Daring to compare: OPRF vs. Hinsdale Central

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

All three of my sons attended Oak Park public schools for 12 years, including four years each at Oak Park and River Forest High School. They received a great education and were prepared for college, from which they graduated and got good jobs. Along the way there were a few bad teachers and everything was not perfect, but all in all as a parent I was and am pleased with our schools. Most of my high property taxes go to District 97 and 200, but I feel I'm getting my money's worth.

The quality of Oak Park schools is crucial to the village's future. The pipeline of younger families moving to Oak Park from the city must continue to flow to replenish older homeowners downsizing to reduce their taxes and expenses.

That is why whenever I read the Illinois School Report card I get a little bit queasy. I don't like to read that OPRF is good but not great. It annoys me to see that Hinsdale Central is always ranked higher than us. Looking at the bigger picture that includes considerations other than flawed limited test results makes it clear to me that Oak Park should be rated higher than Hinsdale Central.

So I compared the 2013 Illinois School Report Cards for the two schools. There were similarities. They are about the same size: Oak Park has 3,285 students and Hinsdale has 2,846. The amount spent per student for instruction is close: $11,908 for Oak Park and $11,342 for Hinsdale Central. Oak Park has $887,000 of Equalized Assessed Valuation behind each of its students, but Hinsdale Central has $ 1.4 million.

There are significant demographic differences. Hinsdale has more white kids, 77%, while Oak Park has 55%. Oak Park's largest minority is black students at 27%, while Asians at 13% is Hinsdale's. Oak Park has significantly more low-income students than Hinsdale — 23% to 5% — whereas 4.2 % of our students are chronically truant compared to 0.7% of theirs. In Oak Park, 1.8 % of the students are homeless vs. 0.3% of theirs.

The white students perform about the same at both schools with both reading and math scores hovering around 90%, but only 45% and 28% of the black students meet or exceed standards in reading and math respectively. Hinsdale Central's Asian students are around 92%. Only 66.5% of Oak Park students are ready for college as opposed to 87.4% of Hinsdale Central students. You do not have to be able to do calculus to see that Oak Park's test performance is negatively impacted by the overall performance of its black students.

This gap in student performance between the black and other students has been the subject of much analysis and comment over the years. But that is not my focus today. I wanted to share this data with the readers. 

Next time I will explain why, despite the inferior performance on these state tests, I believe Oak Park is a better high school than Hinsdale Central.

Reader Comments

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Steven from Oak Brook  

Posted: January 20th, 2014 12:58 PM

With all respect, you are biased in your article. Of course you will believe that Oak Park schools are "better" than, for instance, Hinsdale Central because you have history at these schools! The only way to truly determine if Oak Park is better than another school is if you had, for example, one son/daughter attend Oak Park River Forest and one son/daughter attend Hinsdale Central. Until you have credible research and unbiased feelings, do not write about "what's better than what" articles.

OP Transplant  

Posted: January 20th, 2014 12:04 PM

Rich white folks have souls, too.

Violet Aura from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 19th, 2014 5:43 PM

Cont. of all OP students are White, then tack on another 15% for the Black population. I have seen consistent evidence of lying about racial stats when looking at school districts. Hinsdale may test much better but I wouldn't want to live there. It seems rather soulless to me...

Violet Aura from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: January 19th, 2014 5:41 PM

John, I don't even need to wait for next week's installment. If you are a middle-class White student with two involved parents, you will probably track in the top tier at OPRF. So your high school experience will be much different than a Black student who lives with a single mother and is low-income, having moved here from Austin or K-Town a few years ago. By then, the child is woefully behind and will track at the bottom with other students who look like her. If they are saying that only 55%...


Posted: January 19th, 2014 5:07 PM

Please include services to kids with disabilities in your comparison. Maybe you can start with whether Hinsdale puts their kids with disabilities on the bus before the end of the school day. OPRFHS does, despite requirements for kids with disabilities get a full day of education.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: January 17th, 2014 4:33 PM

The only way to address the statistics that John mentions is to have an open and honest conversation regardless if someone's feelings get hurt. A large segment of the black community needs an intervention. There is too much at stake to continue to be PC about it. Unfortunately, I am doubtful Oak Park and the black community at large is ready to have that conversation.

