ETHS parents, administrators meet to discuss school’s new direction

Rachel Janik, Reporter

Parents, teachers and administrators of Evanston Township High School met Wednesday at Haven Middle School to discuss the school’s efforts to improve academic standards and educational equality.

The meeting was part of a new ETHS initiative called Community Conversations, which aims to inform families of developments in the high school and to encourage feedback. District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon opened the meeting with an update on the school’s successes and challenges.

“The high school’s on the move,” Witherspoon said, adding that ETHS has seen much academic growth and the staff is looking forward to more improvement.

Much of the evening’s discussion centered on the school’s “earned honors” humanities programs, which were executed at the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic year. Under the program, freshman students are not placed into separate honors, remedial or regular classes, based on prior performance. Instead, everyone is enrolled in a universal course with a heavy emphasis on advanced writing and analytic skills. Students have the chance to earn honors credit based on how well they master the course.

Parents quizzed the superintendent and other high school staff, making sure they fully understood the new program. Alicia Jordan currently has two children enrolled at ETHS. She expressed support for the program because it gives everyone a chance to succeed, she said.

“For those students who might be deficient in one area, they don’t have to feel like they’re in the remedial class,” she said.

Witherspoon emphasized equality at the meeting. He said that the issue was the high school’s biggest challenge, one staff and administrators are making a big effort to tackle.

“Educational equity is the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” he said.

Other points of discussion included the school’s emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, as well as efforts to improve gender equality in those fields.

Jordan grew up in Evanston and graduated from ETHS. After the meeting, she said she was very impressed by the gains the school has been making.

“I’m excited to see from when I went there to when my kids did, how much things have changed,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what the school is like by the time my 6-year-old gets to high school.”