ETHS beats averages, misses federal goals

Paul Thissen

Evanston Township High School showed little change in academic performance from last year, according to this year’s controversial school report card — an annual review required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The report, released last week, includes information about each school’s test scores, financial resources and racial breakdown. In addition, schools must provide an improvement plan.

This year was a mixed bag for ETHS, which saw little change from last year. The school’s Prairie State Achievement Examination scores were down slightly, but ACT scores were up — both were above state averages. Graduation rates also were higher than in Illinois as a whole for all racial categories, and spending per student was about twice the state average.

Although ETHS ranked higher than the state average in most categories, it failed to meet the Annual Yearly Progress required by No Child Left Behind. The designation requires that schools meet criteria in areas such as graduation rates and test scores.

School officials say numbers don’t tell all.

“I think the public is entitled to know information about schools,” said Judith Levinson, director of research and evaluation at ETHS. “The report card provides some of that information, but it doesn’t provide all the information.”

No qualitative descriptions of a school’s class offerings or student-assistance services are included in the report.

“It’s just statistics, so it doesn’t give a sense of the spirit of ETHS,” School Board President Margaret Lurie said.

ETHS officials previously appealed some of the test scores and attendance data included in the report. According to Levinson, the State Board of Education told the school it could send updated data to the state for evaluation, a move officials already have taken to ensure a better characterization of the school. With the revised information, ETHS misses Annual Yearly Progress marks in fewer subgroups.

The school improvement plan sets goals utilizing the district’s common-assessment tests, reorganizing counseling services and offering new student-support networks.

The common-assessment tests, which use a variety of evaluation methods, have been created by ETHS and the schools in Evanston/Skokie School District 65 to provide a consistent measurement of individual students’ improvement and promote seamless transitions between classes and grades.

“(Common-assessment tests are) immediately closer to the classroom than a multiple-choice test,” Levinson said. “A multiple-choice test gets at some kinds of information, but it can’t get at some higher thinking skills.”

“We see good growth,” she said. “(The report card is) just a status-quo snapshot at one time of 11th graders.”

The District 202 school board, which oversees ETHS, will discuss the issue at its public meeting, to be held 7:30 p.m. Monday at the high school, 1600 Dodge Ave.