where leaders from all across the nation discussed systematic racism and its effects on individual communities.

“Six of our seven board members attended the Summit in Austin last week,” said Savage-Williams.

At the Summit, the board members attended a range of different sessions and classes where they discussed race and its connection to education. Once again, they focused on the concept of student belonging. Board members who attended all shared their main takeaways from the conference.

“There can be great harm done in a day. Why does the change for the positive take time, but change for the negative can happen just like that?” said Leah Piekarz, a retired ETHS counselor and board member.

“[The Summits] are always great, but I think this year just had a very powerful impact on me,” said board member Patricia Maunsell.

“To be transformed–that’s really what the experience is,” said Savage-Williams.

At the Summit, ETHS board members were honored with the Grace Lee Boggs Award.

“I really do believe in our commitment,” said Campbell. “I think we can continue to make more strides.”

Student Representative Nicole Yao then talked briefly about issues brought up by students during the Student Voice Forum, including gender-neutral bathrooms and students’ sense of belonging in Advanced Placement and honors classes.

Also, Campbell mentioned the recent Israel-Hamas war and how it affects students at ETHS.

“Our school community has been shaken by the violence of a global crisis,” said Campbell.

The school’s plan is to create listening spaces for students and staff with similar experiences to connect and engage in conversations about surrounding the complex topic.

“These listening spaces will offer us an opportunity where we will grow,” said Campbell.

Chief Financial Officer Kendra Williams then delivered a brief presentation for the tax levy hearing, which was followed by the Board voting on a no-trespass letter, approval of bills and a treasurer’s report.

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