Real List  

Posted: January 17th, 2014 1:06 PM

So income and race are the main determiners of success in school. Then how to define a better school? If you took New Trier (all its teachers and facilities) and placed it in Fenger's location on the South Side, and vice versa, would the results be different? Would New Trier still be a top school or plummet to Fenger's ranking? Would Fenger suddenly be a top high school? Makes you think on how we justify teacher's salaries in general when,most likely,a student's home life plays so predominately.

The dude  

Posted: January 17th, 2014 12:56 PM

cont. if the school tank, the rest of Oak Park does too. Look at Berwyn, the High school is a mess, and I know that many families that would have once chosen Berwyn over Oak Park to lay roots down have bypassed it because of the condition of the high school. Since Oak Park is made up of mostly families, the singles that move hear due to it's proximity to Chicago, and less "suburb" feel will not be enough to sustain it.

The dude  

Posted: January 17th, 2014 12:47 PM

Dooper, I completely agree with you and John that the desirability of the village is heavily tied to the success of the schools. Virtually every family I know that moved hear were for 3 things; the schools, the diversity and the Liberal lean. I also know that they would not have moved here if the schools were no good, regardless of their racial or political disposition. I'd still stay here with the high taxes that go to the schools even if I didn't have kids, because I know that cont...


Posted: January 17th, 2014 6:44 AM

@OP "Whites time is coming?" Certainly sounds like a threat to me. The problem is the black home and the lack of a working father in most of them as well as a sub-culture that characterizes hard work, achievement and initiative as "white". The problem, as Malcolm X said, can only be solved by black people themselves. The author is correct in saying that if potential buyers no longer see Oak Park as a place worth the heavy taxes they won't move here anymore. Knock the chip off your shoulder.

The dude  

Posted: January 16th, 2014 4:13 PM

cont. there... At the end of the day, school is not just a place where students go to receive information, but a place that greatly impacts their entire being and outlook on the world. In this respect I would much rather my own attend OPRF then a place where extraordinary privilege and the mass domination of a single race, is the norm. Plus I know mine will be getting a perfect good education in Oak Park.

The dude  

Posted: January 16th, 2014 4:10 PM

Cont. mindset between peers, to push them to their best potential. It's a very hard comparison to make between the two school. Beyond test scores, there's also the comparison between cultures among students. I've seen freshmen carrying Gucci handbag's through the halls at Hinsdale Central, and I've listened to bragging from teen girls at sports games comparing their wealth, material items and privilege to those of other towns. I know non-white kids that feel very much discriminated against cont.

The dude  

Posted: January 16th, 2014 4:02 PM

There are truths to John's article, and some parts that come across as offensive due to lack of analysis. Everyone know that the racial group struggling the most at OPRF are blacks, but that's got to do with a lot of factors including economics, home environment, resources etc... Hinsdale will come out on top every time in terms to ISAT score, even with lesser teachers, because the vast majority of student will have the support system at home, the funding for tutors and the competitive cont.

OPRFFB Letterman 1964 from River Forest  

Posted: January 16th, 2014 3:37 PM

The Advanced Placement students at OPRFHS can compete with students at any school. The OPRFHS special education department is also above average. It is the students in the middle most affected by the current OPRF demographics. When a teacher has to take 15 minutes to bring their classroom to order due to order, due to undisciplined students, the students who want to learn are hurt. Once a school surpasses 50% minority it is over. OPRFHS is in a death spiral! Education starts & ends in the home.


Posted: January 16th, 2014 1:57 PM

@ sense. there are several issues with the stats and the tone and tenor of his article. First, it is not a relevant comparison (OP vs Evanston is not GOP/white hisdale) so you can't really drive any conclusion or action. Second, no the obviuous did not escape me, we all know that AA are behind but the relevant question is why - finally, why leave a stupid a-- comment without any context? Article solves nothing and really says nothing that we dont know.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: January 16th, 2014 10:07 AM

OP, is your beef with the stats or that John is exposing what we all know deep down... black students as a whole are simply not performing. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, but that is not the point. There is a huge benefit to having a diverse community and school which is why many of us choose OP over other suburbs, however, regardless of race, income, etc, we should expect the best of ALL of our students.


