Monday, June 01, 2015

EDUCATION - Setting a Higher Bar

"Illinois high school shrinks its achievement gap for minority students by setting a high bar" PBS NewsHour 5/27/2015


SUMMARY:  Evanston Township High School outside of Chicago offers its students nearly 30 Advanced Placement classes.  But despite the plentiful offerings, administrators noticed that minorities were underrepresented in these courses that can be a boost to a college application.  How did the school bridge the gap?  Brandis Friedman of WTTW reports from Chicago.

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN, Special correspondent:  Students here at Evanston Township High School outside Chicago can take anything from automotive service excellence certification to advanced calculus.  They also have their pick of almost 30 advanced placement courses.

Dale Leibforth heads A.P. recruitment.

DALE LEIBFORTH, AP Recruitment and Retention Manager, Evanston Township High School:  Portfolio studio, or Latin or — the list goes on.  We just added an A.P. government course.

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN:  Even though it’s a top-rated school, with a diverse student body, until recently, only certain students were picking A.P. courses.

ERIC WITHERSPOON, Superintendent, Evanston Township High School:  We have students of color and low-income students terribly underrepresented in advanced placement courses.  There’s still a predictability among student achievement in our school district based on race.

BRANDIS FRIEDMAN:  When Eric Witherspoon became superintendent eight years ago, he noticed that A.P. classrooms were filled with mostly white students, while regular classrooms were filled with mostly minority and often low-income students, who make up 41 percent of the student body.

Witherspoon says he realized students were being tracked into A.P. courses through honors classes based on their eighth grade standardized test performance, while other students were tracked into less rigorous courses.

ERIC WITHERSPOON:  It didn’t take rocket scientist to figure out that here we’re getting disparate results, but, in fact, we have a structure that may be even is causing some of those disparate results, but certainly if not causing, certainly not doing anything to change those results.

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