Excellence or equity in education?

Let's look at Evanston, Illinois (home of Northwestern) and Naperville, Illinois (western suburbs of Chicago) and their two different approaches to achievement.

The September 5, 2019 National Merit Semi-Finalist list (the national top 1% students who have taken the PSAT as a junior in high school) includes seven students from Evanston Township High School (Evanston population: 75,000; senior class size: 822; 0.8% National Merit Semi-Finalists) and 76 students from Naperville (Naperville population: 147,000; average senior class size: 2,160; 3.5% National Merit Semi-Finalists).  Naperville has nearly 4.4 times more National Merit semi-finalists than Evanston on a percentage basis. 

Naperville high schools spend $13,337 per student compared to Evanston's $22,273.

Nationally, 95.4% percent of students who achieve National Merit Commended (top 3–4% of test-takers) status or above will persist into their second year of college.  This compares to 88% for those who have an unranked status according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. 

Evanston public schools have devoted considerable resources to equity.  Searching their websites shows no reference to excellence.  In contrast, on Neuqua Valley High School's welcome page, "[a] commitment to excellence" is one of the core values in their mission statement.  Does Evanston welcome excellence?  Has Evanston's Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity program established in 2014 brought more National Merit semifinalists through its program?

Normalizing mediocre performance through an equity lens will only make this disparity worse.  Think about the moral of the fictional classroom experiment where everyone gets the same grade regardless of merit and the gradual descent into chaos.  Does a competitive global economy reward equity or excellence?

In order to achieve excellence, making good choices is essential.  Good choices start with the decisions we make as individuals and include our elected officials.  Is there a correlation between academic excellence and a two-parent household?  Does expanding the sale of marijuana in our communities lead to excellence — in the classroom or professionally?  Is the impact worth the risk?  Does gambling expansion lead to better social outcomes?  Will the friendly confines of Wrigley Field elect to have a sports wagering license?  Will sports wagering contribute to a society of excellence?

Meanwhile, Evanston has become the center of the national reparations discussion.  This discussion is divisive and counter to the pursuit of excellence.  It opens up a Pandora's box of questions, such as what about the complicated relationship between the American Indian and the settlers?  What about our treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII?  What do we owe the families of the Union soldiers who died to free slaves in the Civil War?  African slaves were typically sold by conquering African kingdoms.  Shouldn't the reparation discussion include countries that willingly sent the conquered people who became slaves from Africa — specifically, the west coast of Africa from Guinea to Angola? 

Why do so many Democratic presidential candidates support reparations?  How will reparations move the United States to excellence?  Didn't the Great Society address poverty and racial injustice?  How many trillions of dollars have been devoted to the Great Society?

The road to reparations and equity is a road to mediocrity.  Reparations pit one group against another, and equity leads us to mediocrity.  Living in the past and aiming for mediocrity is no way to aim high.  A commitment to excellence is a commitment to hold all of us to a higher standard and moving forward.

Let's celebrate excellence.  Aim high.  Celebrate high achievers everywhere and — kudos to the Naperville public school system and their commitment to excellence and the results that have further enriched their community, and hopefully the United States as a whole.

Let's look at Evanston, Illinois (home of Northwestern) and Naperville, Illinois (western suburbs of Chicago) and their two different approaches to achievement.

The September 5, 2019 National Merit Semi-Finalist list (the national top 1% students who have taken the PSAT as a junior in high school) includes seven students from Evanston Township High School (Evanston population: 75,000; senior class size: 822; 0.8% National Merit Semi-Finalists) and 76 students from Naperville (Naperville population: 147,000; average senior class size: 2,160; 3.5% National Merit Semi-Finalists).  Naperville has nearly 4.4 times more National Merit semi-finalists than Evanston on a percentage basis. 

Naperville high schools spend $13,337 per student compared to Evanston's $22,273.

Nationally, 95.4% percent of students who achieve National Merit Commended (top 3–4% of test-takers) status or above will persist into their second year of college.  This compares to 88% for those who have an unranked status according to the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. 

Evanston public schools have devoted considerable resources to equity.  Searching their websites shows no reference to excellence.  In contrast, on Neuqua Valley High School's welcome page, "[a] commitment to excellence" is one of the core values in their mission statement.  Does Evanston welcome excellence?  Has Evanston's Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity program established in 2014 brought more National Merit semifinalists through its program?

Normalizing mediocre performance through an equity lens will only make this disparity worse.  Think about the moral of the fictional classroom experiment where everyone gets the same grade regardless of merit and the gradual descent into chaos.  Does a competitive global economy reward equity or excellence?

In order to achieve excellence, making good choices is essential.  Good choices start with the decisions we make as individuals and include our elected officials.  Is there a correlation between academic excellence and a two-parent household?  Does expanding the sale of marijuana in our communities lead to excellence — in the classroom or professionally?  Is the impact worth the risk?  Does gambling expansion lead to better social outcomes?  Will the friendly confines of Wrigley Field elect to have a sports wagering license?  Will sports wagering contribute to a society of excellence?

Meanwhile, Evanston has become the center of the national reparations discussion.  This discussion is divisive and counter to the pursuit of excellence.  It opens up a Pandora's box of questions, such as what about the complicated relationship between the American Indian and the settlers?  What about our treatment of Japanese-Americans during WWII?  What do we owe the families of the Union soldiers who died to free slaves in the Civil War?  African slaves were typically sold by conquering African kingdoms.  Shouldn't the reparation discussion include countries that willingly sent the conquered people who became slaves from Africa — specifically, the west coast of Africa from Guinea to Angola? 

Why do so many Democratic presidential candidates support reparations?  How will reparations move the United States to excellence?  Didn't the Great Society address poverty and racial injustice?  How many trillions of dollars have been devoted to the Great Society?

The road to reparations and equity is a road to mediocrity.  Reparations pit one group against another, and equity leads us to mediocrity.  Living in the past and aiming for mediocrity is no way to aim high.  A commitment to excellence is a commitment to hold all of us to a higher standard and moving forward.

Let's celebrate excellence.  Aim high.  Celebrate high achievers everywhere and — kudos to the Naperville public school system and their commitment to excellence and the results that have further enriched their community, and hopefully the United States as a whole.