The school, located in the same city as Northwestern University, has named these classes "affinity classes.".
They are specifically designed for black and Hispanic students, with non-white teachers leading the courses.
While these classes are not mandatory, they are exclusively available to black and Hispanic students. The students have the option to enroll in these classes, and a significant number have chosen to do so. According to The Wall Street Journal, nearly 200 students registered for math and writing courses in 2023. The underlying premise of this initiative is that black and Hispanic students may perform better academically when separated from their white peers.
This is not the first instance of racial segregation in educational settings in recent years. In 2021, a middle school in Chicago organized segregated field trips. The objective was to foster a sense of camaraderie between black teachers and students at Jefferson Middle School District.
One student expressed that she feels more confident in the segregated classes, as she does not feel obligated to represent the entire black race. The Evanston school board vice president stated, "Our Black students are, for lack of a better word…at the bottom, consistently still. And they are being outperformed consistently. It's not good." The introduction of these courses is an attempt to bridge the academic gap where minority students have been lagging behind.
Despite the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed segregation, several school districts across the US have experimented with voluntary segregated classes. The original law was enacted to prevent racial discrimination and ensure equal education opportunities for black students. The modern iteration of segregation aims to enhance the quality of education for these students.
Although segregation has historically been denounced, some of these programs have yielded positive outcomes for black and Hispanic students. The Wall Street Journal reports that "Researchers have found some small improvements in grades and retention from such programs. Other studies have shown some improved educational outcomes, such as graduation rates, for Black and Latino students taught by teachers of the same race."
Dena Luna, who works on black student achievement in Minneapolis Public Schools, argued that these segregated spaces allow black students to maintain their identity without having to conform to a white standard. "In our spaces, you don’t have to shed one ounce of yourself because everything about our space is rooted in Blackness," she said.
In Minneapolis, segregated classes have led to improved attendance rates. These classes are tailored to black students, offering courses in African American history and student support. In Evanston, the segregated classes extend beyond electives to include core foundational courses. The AXLE program for black students and the GANAS program for Hispanic students offer mathematics and English.
Evanston Schools superintendent Marcus Campbell told the student newspaper that the courses aim to provide "a different, more familiar setting to kids who feel really anxious about being in an AP class." The program was launched in 2019, but the district has not released data on student performance in these classes.
The school does not currently offer affinity classes for Asian American students or those who are not part of a minority group. The student body is comprised of 44 percent white, 24 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Asian students.