Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Evanston High School Denies Gifted Children Opportunities

I'm reading: Evanston High School Denies Gifted Children OpportunitiesTweet this!

I have friends who live in Evanston and insist that it's the only suburb in which they could live, friends who wonder why people would choose to live in, say, Skokie (or God forbid Morton Grove or Niles) over Evanston. Never mind that those other 'burbs have more affordable houses and lower taxes.

And then there's the matter of schools. Despite the many people I know who received fine educations at Evanston Township High School (several decades ago) and despite the parents I know who are happy with their children's Evanston schools, I've always thought the Evanston public school system was something to be avoided.

And now I've been proven right. The board of education at the Evanston Township High School District 202 recently voted unanimously to eliminate their freshman honors humanities course. The course served students in the top 5%, who will now be mixed in with other students in the name of diversity and equality with a promise that every student in each classroom will be challenged.

I call bullshit.

It gets worse.

There is talk that the board will eliminate an honors freshman biology course next.


It's all being done in the name equal opportunity, of course. When I mentioned the cancellation of the honors humanity course to a friend, the cynical reply was, "Not enough black students in the honors class?"

Ouch again.

But the reality is that with a school like ETHS, one that has a tremendous range of socioeconomic and ethnic diversity within the student body, discussions about student achievement (or lack thereof) are inevitably tied in with class and race. And it can make for some dicey and uncomfortable dialogue.

I'm guessing there's a lot of this dialogue going on right now. You can see some of it in the comments over at the Tribune article.

Apparently, some posit that the actions of the school board in district 202 are part of a new trend to de-track or put an end to ability grouping in favor or "rigorous instruction for all."

And that's really scary.

Gifted students benefit from ability grouping. Yes, they do.

But, sadly, our nation's guiding education policy focuses on bringing up the bottom, rather than annual yearly academic progress for all students. So {shudder} this de-tracking thing could catch on.

Is your local school board considering these types of cuts?

According to the Trib article, there's talk of lawsuits over the school board's move. If legal action (or fear of it) will deter other schools from following in stride, then I'm all for it.

And since I'm all about the house hunt these days, do you think that maybe homes in Evanston just became a teensy bit more affordable?

Edited 12/16 to add this link to letter to the editor of the Washington Post from NAGC regarding eliminating G/T programs at urban schools.


Veronica said...

While I don't like it, hopefully it WILL push Evanston to get its act together and invest in the communities that have little chance to be in honors classes in elementary school. To prepare everyone to enter ETHS to be an honors student.

Something had to be done. I don't think this is exactly the answer though. But what ETHS does with this will help us see if this was the right decision.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Veronica, I agree that interventions and support and needed in early elementary school or pre-school. I think making this kind of move at the high school serves almost no one.

I don't think everyone is cut out to be (or be molded into) honors students. That shouldn't be a bad thing, but our society makes it so. Vocational programs programs have gotten the short end of the stick.

There are some interesting theories in the comment section at the Trib about how this might play out. I guess we'll watch and learn.

Veronica said...

Ugh...I refuse to read newspaper comments. *shudder*

As for vocational training. Sure, it needs to be an option, but what option is it if Evanston isn't preparing kids for honors classes from the start? With such a racial divide, I assume they aren't.

Sara (from Saving for Someday) said...

Unfortunately, Kim, what you speak of is more and more the norm. It's one of the reasons I'm homeschooling my daughter.

I have had multiple conversations with gifted educators, have attended seminars for parents of gifted children and I can't convey the level of frustration that exists because it's so high. Many of the parents fight constantly to get their children the assistance they need but the school districts are so overwhelmed with remedial education - which IS mandated - that they can't afford the resources for the gifted kids.

I homeschool because my local schools can not guarantee my daughter will actually be taught anything. She reads at the adult level, does math 4 grades above, and can pass middle school language arts tests. My district would offer 1 hour a week of 'individualized' education. I could go out of district but we'd be wait-listed. And even then the 'gifted' program for lower elementary is very limited.

Both my daughter and I got to screen Waiting for Superman. She's 7 and thinks the system is screwed up. Yes she's smart, but if a child can see it, why can't these PhD's?

Susan Bearman said...

While I mightily disagree with your statement that Evanston schools should be avoided, I am disappointed by this move. I think it is ill advised and won't solve the problem at the heart of the question. I have four children (1 high achieving, but by no means gifted; one special needs; and 2 gifted). All four have been well served by the Evanston schools. There are many other things that I like about living in Evanston that I won't address here.

What I resent most about this particular issue is District 202's single mindedness about supporting Dr. Witherspoon's unswerving commitment to de-tracking at all costs. I grew up in Ann Arbor, a community very much like Evanston. They tried a similar plan more than 15 years ago. It didn't work. I appreciate the board's efforts of trying to raise the stakes and support all our students, I just happen to think this is the wrong way to do it. I also appreciate the pressure they feel from the ill-conceived NCLB legislation that I believe has forced school boards into taking radical action without enough research. These kinds of pendulum swings in school administration policies are typical, and typically expensive. It seems like just another example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

catherine calhoun said...

Squishing down the gifted in Louisiana too. : (

Lisa G. said...

Kim, thanks for posting this. The problem is, there is no such thing as "gifted" in Evanston. Any other community would celebrate having 20-25% of students scoring in the top 5% on nationally normed tests. In Evanston those students have been derided as "just good test takers," "good at memorization," "only interested in getting A's."

There are NO programs for gifted students in Evanston public schools. Bright kids in Evanston middle schools have traditionally looked at ETHS like it was the promised land where they would finally be given a chance to be challenged. Now they'll have to wait one more year . . .

Cherie said...

While I do agree with most of the comments, I do not think that flight is the solution (although I honestly thought about it after witnessing the mayhem at the 3 Board Meetings adressing the proposal). I think we need to keep fighting for the rights of ALL children. I did not agree with this decision, but now that the Board has voted to pass it Evanston parents must be vigilant in holding the administration and the Board accountable! And FYI...there is one gifted program that is available in D65, Project Excite(my son participated in the progrram) It is for high achieving minorities, but we do need much, much, more!!!