Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Illinois district garners NSBA award

ETHS students and staff meet often to aid 
team progress.  (Photo: Lynn Trautmann).
Evanston Township High School District 202 has been named a first-place winner in the 22nd annual Magna Awards program by NSBA’s American School Board Journal.

The Magna Awards recognize school boards for taking bold and innovative steps to advance public education. This year’s awards, announced on March 10, honor school districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools. An independent panel of board members, administrators, and other educators selected winners from nearly 250 submissions.

This year’s three grand prize winners, along with 15 first place, and 15 honorable mention winners, were selected from three enrollment categories: under 5,000 students, 5,000 to 20,000 students, and more than 20,000 students. The Evanston district was chosen a first-place winner in the under 5,000-students category.

Evanston won for its “Team Access and Success in Advanced Placement” project, or teamASAP, which is designed to provide comprehensive support for Advanced Placement (AP) students. 

“Our dedicated school board deserves this important recognition. The Magna Award is a prestigious national award recognizing our outstanding ETHS school board and the teachers and staff who are passionately committed to educational equity, to higher achievement, and increased rigor for all students of all races and all backgrounds,” stated ETHS District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.

The school board has written and adopted an Equity and Excellence guiding statement, and has supported ongoing restructuring so that all students will benefit from the district’s best learning opportunities, Witherspoon said. The board voted unanimously to restructure ninth grade so more students could have access to and be successful in AP and honors-level courses as they progress through high school. The board also adopted AP enrollment and success on AP exams as measurements for one of the district’s goals.

Results have been excellent. Pete Bavis, ETHS Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, points to reports showing all-time highs in student achievement. The continued rise in AP scores at the high school in conjunction with increased participation and diversity have brought national attention to the ETHS AP program. Bavis said the teamASAP initiative has demonstrated how districts can have a positive impact on school culture when implementing programs aimed at retaining students in their school system’s most rigorous courses.

Specific data is cited by NSBA showing notable growth in a short period of time. In 2014, for example, ETHS had more scores of a 3 or higher on AP exams (1,480) than the school had total AP exams in 2010 (1,384). What is more, the percentage of black and Latino students enrolled in AP courses jumped significantly between the years 2011 to 2014. In 2011, 29 percent of black and 28 percent of Latino juniors and seniors were enrolled in AP classes. In 2014, 38 percent of black and 51 percent of Latino juniors and seniors were enrolled in AP.

The 2016 winners are being highlighted in NSBA’s April Journal and will be formally recognized at NSBA’s 76th Annual Conference in Boston next month.

Winning entries are posted on the Magna Awards website, which can be found here.