ETHS gains recognition for increasing access to advanced courses

Julia Jacobs, Assistant City Editor

Evanston Township High School has been recognized nationally for its efforts to increase student access to advanced classes regardless of race or socioeconomic status.

The school has been featured in recent media coverage by The Washington Post, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight television program and Education Week for its strategies to bolster participation in honors-level and Advanced Placement courses.

Researchers also visited ETHS last month in an event coordinated by the American Educational Research Association to study the school’s strategy for increasing participation in honors classes, the school announced. Visitors focused on the Restructured Freshman Year Initiative — also called the the “detracking initiative” — in which all first-year students enroll in the same level science and humanities courses.

The initiative places all students in courses with “rigorous instruction” regardless of their test scores, giving them the opportunity to earn honors credit each semester, according to the school’s policy.

Debra Viadero from Education Week reported April 27 that, according to preliminary research on the initiative, there was an increase in students who would have been placed in regular courses earning honors credit, and the number of sophomore students who signed up for AP courses also increased.

Changes in the amount and diversity of student participation in ETHS’ AP program have also been the focus of much media attention.

The district announced that the number of students taking AP exams increased by 30 percent between 2011 and 2014. Participation of Latino students increased 78 percent and that of black students increased 35 percent. Participation of white students increased 19 percent in the three-year period.

“Our efforts to restructure ETHS so more students are taking more rigorous courses is resulting in notable increases in the numbers of students who are prepared to achieve in honors and Advanced Placement courses,” School District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said in a news release. “We know we still have many challenges so that all students will be achieving and succeeding, but I am so proud of the strides our students and their teachers are making.”

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