Posted: January 16th, 2014 7:47 AM

The writer shows he is not very intelliegent. People live in OP or hinsdale for very different ideologies.. hinsdale is GOP and OP is liberal as they come.. better comparison is Evanston. But again, I think the tru purpose of article was to disparage OP. Look I am no big fan of OP these days (too many social climbing, want to be yuppies vs, intellectuals of past) but dont distort the facts..

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2014 7:16 AM

The writer is running out of topics. A few years back, he wrote the same article comparing Oak Park & Western Springs, a town his son moved his wife and daughter to passing up beloved OP. In that article the writer posted that the crime rate in OP, one murder and one rape is about the same as WS w/ no murder or rape. I posted the stats don't matter if your gran daughter in law and child were the victims of rape and murder. I hope his gran daughter gradates Hinsdale w/ honors.


Posted: January 16th, 2014 6:57 AM

john - Your analysis is like comparing you and me. Yes, we live in Oak Park (ie similar demographic) but I am an executive, I am black, etc. Then ask John, why don't you earn $650,000 per year. There are so many factors which go into the analysis to make sweeping statements as you are in very silly. Most of the time, I read your post and see some level of intelligence/insight etc. but this is not one of them...


Posted: January 16th, 2014 6:53 AM

First as an African American who went to OPRF and Ivy League schools, this is offensive. Everyone knows stats a) can any story you like them to b) the comparison is not relevant - Hinsdale is lilly white c) there interesting data is diaggreagting data into more details. It always amazes me when whites who are born with all advantages (wealth, dad's connections etc) bemoam others and ask why they dont to more. Whites time is coming as america will be mostly minorities in next 20 years...

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 15th, 2014 9:36 PM

If the "Daring to Compare:??" article posted by a WJ Columnist was a post on WJ Comments, the village would be up in arms about the lack of sensitivity on the part of the writer. A week after the article's printing, the WJ editorial team would be mentioning the ignorance of posters while stating that the behavior is not unusual for WJ posters. But the writer is a WJ columnist of the WJ staff. He has a prerogative that allows him select the factors in a quality education, allows him to assume that everyone see their lives his way, claims the right to reject the potential of students who do not meet his standards, and the ego to complete his article by saying "Next time I will explain why??." We can only hope that the quill of his pen breaks before he begins writing his next hapless lecture.

Randy from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2014 7:48 PM

You raise a very, very good point. There is a distinct pattern to the inferior performance of black (African American and dark-skinned Latino) students. This is why the country should never have strayed from the principles determined by the Plessy vs. Ferguson trial! My property value is too damn low, and I don't wanna point fingers, but...........

Jimmies Westbrook from Hinsdale  

Posted: January 15th, 2014 6:22 PM

This is the most infuriating article this side of the mason Dixon. Mr. Harbough, do you have any right to be writing something with so much blasphemy? What are your qualifications because I think you might be less educated than some of these "black students"

Nate Merriweather  

Posted: January 15th, 2014 4:27 PM

Sigh. Just another John Hubbuch column that means to "explore race" that amounts to him putting his foot in his mouth, much to the enjoyment of those of us who read his drivel. Why the Journal continues to give this guy a forum is beyond bewildering.

oh, yes you did  

Posted: January 15th, 2014 6:13 AM

Dear John Hubbuch, can't believe you highlight that the only real difference between OPRF and HS is black kids, and how they preform on tests, which lowers our overall scores... but this is "not the focus of the article" What? it is all that anyone is going to read or comment on. My new new years resolution is to not read the words you string together as random thoughts and post in the wednesday journal.


Posted: January 15th, 2014 6:11 AM

And many would-be Hinsdale Central kids opt for Fenwick because it is the best.

Hans Solo  

Posted: January 15th, 2014 12:10 AM

"negatively impacted by the overall performance of its black students." ouch thats harsh.

Brian Trollstein from Oak Forest, Il  

Posted: January 15th, 2014 12:04 AM

Is this a joke? We know Hinsdale Central is a superior school, please don't make some your far out analysis of facts somehow swing in your favor and prove that we are better. We aren't..accept and move on.

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