District 65 board members explore teaching geared towards marginalized students


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Board President Suni Kartha speaks at the board meeting. Board members met to discuss the District’s commitment to equity in relation to the Achievement and Accountability Report

Maddy Daum, Assistant City Editor

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 saw a one-percent decrease in the opportunity gap for Latinx students and an increase in math scores across most demographics, according to the 2018 Achievement and Accountability Report presented at a Monday school board meeting.

Board members examined the annual report, which aims to study ways in which the district can close opportunity gaps for underserved students. The board also discussed the district’s Culturally Responsive Pedagogy update, which works to improve education for marginalized students by facilitating collaboration and cognitive skills.

Kylie Klein, the director of research, accountability and data for the district, presented the Achievement and Accountability Report, emphasizing that board members should consider the district’s dedication to equity when reviewing the data. These reports drive planning and improvement efforts to increase literacy and college readiness, Klein said.

“(These results) are really important to us in terms of how students are growing, where students are growing so we can understand what’s happening,” Klein said. “Particularly for black, Asian and Latinx students (the data) is encouraging, but again, we have to understand that even though there are gains and growth, they are not at a scale sufficient enough to close the opportunity gaps.”

Board vice president Anya Tanyavutti said she was disappointed the achievement report did not separate data based on students with Individualized Education Programs and English Language Learners. The report is broken down based on race, but not by gender, learning disabilities or English ability.

“I feel like we are talking in circles, and I feel like perhaps I’m not being heard, I’m not being understood,” Tanyavutti said. “I think that it would be very useful to have that desegregated data for our students with IEPs and our English Language Learners because we have racially segregated data for our other markers in our achievement report.”

Board president Suni Kartha said disaggregating the report would give the board a better understanding about how different aspects of a student’s identity might create intersecting impacts in education.

District officials also used the achievement report to inform the pedagogy update, which Jamilla Pitts — the coordinator of social studies and the African-Centered Curriculum — presented to the board. The concept of culturally relevant teaching follows education scholar Zaretta Hammond’s model and focuses on improving students’ cognitive abilities, Pitts said.

In her memo to the board, Pitts explored the potential uses of the model, and she initially began implementing it in the African-Centered Curriculum in 2016. In the 2017-18 school year, District 65 teachers started to apply Culturally Responsive Pedagogy to a social studies unit in which students created their own itinerary for a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry.

During Monday’s board meeting, Pitts had members participate in an activity teachers use in the social studies unit, usually given to students in fifth grade to ninth grade. Pitts emphasized the collaborative and supportive elements of the activity.

“I want to show that it is not about race or ethnicity when you are talking about Culturally Responsive Pedagogy,” Pitts said. “We have them work collectively.”

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