District 200 officials said last month that they plan on conducting a comprehensive evaluation into the school’s extracurricular program this year and make substantial recommendations regarding the program to the school board sometime next year.
Assistant Superintendent Greg Johnson, Director of Student Activities Susan Johnson and Athletic Director John Stelzer made the announcement to board members during a joint presentation of the 2018-19 extracurricular participation report at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Aug. 13.
“We’re trying to take a look at some of our targeted needs and any challenges and barriers to participation,” Stelzer said. “Right now, there’s not a lot of meat on the bones as to what this will look like, but the hope is this time next year, we’ll bring those recommendations forward and provide ideas on what that evaluation looks like.”
The percentage of students participating in extracurricular activities at OPRF has held steady, around 78 percent, since the 2016-17 school year. During the two years prior to that school year, the participation rate was around 72 percent. The national average for students participating in extracurricular activities is about 64 percent, Stelzer said.
At OPRF, student participation among racial groups is roughly aligned with their proportion of the overall student population. In 2017-18, whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics accounted for 54 percent, 21 percent and 12 percent of the entire study body, respectively. The percentage of students from those racial groups participating in extracurricular activities was 56 percent, 20 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
According to the participation report, those students who were involved in extracurricular activities in the 2018-19 school year averaged 21 fewer unexcused absences than those students who were not involved — 15 compared to 37.
The unweighted GPA of participating students in 2018-19 was 3.2 while that of non-participating students was 2.7. The weighted GPA of participating students in 2018-19 was 3.4 while that of non-participating students was 2.8.
Despite the progress of the last three years, Stelzer said administration officials are still considering ways of removing barriers to 100 percent participation at OPRF. He said that while administrators are conducting the evaluation into the extracurricular program, they’ll also work on more immediate tasks, such as looking at current recruitment efforts, particularly those aimed at incoming freshmen.
During the Aug. 13 meeting, D200 board President Jackie Moore said the data in the participation report could be broken down even further by race and gender in order for district officials to really know how participation is affecting students.
“I don’t know what’s driving the unweighted versus weighted GPA for kids participating versus those not participating,” she said. “Or if that’s speaking to extracurriculars having an impact on everyone or only on certain students. That’s certainly information we need, and I’d like to request we have it this semester if indeed there’s a plan to do this evaluation.”
Johnson said administrators will obtain that information and share it out with the board at an upcoming meeting.