ACT Race Gap Persists At High School

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By John Hubbuch

Today's Tribune reports that there is a 7-point gap between the white and black students at OPRFHS. White students averaged 26.6 on the ACT, while the black students averaged 19.3. Board member Sharon Patchak-Lyman was quoted:" The odds are not very good for the students who are not white at this school, and that has not really changed over eight years." Fellow board member Amy McCormack observed: " This data should be unsettling to us."

Implicit in this is always that somebody's at fault. The high school? Are  you kidding me?  Every year this gap is a key issue for the high school. Lots of really smart people armed with the latest research and programs are tasked with closing the gap. The newspapers devote lots of publicity. Candidates for the school board make it a central problem that they will address if elected. Yet the gap persists.

The elephant in this classroom is that no one knows how to close the gap at a big community high school like OPRFHS. Trust me if Lyons Township or York or Evanston high schools had figured out the magic potion then Oak Park would drink it.

For once I wish a school board member or administrator would say: " Look this  gap is a persistent problem that our society is simply unwilling to devote the resources to solve. Everyone knows by the time you get to high school it's too late to really do anything about this. You might as well task us with making Chicago winters milder. We  really can't do anything about it. We can help some kids, but we can't significantly move the needle."

Now to be sure such a comment would raise an out cry that you can't give up on kids and  their futures. Agreed. But whatever OPRFHS,  and for that matter the nation's high schools are doing, it  isn't working and never has worked. One thing for sure: we need a heavy dose of reality and humility along with lowered expectations lest we continue on an endless loop of delusion.

Reader Comments

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TK  

Posted: October 11th, 2011 12:57 PM

@ Colors, I'm not sure what you mean by "Tell that to every successful African American." I think that I fall into the category of a successful Black person. I'm surrounded by Black people with high goals and aspirations making great strides in life. From my own experience, I have yet to meet Black people that would oppose my statement..including educated friends in private sector, non profit, and govt. Just bc they dont tell you that means nothing when they say it to other Black people.

Interested Parent  

Posted: October 10th, 2011 9:23 AM

I understand changes are underway in D97 to use flexible groups to address academic skill deficiencies, but the community may have to come to grips with the fact that heterogeneous groupings cannot solve all problems. If a racial group scores low, then the remediation class may look very homogeneous. The goal is to work to a hetero grouping, but skills need to be addressed quickly and in the most direct manner possible. Politics and feelings need to be set aside to help ALL kids learn.

Interested Parent  

Posted: October 10th, 2011 9:17 AM

(cont.) Are the students still clustered by race or are they mixing up in the score ranges? If the scores will pretty evenly mixed in K by race, and then start to cluster more by race through the grades, schools can look at internal factors that may be causing this divide. If the groups are already divided in K, then efforts need to be made to impact early childhood care and jumpstart kindergarten programs. The data are there, but schools may need to change to make a real difference.

Interested Parent  

Posted: October 10th, 2011 9:12 AM

What might be a very interesting study would be to look at the various assessments given across the grades K-12 and look at how the proportion of students "doing well" changes across grade level changes. For example, rank all the DIBELS scores in K, then look at the racial breakdown of the mix. Are the students pretty evenly divided across the score range or are they clustered into groups by race? Then, repeat this in 3rd, 5th, and 8th grades for MAP (or ISAT) data. (cont.)

Colors  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 9:42 PM

TK, Tell that to every successful African American person.

TK  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 8:48 PM

The character limitations are really slowing me down. Sorry.

