OP stakeholders partner in closing achievement gap

Township, school districts, higher ed focus on long-term planning

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Oak Park's two public school districts, as well as the Oak Park Township and Collaboration for Early Childhood, are looking to take a "strategic plan" approach to closing the achievement gap.

Officials from those bodies, as well as from Triton College, Dominican University and the Oak Park Community Foundation, are joining together in the effort. More than a dozen officials from those bodies participated in an achievement gap conference at Harvard University last summer.

Many from those groups presented their report from the conference at the D97 Board of Education meeting on Sept. 24.

Officials from Oak Park included Suzie Hackmiller, principal of Holmes Elementary School; D97 Supt. Albert Roberts; Amy Hill, director of assessment and research at Oak Park and River Forest High School; D200 board member Jackie Moore; and members of the Early Childhood Collaboration. Teachers from the two school districts and representatives from the Township were also present.

Both districts 200 and 97 have struggled with closing the gap between its black and white students. Both are part of the Minority Student Achievement Network, comprised of area school districts that network on educational issues, including the gap.

Oak Park's Harvard group is looking to create actions teams to implement plans from the pre-school to high school levels. While improving academics is key, closing the gap also involves a students' social and emotional development, Hackmiller noted. Addressing expectations and how students see themselves in their environment is important in raising academic levels, the group noted.

In fact, much of the Sept. 24, presentation, which lasted more than a hour, including board questions and comments, focused on reaching kids at the personal level.

Stephen Jackson, who mentors kids at Oak Park Township Youth Services, stressed that kids need to own their own education and learning. Others from the group agreed.

After the presentation, D97 board members had questions and comments but expressed support, as well as excitement, about the effort. Roberts, a veteran school administrator, said he's been in other districts that have tried to address the issue, but that he's not seen an effort like the one Oak Park is looking to do.

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Show Me  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 7:06 PM

Liberals/progressives desegregated the public schools in the '60s. Most people today agree that was a good idea.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 3:26 PM

I'll repeat my earlier post... Liberal/"progressive" Democrat party America has created this problem through 60's social engineering. It is solvable, at least to conservatives like me. Solutions include vouchers, year-round school for those in the gap, & less public union influence in education. The main obstacle is, I repeat, is Liberal/"progressive"/Dem party America. It's leaders & the political class don't want it solved because it creates multi-generational dependency on their beloved state

Show Me  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 2:18 PM

I agree 100% that money would be better spent on tutors in the elementary years. I'm not sure if they still have after school homework help but such programs could be better staffed. Maybe underperforming students should be required to attend. Better parent outreach needed too. I know some teachers do it. I think fear of being criticized stops others from reaching out to parents or disciplining kids.Teachers should be empowered to communicate without fear of backlash.


Posted: October 9th, 2013 1:50 PM

Show Me, I like the cut of your jib. 1) Middle School teachers and admin appear to be content to let kids who do not do HW fail under the guise it is getting them ready for "no hand holding in HS." Why aren't parents being contacted? 2) Where are the parents? How many check PowerSchool? Try to get those #s out of D97. 3) Money spent on the Early Childhood program should be spent on tutors for underachieving kids already in D97 instead of spending D97 taxpayer $ on Forest Park and Chicago kids.

Show Me  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 11:51 AM

Well I am not proud, and not content, to live in a community where creating a new strategic plan every 5 years and the accompanying marketing spin is considered an acceptable solution when children's futures are at stake. What's different this time? The new Early Childhood bureaucracy that has been created? Waste of time and money. I'm glad it makes everyone feel better about themselves.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 11:45 AM

I lived the achievement gap as a kid. I went to a bad middle school and then one of the best high schools in the state. I was far behind. My freshman year I got a 1.0 GPA. By Junior year I was in AP classes. Went to college. Got an Ivy grad degree. 1%er income. All it took was parents to break foot off in my ass, focus on basics, and a desire to prove people wrong. No standards lowered. No ipads. No fancy teaching paradigms. Just doing homework and studying. Not that hard.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 11:36 AM

Bats are effective. An 8th grade teacher at my middle school... Mr. Southern used to patrol the halls with a golf club. He was very much like Joe Clark and effective. Absolutely the HNIC. You knew not to f'k with Mr. Southern and he made sure the kids in his class could read, write, and do math. No excuses. One of the things missing at schools these days are strong, imposing black male teachers. He was the ONLY black male teacher I saw growing up till college. He made an impression.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 11:30 AM

"All we need is a Joe Clark. Problem solved." So, would that be with or without the baseball bat, Uncommon?

Anne from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 11:27 AM

Proud to live in a community that tries to improve the status quo. The teaching standards promoted for early childhood will benefit those who attend preschools located in Oak Park - children who live in Chicago, Forest Park, etc. And achievement gaps are more pronounced among students who move here after starting their schooling outside of Oak Park. Local educators are trying to find ways to better teach and engage kids. Cynics waste time sniping; thank goodness they're not in the classroom.

Show Me  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 11:27 AM

Can they play that clip at the next "stakeholders" meeting?

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 11:13 AM

All we need is a Joe Clark. Problem solved. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SbkHgx6YIo

Show Me  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 11:11 AM

A good education is here for the taking in Oak Park. Right now. It does not require another meeting of the great minds or another penny being spent. We have so many great teachers, and so many ways for students to get extra help. All you have to do is want it. And as for the leaders, there is something you can do too: Motivate.

OP Transplant  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 10:55 AM

If a bunch of white people having a meeting could solve the education problems of minority kids, they'd have been solved a long time ago. These problems can only be solved within our own families and our own communities. The white community will never be as motivated to help our kids as they are to help their own. It's human nature to look out for your own family first.

Show Me  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 10:38 AM

Uncommon Sense is right. I have middle school students. I see this problem up close. School work is not a priority for many kids. It is not that they cannot do the work; they choose not to do the work. They care more about socializing, games, etc. Amid all of the powerpoint presentations and strategic plans about closing the gap, has anyone ever asked the families of low achieving students what they want out of their public school experience?

Jim Bowman from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 10:12 AM

R from OP: Might as well blame it on God while you're at it.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 10:12 AM

This problem doesn't require going to Harvard or ipads. It requires clear focus on the basics - some flash cards with high expectations. Bush was right, it is the bigotry of low expectations. If these kids can learn to rap, play ball, xbox, etc they can learn to do basic math and read. I'm sick of the excuses. School leadership needs to put their foot down and demand more from the parents and the students. Stop coddling folks.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 9:59 AM

R, you need to be more specific. Liberal/"progressive" Democrat party America has created this problem. It is solvable, or at least, conservatives like me believe it is solvable. The main obstacle is, again, Liberal/"progressive" Democrat party America.They don't want it solved because it creates multi-generational dependency on their beloved state.

R from OP  

Posted: October 9th, 2013 8:46 AM

racist America has created a problem which it cannot solve

Show Me  

Posted: October 8th, 2013 8:24 PM

Time to go on the offensive and crank up the marketing machine after the dreadful ISAT results.

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