School leaders in this college town just north of Chicago have been battling a sizable academic achievement gap between Black, Latino and white students for decades. So a few years ago, the school district decided to try something new at the high school: classrooms voluntarily separated by race.
Nearly 200 Black and Latino students at Evanston Township High School signed up this year for math classes and a writing seminar intended for students of the same race, taught by a teacher of color. These optional so-called affinity classes are designed to address the achievement gap by making students feel more comfortable in class, district leaders have said, particularly in Advanced Placement courses that historically have enrolled few Black and Latino student.
“Our Black students are, for lack of a better word…at the bottom, consistently still. And they are being outperformed consistently,” Monique Parsons, Evanston school board vice president, said at a November board meeting. “It’s not good.”
Evanston is taking the strategy one step further, offering courses for Black and Latino students in core math classes: algebra 2, precalculus and AP calculus, as well as an English seminar. Evanston’s classes for Black students are known as AXLE, an acronym for Advancing Excellence, Lifting Everyone, and those for Latino students are called GANAS, from a Spanish expression that means “giving it all you’ve got.” School districts across the country have sometimes struggled to find ways to boost the performance of Black and Latino students, who, nationwide, tend to enroll in fewer advanced classes and score lower on standardized tests than white students.
Leaders in Evanston’s high-school district, board members and teachers declined or ignored repeated requests to comment on the courses over several months. When a Wall Street Journal reporter arrived at a public meeting for parents of Black students, a district spokeswoman said she would cancel the meeting if the reporter didn’t leave.
Evanston’s 3,600-student high school is 44% white, 24% Black, 20% Hispanic and 5% Asian. The community, home to Northwestern University, is a mix of wealthy families and lower-income households. (Full article can be viewed at link.)