TK  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 8:47 PM

Black kid from OPRF with a mid class upbringing. Whats difficult for Black kids (as well as adults) is not becoming what people think of you. Having teachers and bosses underestimate your intelligence, police treat you like a criminal, social workers treat you like a helpless victim they want to save combines to form an identity crisis brew that you see manifest in Black kids from OP that want to look like they're from the west side. I have a lot Im tryin to say so just ask if it sounds off

TK  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 8:38 PM

Part of the gap really is cultural, where because you speak differently or enunciate differently you are regarded as less talented and treated (and challenged) accordingly. A very smart kid of a low income background of any race is going to have much more of a fight to succeed than a kid of the same intelligence that is introduced to success and resources at every point of his life. A genius white kid from a coal mining family in West Va. is not on equal footiing with a moderately intelligent

TK  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 8:27 PM

@ Violet, it is a little biased (but not malicious) to think that Black students who represent that "gap" do so because of parental support. Take for example one of my friends in high school. Her ACT was a 21/22. She had great grades in high school. Got an academic scholarship for undergrad. Did great with no real difficulty. Got her master's in something I can't pronounce, then went on to finish med school.

Violet Aura  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 4:30 PM

*cont.* to help their kids or may have a negative association with school due to their own failures. There is a great divide in OP in general with affluent, over-educated White folks and working-class BP. So why should we be surprised when their offspring attend school together and this is replicated?

Violet Aura  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 4:28 PM

*cont.* looking to the root cause and trying to work within that reality, not dump all responsibility for test scores on the school system. It starts way earlier. Black students overrepresent in SPED. Remember that SPED deals with behavioral issues as well. So we need to explore what the issues are with Black students early on that create the gap due to the behavioral issues and learning problems. There may not be parental support. Some parents who did poorly in school may not feel able *cont*

Violet Aura  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 4:23 PM

I agree with John's column. If any school in the country would be responsive to its diverse students, it would be OPRF and the general community. This has always been an issue; at least as far back as when I attended the high school in the early '80s. Why? You have Black students coming from Chicago and other area schools that are not up to OPRF's standards. You have single-parent households. It's not about "blaming" single parents for not being there to monitor homework; it's about *cont.*

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: October 9th, 2011 1:40 AM

OPRF Parent -- I agree with your statement "The truth is that the HS can't do much to significantly close the gap. This must be addressed at the D97/D90/parochial school level first and foremost." Three school districts for K-12 education is flawed. Expecting school district administrations to put aside revenue, union, cultural differences and agree a single and continuous education for K-12 students is unworkable. A single school district is the preferred approach.

John Duffy from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 7:38 AM

Just as important for all of us are the questions of what has not been done and how widespread and persistent, rather than new and disturbing, are your common man expert understandings of when, how, and under what conditions children are able to learn in equitable ways and when that stops being possible?

John Duffy from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 7:36 AM

Mr. Hubbuch, as an observer of the school scene for at least 25 years, what would you point to that has been done in a systematic, sustained way at the high school over the first two generations of racial integration? Just as important for all of us are the questions of what has not been done and how widespread and persistent, rather than new and disturbing, are your common man expert understandings of when, how, and under what conditions children are able to learn in equitable ways and when t

John Duffy from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 7:35 AM

of too many students and of a larger social historical landscape of Oak Park and America. Instead, the study called for substantive, systemic changes and yes, even further research, a continued search for more complex understandings and experimentation, a strange academic faith that something new is out there to learn. Mr. Hubbuch, as an observer of the school scene for at least 25 years, what would you point to that has been done in a systematic, sustained way at the high school over the fir

John Duffy from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 7:33 AM

in their unpreparedness to function successfully in the traditional high standards environment of the high school. Weninger's and your refusal to acknowledge that something of substance may need fixing at the high school was not, however, to be found in the district's massive 2003 study "The Learning Community Performance Gap," except to be acknowledged as a sentiment projected socially and culturally as part of the mindset of many who teach, of too many students and of a lar

John Duffy from Oak Park   

Posted: October 8th, 2011 7:31 AM

A version of this thinking was a central premise framing Superintendent Weninger's Report to the school board on the achievement gap (2007). Before reviewing what had been underway and what was still planned (close to 60 efforts) to respond to the achievement gap at the high school, Weninger suggested that the achievement divide was the consequence of what has gone on earlier in the lives of students and their families, in their earlier years of schooling and in their unpreparedness to funct

