Unlike Madison, Evanston is cutting honors classes

Chris Rickert:

Twenty-three years ago I walked the halls of Evanston Township High School in Evanston, Ill., with a diverse mix of white-, black- and brown-skinned fellow students.
Then I would walk into an honors class and be confronted with a near-blanket of white.
Not much has changed at my alma mater, and as a result the school district has been embroiled in a contentious curriculum debate that touches on race, academics and the meaning of public education itself.
Sound familiar?
Evanston and Madison are both affluent, well-educated and liberal. And both have high schools where racial achievement gaps are the norm. Their school districts differ, though, in their approach to that gap today: Evanston is cutting honors classes; Madison is adding them.
Unlike Madison, Evanston has long had a sizable minority population and began desegregating its elementary and middle schools in the 1960s — with some positive academic results.
Seniors at ETHS, the city’s only public high school, last year had an average ACT score of 23.5, or 2.5 points higher than the national average. This in one of only five states that requires its students to take the test and in a high school whose student population, about 2,900, is 43 percent white, 32 percent black and 17 percent Latino.

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2 thoughts on “Unlike Madison, Evanston is cutting honors classes”

  1. Mr. Rickert continues to express his opinion, completely ignorant of history. It is irresponsible journalism. It is maddening.
    The fact is, Evanston in following our lead.
    Madison West HS instituted English 9 and Social Studies 9 (no honors classes in either content area, just the one curriculum for all students) many years ago. And then five years ago — in the fall of 2005 — Madison West extended that approach to 10th grade. They eliminated 6 or 7 English electives (some honors, some non-honros) and implemented English 10. And they eliminated the three different forms of 10th grade Social Studies, also for a single curriculum for all students, Social Studies 10.
    Five years later, the data show this: the implementation of a common, single curriculum in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade have not reduced the race and SES based achievement gaps at West HS.
    Memorial implemented common core curricula in English and Social Studies in 9th grade even more years ago. Again, there is no evidence that it has helped to reduce the achievement gap.
    In addition to that, Wisconsin has laws that mandate services for high performing students; Illinois does not (see http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=37).

  2. ALL students should be allowed to learn. Having honors classes for those who need it does not harm those who need a different level. The study (after 5 years) on the effects of having a single one-size-fits-all curriculum in English and Social Studies in 9th and 10th grade showed a failure to reduce the achievement gap at West HS. Similarly, a study done at the University of Chicago on this topic concurs with this finding.
    I believe it is bigotry to assume no students of color will EVER be smart enough to take honors classes. Instead of fighting having honors classes, let’s work as a city to provide what is needed for low socioeconomic families to succeed. It is crazy to think that not having honors has somehow fixed the problem! It only fixes the appearance of the problem.

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