Letter to Dr. Goren and District 65 School Board Members

Dr. Paul Goren
Superintendent
Evanston/Skokie School District 65
1500 McDaniel Ave
Evanston, IL 60201

Dr. Goren and District 65 School Board Members;

In a letter dated August 21, 2017, OPAL requested that District 65 work to improve the ISEL test scores of Black and Latinx children enrolled in the JEH Early Childhood Center by 50% within 3 years. The District responded with the formation of an Early Childhood Task Force charged with developing an effective plan.

As a sign of good faith, OPAL President Roger Williams participated in the Task Force in hopes that this would bring real change rather than simply stall and preserve the status quo.

While adults analyzed and brainstormed, our youngest Black students spent another school year falling behind; the District is sending another class of Kindergartners off to school unprepared. This administration has a history of engaging in research rather than making positive change in the daily school experience of Black students.

The report produced by the Task Force and presented at the May 7 District 65 Board meeting is inadequate: it lacks a defined plan and measurable outcomes to improve kindergarten readiness for Black students. The report tells us little that we didn't already know and corroborates the Black community's belief that District 65 is not serious about closing the achievement gap. It also contains a trap door: a proposal that the District do even more research in the form of a "trend analysis," and then decide for itself what improvement is "appropriate" 5 years from now.

After a thorough review of the report, OPAL has the following questions and concerns:

(1) Will a JEH plan of action be developed solely by the new JEH director? Will District administrators be involved? If so, which administrators? When will this plan be communicated to the public? Who will be held accountable for the plan's success or failure? We request at a minimum:

  • By August 1, 2018, a report on progress toward a concrete plan
  • By October 1, 2018, the completed plan and a schedule for its implementation
  • Quarterly reports on implementation
  • Improvement of at least 10% in the ISEL scores and TS Gold assessments of Black students by the end of the first year of implementation.

(2) What is the District doing to assure that the new director is set up for success as expressed by District 65 Board member Rebeca Mendoza?

(3) What is the status of Beyond Diversity training for JEH staff? What is the expectation for training's impact in the classroom, and how will that be measured? What kind of ongoing support will staff receive?

(4) To date, no equity assessment has been provided on JEH. How will JEH be included in District 65 equity work going forward?

JEH has been failing to adequately educate Black children for decades, a failure that should be an embarrassment to every resident of Evanston. OPAL expects action to address this issue. We request a response to this letter no later than June 1, 2018.

Respectfully,
Board of Directors, The Organization for Positive Action and Leadership (OPAL)

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