Recent reports from the Illinois State Board of Education stated that 91.6 percent of Illinois high schools failed to meet federal and state standards in reading and mathematics. Of course, this was not news to Oak Park and River Forest High School board members, administrators or faculty. We, like most other educators in this state, have been aware for several years that this federal law (called “No Child Left Behind”) was structured in such a way as to make it almost inevitable that all high schools were doomed to failure to meet the escalating standards by 2014, with the exception of a very small group of public schools that serve almost exclusively the healthy and the wealthy. In spite of the failures of this law, it still serves a very useful purpose in giving some insight into how well various schools were meeting the educational needs of various segments of the students that they served.
One of my greatest concerns about this is for us at OPRF: We have complained about the inadequacy of the law and its unreasonable standards, and yet we have failed to set achievement standards for ourselves that make sense to us. We haven’t even agreed that we should try to do this! We do not meet state and federal standards for reading and math, but we have not set reading and math standards for ourselves that can serve as means by which we can hold ourselves accountable for at least trying to make measurable progress toward any specific goals.
Standards of achievement don’t have to be perfect in order to be useful. They don’t even have to be based on totally accurate measurements in order to be useful. But they do have to exist in a clearly stated form, and they do have to be objectively measurable.
We have waited too long to set useful standards of achievement for ourselves. Our parents and taxpayers should demand no less.
Ralph Lee is an Oak Park resident and a D200 board member.