2 components are key to embedding anti-racism in the classroom

Students in the Evanston/Skokie School District will begin learning about racism at younger ages
By: | November 10, 2020
Students and parents at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 hosted a 'Chalk the Walk and Sign Making Event' event in October in support of racial equity.Students and parents at Evanston/Skokie School District 65 hosted a 'Chalk the Walk and Sign Making Event' event in October in support of racial equity.
Superintendent Devon Horton

Superintendent Devon Horton

Slavery will no longer be the first contact students in the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 have with African American history in social studies classes.

Administrators and teachers there are in the process of rewriting the curriculum in a wide-ranging effort to make the Chicago-area district fully antiracist and close persistent achievement gaps, Superintendent Devon Horton says.

“My responsibility is to be a system buster-upper,” Horton says. “There are systems that exist—or don’t exist—that contribute to us not being anti-racist.”

Students also will begin learning about racism at younger ages as part of the district’s anti-racism framework.


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“Teachers will know that when they’re teaching about Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer or Of Mice and Men, they will talk about who was in power and who was oppressed at that time, and why was it like that,” Horton says. “We won’t be leaving out major parts of history and the roles that everyone played in the development of our country.”

Teacher residencies

Because teachers are key to embedding anti-racism in a district, Evanston/Skokie is embarking on a residency program with nearby Northwestern University and National Louis University.

Student teachers seeking master’s degrees will pursue a social justice program and be placed in Evanston/Skokie schools that have struggled to recruit diverse candidates, Horton says.

The district has also hired a new manager of equity and diversity, and all new staff members must take diversity training. Evanston/Skokie’s new diversity hiring specialist will, among other initiatives, analyze why the district loses teachers of color at higher rates.


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Central office leaders will continue to meet regularly with building teams to go over student achievement data and develop action plans to close any gaps.

Finally, the district intends to build a new school in the city’s Fifth Ward African American community. It will use a unique funding source: the city of Evanston is funding reparations for the Black community with taxes raised from the state’s legalization of cannabis.

“We are at the beginning of our anti-racism work,” Horton says. “We know this is a big project that is going to pay off with huge dividends in the future.”