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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Evanston High backs off on segregated math classes

I'm so old I remember when segregation was considered a bad thing. Evanston Township High (ETHS), just north of Chicago, created all-black and all-Hispanic math classes, plus a pre-calculus class restricted to black males, reports Amber Athey in The Spectator.


Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1964. Photo: Steve Schapiro

Four classes on the school’s website -- Algebra 2 and AP Calculus -- were listed as "restricted to students who identify as black" or "restricted to students who identify as Latinx." A fifth class, pre-calculus was "restricted" to black males. Other classes in the same subjects were listed as open to all students.


Contacted by The Spectator, school officials said the course listings are inaccurate. No class is "restricted" by race, ethnicity or gender. However, certain sections are "intended to support" black or "Latinx" or black, male students.

The school changed the course listings to drop "restricted," reports Athey. For example: “While open to all students, this optional section of the course is intended to support students who identify as Latinx,” one section of Algebra 2 states."


In a statement sent to The Spectator, ETHS officials defended the policy:

This aligns with our goal to increase access to AP-level coursework at ETHS and is supported by the research on how to effectively increase access and success in AP classes for all students. As a result, access to AP classes for all students, including Black and Latinx students, has dramatically increased over the past decade. We are proud of our work.”

Increasing access to advanced courses is easy. Increasing success is hard, unless success is redefined. I wonder if students in black math or Latinx math see themselves as capable learners, just as good as those in white/Asian math. "Separate but equal" used to be a bad thing too.


In 2015, Education Week reported on the school's policy of placing nearly all ninth-graders in honors courses in hopes more would go on to AP courses. Some students complained honors and AP classes were less challenging to accommodate less-prepared students.


At the start of the 2021-22 school year, ETHS hosted an open house with affinity groups "facilitated by the ETHS Latinx Staff Caucus, the Black Staff Caucus and the Asian Middle Eastern Staff Caucus" as well as an "anti-racist," session, reported Evanston RoundTable. A group called Evanstonians for Diversity and Unity protested "district-endorsed racial segregation."


I grew up near Evanston: We used to play them -- losing badly -- in football. It was a huge school: To avoid segregation, Evanston had a single high school. Even today, it has 3,690 students: Forty-five percent are white, 5 percent Asian, 23.5 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic. About a third of students come from low-income families. Others come from affluent families. Some are the children of Northwestern University professors.

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16 Comments


Guest
May 09, 2023

What is the rest of the story? When my district did similar, the parents of the non-inner city youth transferred their children out as soon as it became apparent that academic and behavioral expectations were lowered .

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
May 09, 2023

If your kids are in "honors" classes for everyone, move them out of that school; its leadership is practising fraud, and your kids will suffer from the slow pace of learning, since their teachers will either have to ignore the slow or unprepared learners' questions, or will address them at the pace requested, which will hold your kids back, in comparison with what they might have achieved, and what children in other cities are achieving.

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Guest
May 08, 2023

Rumor I heard growing up (in a different suburb) was that Evanston High School was built to avoid the _appearance_ of segregation but did it anyway by having each wing dedicated to a specific geographic area, so that most of your classes would only be with people from your neighborhood. It seems that they were forced to change that. These segregated-ish classes may be just "retro" for Evanston."

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Guest
May 25, 2023
Replying to

I went to ETHS in the years before the new school opened. While that rumor was already in circulation, it was obvious bullshit. At the time, Evanston was beginning the reconstruction of its primary and middle school systems, which really been segregated according to the red-lined map of its snooty old-line real-estate merchant class — a systematic financial arrangement in which Northwestern University, as the largest landowner and landlord in the city was, of course, an active participant.

That is not a past to which anyone wants to return.

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Guest
May 07, 2023

It takes more than a single school to keep white kids in a school that is only 50% white. It takes tracking like AP/IB classes along with high end extracurriculars where the white and Asian kids can isolate themselves from the black and brown students.

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Richard Rider
Richard Rider
May 07, 2023

Try -- just try -- to imagine a public school offering such a class to only WHITE students. The outrage would have been front page headlines. Sadly, this Evanston policy is another example of "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

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Guest
May 12, 2023
Replying to

The issue is what to do about the achieve gap other than ignore it or hide it.

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