Jeremy Donaldson, a 2010 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, can still recall leaving high school only to be told by college officials that he’d have to pay to take a remedial course in math that would not count toward college credit. Donaldson spent a year at Triton College, where he didn’t take a math course, before enrolling at Bethune Cookman College in Florida, where he was told he’d have to play catchup. 

“That prolonged the time it took to get my degree and it cost me money, too,” Donaldson said recently. 

Due to changes coming to OPRF next school year, however, fewer students who leave the high school will go through the headaches Donaldson experienced. 

Julie Frey, OPRF’s mathematics division head, said that starting next academic year, juniors who don’t demonstrate college-readiness on their SAT tests will have an opportunity while still in high school to build up proficiency. 

That means we could see the end of students going off to community college and having to pay money for remedial courses that don’t garner them any college credits. 

“Right now, students are being asked to pay for a math class that they get no college credit for, so the state law is designed to allow them to take that remedial math here before they walk into college,” said Frey. 

The state law Frey references is the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act, which was passed by state legislators in 2016. The legislation is designed to address a pressing reality. Roughly half of Illinois high school graduates require remedial education in community college. The ratio is the same among graduates of OPRF entering community college.  

The three new math classes at OPRF include transition to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), transition to quantitative literacy and transition to technical math. The quantitative literacy course will be for students taking statistics while the technical math pathway will be for students who plan on entering technical fields like welding and mechanics, Frey said, adding that the two courses will be implemented in the 2019-20 school year. The transition to STEM course, she said, will be implemented in the 2020-21 school year. 

Frey said that the courses will be open to seniors who have taken the equivalent of three years of math. She said that district officials are still figuring out how students will be selected for the new courses, but that SAT scores will definitely factor into the selection process. 

Frey added that the state is also expecting school districts to create math curricula that are applicable to the real world. 

“For instance, in quantitative literacy and statistics, students will go on the web, find real data and use that real data to come up with their analysis, as opposed to what happens now, which is that students tend to learn in a vacuum,” she said. 

“I could have definitely benefited from that change,” Donaldson said of the coming curriculum modifications, adding that he hopes the new courses lead to a more engaging math education for students. 

“Obviously, I was in math courses that I didn’t need to be in at OPRF, even though I made it through them and passed,” he said. “It’s good that students after me at least won’t have to pay extra for what they didn’t get in high school.”

SAY Connects is sponsored by the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation in partnership with Success for All Youth (SAY). 

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