District 65, District 202 discuss expanding 2014 literacy goal at joint meeting


Daily file photo by Sneha Dey

Evanston Township High School. Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School/District 202 discussed expanding their shared literacy goal on Tuesday.

Olivia Alexander, Assistant City Editor

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School/District 202 discussed expanding their shared literacy goal to include social-emotional learning during a Tuesday joint meeting. 

Assistant Superintendents of Curriculum and Instruction for District 65 and District 202 Stacy Beardsley and Pete Bavis gave updates on the literacy goal’s progress.  

The goal, established in 2014, aims for all students to be proficient readers and college and career ready by the time they reach 12th grade. The districts both committed to reaching the goal in one 12-year-cycle. 

At the meeting, Bavis said the districts saw an increase in the number of students who met at least one of the Measure of Academic Progress and Renaissance Star Reading test thresholds, which are used to measure literacy. 25.7% of students in the class of 2025 did not meet either benchmark, a 4.3% decrease from the 30% of students in the class of 2022.

However, the increase in students meeting at least one threshold did not necessarily translate into an increase in meeting both. Latinx students in the class of 2025 saw an increase in the number of students meeting both, but Bavis said this did not hold true for Black or white students. 

Beardsley said the need to reevaluate literacy goals to include social-emotional learning comes after pandemic disruptions to learning. The last time ETHS seniors experienced an uninterrupted school year, they were freshmen, she said. Seventh graders were fourth graders in the spring of 2020. District 65 first graders only know school with masks. 

“While developing and measuring the joint literacy goal is important, it’s also important to remember that the students in front of us today have not had a stable school experience,” Beardsley said. 

The administration of each district asked the boards to expand the joint goal’s focus to better capture a holistic view of reading proficient, college and career-ready students. 

In the conversation, District 65 board member Joey Hailpern said the district should support educators through a transition to a new normal and a shift in expectations. 

Beardsley said District 65 has shifted its schedule to create a flexible acceleration block in K-5 spaces. Educators use this time to support students’ needs and continue unfinished learning, allowing for more practice in the classroom. 

At ETHS, students recently moved to a block schedule. Bavis said the school made this choice to slow down the pace of the day and reduce stress for students and educators. He said these changes rehumanize the school environment and support students academically. 

District 65 Board President Anya Tanyavutti said she appreciates focusing on providing resources that students need to live a full, humane and dignified existence in the community.

“This joint literacy goal was conceived of with a different District 65,” Tanyavutti said. “As District 65 is right now, we are considering how we invest our time, energy and accountability lens on the outcomes and experiences of the whole child.” 

She said she is not only interested in how high school students are reading, but in whether they are showing up to school with a sense of belonging and the social emotional skills they need. This should be part of the districts’ vision, she said. 

District 202 Vice President Monique Parsons said with a 12-year timeline, nothing has changed. The districts should show students they care about them by treating literacy as an immediate concern, she said. 

“This is urgent, like nothing ever before. And with that urgency. My expectation is that the considerations are bold, not just creative, but (asking) how are we going to do school differently?” Parsons said. “We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing for the past eight years because it hasn’t worked.”

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