Six months after tests scores show wide opportunity gap, black parents are still asking for answers


Julia Esparza/Daily Senior Staffer

Abdel Shakur and other D65 parents speak at a press conference Monday. Black Parents of King Arts are demanding the school take immediate action to address the opportunity gap between black and white students.

Julia Esparza, City Editor

Black Parents of King Arts demanded the school administration take action on the opportunity gap between black and white students at a press conference Monday afternoon at the Joseph E. Hill Education Center.

The parents’ demands detailed revisions to the Evanston/Skokie District 65 hiring process that would include a focus on racial equity in every employee’s job description. The group is also asking the school to update performance reviews to include racial equity benchmarks, implement an African Centered Curriculum district-wide and provide more resources and support to parents and staff.

In January, the latest Measures of Academic Progress results showed that no black students at King Arts in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh grades met the college readiness benchmark in math or reading.

Parents, students and administrators met for a town hall March 19 to express their concerns. In April, Black Parents of King Arts, King Arts Parent Teacher Association and ONE King Arts sent a joint email to the district, demanding that parents’ voices be considered in addressing the issue.

Abdel Shakur, a co-founder of Black Parents of King Arts, said the issue has not been adequately addressed since it came to light almost six months ago.

“Instead of getting big changes, we get meetings, and we get more data about some of the disturbing outcomes we’ve had,” Shakur said. “Instead of a real radical plan of change, we kind of get some things shifted around.”

Shakur and other parents acknowledged that the issue of racial inequity in Evanston’s school systems is not new. He said this issue is predictive and has been recurring for generations, and that radical change is needed to break the cycle.

Shakur, along with other parents, asked for the District 65 administration to treat them as partners in closing the opportunity gap. He said this is partly informed by a culture in the schools and society where black parents speaking out is seen as “unruly” and their understanding of the system is called “uneducated.”

“The minute that that data hit the district, there should have been all the strategic plans and all the movement that we saw later on when parents started making a fuss,” Shakur said. “It shouldn’t have been three months later.”

Shakur also brought these pleas to the District 65 board meeting later that day, where other parents voiced similar concerns.

Nicole Johnson, a black parent at King Arts, said during public comment that she was disappointed by the lack of resources for students and staff, and believes a lot of the issues need to be addressed by district administrators.

“I feel the district has been doing a lot of what feels like the same and expecting different results at the expense of my child and other students who look like her,” Johnson said. “This should be a priority of the district and there should be a sense of urgency.”

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