ETHS restructures after failing 5 years of federal standards

Elise Foley

In an effort to meet federal requirements, Evanston Township High School introduced a restructuring plan at the school board meeting Monday and awarded tenure to 11 staff members.

ETHS, 1600 Dodge Ave., is required to submit a finalized reorganization plan by May 1 under the No Child Left Behind Act. The school failed to meet the law’s progress standards for five years in a row.

Instead of reopening as a public charter school or contracting an outside group to run the school, the plan recommends changing school programs and replacing staff members, said Judith Levinson, ETHS’ director of research, evaluation and assessment. The plan was introduced to the board after months of work to develop eight strategies for improvement.

“We’ve seen this requirement as a remarkable opportunity to redouble our efforts,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.

The eight strategies each implement specific changes or expand current programs to help students who are falling behind in test scores.

The plan recommended modifying the Make-up Instructional Time program, which was intended to be a less punitive way of forcing students to make up time missed in the classroom, but Witherspoon said the program doesn’t work for all students.

“For a number of students who are struggling anyway, it’s just another thing not to do,” he said.

The modified program could include “more personalized intervention” such as tutoring, Witherspoon said.

Assistant Superintendent Laura Cooper said the school is also trying to improve curriculum. ETHS departments should align curriculum so students have the same core knowledge regardless of their teacher, she said.

“A lot of the work has to be in the classrooms,” Levinson said. “The focus has to be on how we teach and how we can improve instruction in the room, as well as additional programs outside.”

Other suggested strategies for improving the school included expanding test preparatory courses and changing placement criteria to put more minority students into honor-level classes.

But ETHS board members and administrators also emphasized the importance of a good faculty for improving the school.

The board introduced 11 staff members who would receive tenured positions at the school at the meeting.

School staff in Illinois can apply for tenure after four years in the same district. Those years are meant to help staff decide whether the school is the right fit for them, and whether they are right for the school, Witherspoon said.

Tenured positions were awarded to teachers from fine arts, science, applied sciences and technology, history and world languages. A social worker with the special education department and a counselor were also awarded tenure. Two Northwestern alumni, David Chan, Weinberg ’99, and Demetra Vranas, SESP ’01 and ’04, were awarded tenure in the science department.

“I hope you know how valued you are in this community,” board member Margaret Lurie told the tenured staff members. “This school is kind of the light of this community, and you are representative of that.”

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