Racial Achievement Gap Widens Under River Forest Equity Initiative
River Forest District 90 has widened the racial achievement gap following an equity-based initiative called The Crosswalk. Declines for most students, and especially black students, are apparent just three years after the initiative that was supposed to “narrow the opportunity gap” according to then D90 board President Ralph Martire.
The gap between black and white third graders in Reading did not exceed 6.9% in 2013 and 2015. The initiative was memorialized in 2016. By 2018, 40% of black students were not meeting expectations and this number jumped to 60% by 2019, a gap of 33.3% that favored white student achievement.
The effect was greater in third grade math. The gap did not exceed 3.2% for 2013 and 2015. By 2019, 80% of black third grade students failed to meet state expectations. The decline in student achievement under the new math curriculum and instructional practices is evident among subgroups, especially among minority students.
The percentage of 2013 fifth graders not meeting expectations in reading was 16.2% and 38.9% for white and black students, respectively. A gap of 22.7%. By 2018, that gap increased to 43.9%, with 81.9% of black students not meeting state expectations. The same gap was 48.6% in 2019, and favored white student achievement over black students.
White students in fifth grade were NOT meeting expectations within a range of 20.4% to 44.1% between 2013 and 2019, with no obvious trend. Black fifth grade students on the other hand saw steady declines over time with 72.9% failing to meet expectations by 2019. This, before any possible effects of shuddered schools and remote learning.
The equity-based initiative, with unanimous support from board members Calvin Davis, Judy Deogracias, Barbara Hickey, Rich Moore, and Nicole Thompson, was modeled after Evanston Township District 65 and included comprehensive changes to: K-8 curricula, teacher instruction, grading, implementation of block scheduling, social emotional learning, and hiring more minority teachers, among others.
Before the initiative, all three River Forest schools ranked ‘Exemplary’ according to the Illinois State Board of Education. All schools were downgraded to ‘Commendable’ by 2019. Total enrollment at District 90 was 1477 in 2019.
The district has been tight-lipped about specific changes to curriculum and instruction that coincide with academic declines most affecting minority students. These changes were implemented by Curriculum Director Alison Hawley, hired by Martire in 2016, and promoted to Asst. Superintendent of Learning in June 2022. Most recently, Superintendent Ed Condon denied a parent petition and request for “a community conversation around the block schedule”.
It is know that Elementary teachers abandoned various ELA curricula to align behind the controversial Lucy Calkin’s curriculum, one that has been banned in several states.