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.