D202 board talks literacy progress, AP class participation


Daily file photo by Sneha Dey

Evanston Township High School. The District 202 Board of Education discussed efforts to improve student literacy at the school.

Aviva Bechky, Assistant City Editor

Community members delivered updates to Evanston Township High School District 202’s Board of Education about districtwide efforts to improve student literacy and AP class enrollment on Monday night.

Kiwana Brown, the director of academic supports at ETHS, noted the reading level gap among students is widening, which is consistent with national trends.

Brown, along with Pete Bavis, the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, highlighted the school’s Literacy Lab, which supports students who need additional literacy intervention. Teachers and other school staff can refer students to the lab, where reading specialists offer one-on-one services. 

Last school year, the program supported 50 students — and Brown said more were on a waitlist.

“We give them the opportunity to decide if that’s the appropriate space for them as well, because we want them to be invested in their learning,” Brown said.

According to Brown, the district has about 25 reading specialists, which Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said was an unusually high number for a high school. 

ETHS also offers reading intervention classes with a tiered model based on reading ability. Students are assessed every six weeks and can move from tier to tier. This allows for a more flexible grouping model, and Brown said the program performed well.

The board also listened to teachers and administrators, including ETHS teachers Jody Elliott-Schrimmer and Josh Brown, discuss efforts to get more students — especially Black students — involved in Advanced Placement courses and testing.

This year, as has been true since at least 2007, a lower percentage of Black and Latinx upperclassmen took at least one AP class than the student body as a whole. Fewer Black and Latinx juniors and seniors also got a score of 3 or higher on at least one AP test. 

The school’s AP Black Affinity Space, which aims to affirm and inspire Black students’ interest in AP classes, is one of the school’s attempts to address the issue. Josh Brown also discussed plans to conduct interviews with senior students of color who have never taken AP courses to talk about their experience.

“This initiative really grew out of a desire to provide students with a place to really connect, empower and affirm the Black experience and that unique experience in AP classes,” Elliott-Schrimmer said. “Sometimes it can be very isolating in AP classes, especially in certain content areas where students might be the only person of color or only Black person in that class.”

Board President Pat Savage-Williams also updated the board on the search for a new superintendent. Witherspoon, who has served at ETHS since 2006, will retire at the end of the school year. The board contracted with executive search consultancy Alma Advisory Group to find the next superintendent.

Board Vice President Monique Parsons said she was hopeful the new superintendent would be announced in June, though Savage-Williams said she wanted to push for it to happen sooner.

Savage-Williams discussed a number of opportunities for community members to opine on the search. In February, Alma will hold focus group discussions with students and with other community members. She also said community members can contribute to a survey through Feb. 17.

Board member Patricia Maunsell encouraged community members to participate.

“We selected this group, the Alma group, in large part because they put value in really getting an authentic, clear understanding of what the community as a whole wants,” Maunsell said. “I really strongly recommend, especially if you’re not someone who pipes up a lot, maybe this is your time to really share with us what you think and what you value.”

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Twitter: @avivabechky

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