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.