ETHS board modifies activity GPA requirements

Paul Thissen

Evanston Township High School’s school board narrowly passed a proposal changing grade point average requirements for participating in extracurricular activities Monday night, in addition to discussing the district’s 2002-03 test scores.

Against the wishes of the administration, the District 202 school board voted 4-3 to pass a proposal to institute a grace program for participants in extracurricular activities who do not meet the required 2.0 GPA.

Under the new program, if a student’s GPA falls between 1.7 and 2.0, he or she can continue to participate in activities if he or she attends specific tutoring sessions outside of class.

“I think there is an opportunity for us here to foster the education of some children we might never have a chance to reach again,” board member Willie Miller Jr. said.

Others supported the change but were more skeptical, so the board amended the plan to bring the program up for revision in two years.

Opponents of the program, including Superintendent Allan Alson, said they believe the program will require more effort than it will be worth.

“I’m worried that we’ll spend all this time to try and we won’t get the returns we want,” Alson said.

The board also reviewed the school’s test results from the previous year, which indicate that the school failed to meet the Annual Yearly Progress required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act caused by low scores from minority and low-income students.

“We’re not satisfied with our results,” Alson said. “We see the same achievement gap between white and minority students.”

Administrators expressed conflicting feelings about the ramifications of the law.

“It helps us really learn about our students and our work,” Alson said. “Unfortunately, No Child Left Behind uses one test at a single time to judge students and schools.”

Alson said the district believes in testing individual students over several years in order to track their progress.

Despite these complaints, administrators insisted that ETHS was not sacrificing its educational missions in favor of strictly teaching to the test. Assistant Superintendent Denise Martin said preparing students for tests falls in line with many of the teaching objectives the district already holds.

“(The test) isn’t asking ridiculous questions,” Martin said. “It focuses on some of the same things we value.”

In an effort to be excluded from some of the requirements of No Child Left Behind, board member Ross Friedman asked whether the district should cease accepting the $131,000 it gets through Title I funds from the federal government. Some punitive measures for failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress only apply to schools that receive the Title I funds, which requires that more than 2 percent of a district’s students are classified as low-income in order to qualify for a basic grant.

“I would like to know all the ramifications of (No Child Left Behind) to decide if it’s more of a burden or an asset,” Friedman said.

While some board members agreed the requirements were not worth the money, others were concerned about the political appearance of dropping some components of the law.

“I think it’s important for the school not to say we’re turning our back on accountability,” Alson said.