John Duffy from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 7:29 AM

Thanks John for saying something that offends so many parents, citizens, students and educators who believe there is still considerable to do rather than believe and say "been there, done that" or feel that we are all on a fool's errand. Yet, your conclusions may represent a widespread sentiment among many liberals and conservatives of Oak Park and River Forest. Your thinking, not new by any means, needs to be deconstructed on so many fronts outside the blogosphere. A version o

John Duffy from Oak Park  

Posted: October 8th, 2011 7:20 AM

Thanks John for saying something that offends so many parents, citizens, students and educators who believe there is still considerable to do rather than believe and say "been there, done that" or feel that we are all on a fool's errand. Yet, your conclusions may represent a widespread sentiment among both liberals and conservatives of Oak Park and River Forest. Your thinking, not new by any means, needs to be deconstructed on so many fronts outside the blogosphere. A version of

what have we learned? from Oak Park  

Posted: October 7th, 2011 12:12 PM

John- You suggest it is too late to do anything about student achievement by the time a student reaches high school. When you were a school board member at D97, what did D97 do to address this issue, and what, if anything, do you think improved student achievement across racial lines? If you view the problem as one of timing, what might be done earlier for students?

OPRF parent # 177 from Oak Park  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 1:44 PM

Wow, a Hubbuch collumn that I agree with! The truth is that the HS can't do much to significantly close the gap. This must be addressed at the D97/D90/parochial school level first and foremost. My questions are these...since I assume we know who the "gap" kids are,in any given year 1) how many spent all their K-8 years in D97 or D90? 2) how many spent 3 years in the Chicago Public Schools? 3) how many spent their K-8 years in local private schools? This info MUST be part of the discussion.

Jg Morales  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 11:14 AM

Instead of looking at this as a racial issue, why not a household income issue? Why not a parents' highest level of education issue? Why not a single parent vs two parent household issue? Also, like Concerned and Informed Parent mentioned, which courses are these children taking? So long as the problem is connected to race there will be no real solution. @Silly- Yeah, it's free. The issues is: "What is important to my child's education?" In many cases, parents who have graduated with a Master's Degree have a better idea of this than parents who only obtained a high school diploma. Sometimes two parents in a household means more time to stay *intimately* involved with a child's education. Compare that to one parent working one or maybe two jobs just to pay the bills. There's only so much that can be done in one day. Granted, I'm not saying that all minority children come from lower income, broken families. However, these issues are more prevalent among ethnic minorities than Caucasians. Those are the issues we should look into, not race.

Silly  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 10:32 AM

Knowledge is FREE and available to ALL PEOPLE of all races, creeds and sex.

Concerned and Informed Parent  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 10:26 AM

Perhaps we need to stop having outrage over closed campus,fees for using the facilities, the swimming pool, etc. and fuel our community outrage toward establishing and ensuring all our students get the education they deserve. As a community (that measns, parents, teachers, administrators and community organizations), we have run out of excuses and need to get to work. I

Concerned and Informed Parent  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 10:21 AM

(con't)Why anyone would suggest that we lower our expectations instead of focusing on this issue more diligently as a community is ridiculous. Yes, every year they bring out the test score reports at the school board meeting and everyone says how horrible they are and suggest we "mine the data," but we have yet to establish what courses those students who reach college readiness benchmarks take and what courses those who do not take.

Concerned and Informed Parent  

Posted: September 23rd, 2011 10:17 AM

Lower expectations! Wow, that's really going to help. First and foremost yes, some of these problems exist before students arrive at OPRF's door. That being said, the gap should not widen in high school and that's exactly what happens. African Amercian students who enter OPRF who score in the average range on the Explore test in 8th grade will significantly score lower on the ACT than their white counterparts who scored exactly the same when they entered the high school.

monica klinke from oak park  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 4:31 PM

More like an endless loop of tax increases.

???????  

Posted: September 20th, 2011 2:32 PM

How are the odds stacked against the non white students? Why is it the high schools fault?

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