The administration and the District 200 Board of Education last week moved closer to taking ownership of their progress, or lack thereof, in closing the achievement gap at Oak Park and River Forest High School.
Administrators and board members talked in the spring about coming up with a set of criteria to chart what progress the school is making on closing the gap. The effort was spearheaded by board member Ralph Lee.
At last Thursday’s instructional committee meeting of the board, the administration presented an extensive list of indices. The list includes standardized tests as one measure, in addition to discipline statistics and students’ involvement in co-curricular activities.
Broken into seven categories, 35 indices in all were presented, with some appearing in more than one category. Student data and other statistics are expected to be used to monitor progress, along with student surveys. Some of the indices are not just academic but deal with student behavior and attitudes.
The school will host community meetings in August and September, and present a final list to the board in September. Amy Hill, District 200 director of assessment and research, though, cautioned members that the recommended indices presented in the fall would involve continuous work.
The point behind this effort, Lee maintained, is for the high school to come up with a way to determine what progress, if any, it is making in closing the gap.
But Lee also urged the board and administration last week to develop a common understanding of what OPRF’s achievement gap is.
“I’m looking for not just the administration but the board as well to move to our coming to an agreement on what it is we’re talking about when we talk about the achievement gap,” he said. “I don’t think any two people on the board at this point even agree on what the achievement gap is or consists of.”
Lee said he’s looking to administration to provide leadership in helping the board on that front.
Supt. Attila Weninger responded, “I think it’s an interesting concept to have the school district define what it sees as the achievement gap as opposed to letting an external source say you have an achievement gap, and then have the district decide that these are the measurements we’re going to use to determine if we have one, and if so, how great or small it is.”
Whether Lee’s request was workable would require further discussion, Weninger added.
Board members and the administration generally agreed that state standardized tests were not the best or only measure for monitoring progress on the gap.
“I’m very concerned that so much of academic knowledge has sort of been based on test scores,” said board member Dietra Millard. “We have a lot of brilliant kids who don’t necessarily perform on tests.”
Members offered other observations about, and suggestions for, the list.
Millard wondered what happens to students once they’re no longer at the high school and how OPRF tracks their success.
“How successful are our kids after they leave here?” she asked. “We can close an achievement gap and find out there are a lot of differences in long-term success. It isn’t just what’s happening in here. So I would really like to see us try to find out what are our kids doing when they leave here.”