Editorial: ETHS and No Child Left Behind

The Daily Northwestern

Since President George Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2001, Evanston Township High School students have never once met the state-set annual goals, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, on standardized tests. In recent interviews with The Daily, ETHS officials repeatedly asserted their optimism that test scores are rising consistently and will continue to rise, but also criticized the NCLB standards as unrealistic and ineffective. Detailed examination of the data presented in the annual Achievement Report for the school, however, shows declining composite test scores and widening racial achievement gaps over the last few years/ While we applaud the continued efforts of the ETHS administration to improve performance despite flawed and seemingly arbitrary state and national systems, the lack of reduction of the racial gaps and test scores moving farther away from the goals are problems that ETHS must tackle swiftly and more aggressively.

Illinois is one of five states that requires high school students to take the ACT in order to graduate; students ACT scores are combined with performance on workplace readiness tests called WorkKeys to produce a Prairie State Achievement Exam score. The NCLB requires states to implement a standardized system of evaluating student performance – Illinois uses the PSAE to meet this mandate. The PSAE is one of the harder state tests in the nation; ETHS claims that these higher standards are unfair because they make the school appear to be worse than counterparts in other states.

While all ETHS racial subgroup ACT scores reached historic highs in 2010 and are above state and national averages, black and Latino PSAE scores from Spring 2010 are lower than those of previous years. Over 90 percent of ETHS white students consistently meet or exceed PSAE standards. In addition, the gap between minority scores and AYP levels is actually growing each year. For example, the 2009 AYP was 70 percent of students in each subgroup meeting or exceeding PSAE standards, and 38.8 percent of black students did so in reading. In 2010, the AYP was 77.5 percent; only 36.6 percent of black students met or exceeded the standard.

ETHS educators face a complex, difficult problem in the racial disparities. Nevertheless, the fact remains that nearly all white students at ETHS consistently meet standards while the majority of their black and Latino classmates do not. The racial gap is growing, and minority students are actually further away from accomplishing subgroup goals than ever before. ETHS must take action to ensure these crucial measures do not slip down any further.