District 200 officials recently issued a clarification regarding the rollout of a major change to the freshman curriculum at Oak Park and River Forest High School, where starting in the 2021-22 school year, freshmen will no longer be separated into college preparatory and honors course levels. All entering freshmen will instead “be given the chance to earn honors credit through one, high-level curriculum” in English, science, history and world language, D200 officials announced in August.
At the time, D200 Supt. Joylyn Pruitt-Adams said that her administration could implement the de-tracking initiative without a board vote. But recently the district announced that board votes related to the change will, indeed, take place.
In an email sent out to community members on Oct. 17, D200 Communications Director Karin Sullivan explained that in a district communication entitled “Freshman Curriculum Undergoes Restructuring for 2021,” D200 officials “were not clear that Board approval is required for these curriculum changes to be implemented.
“There will be two points at which the Board’s approval will be requested: (1) in spring 2020, when administration plans to bring forward pilot units for the 2020-21 school year, and (2) in fall 2020, when administration plans to bring forward the restructured freshman curriculum for the 2021-22 school year. We apologize for any confusion.”
In a phone interview on Oct. 21, Sullivan said she issued the clarification at the request of a community member who expressed some confusion about the process of implementing the curriculum changes.
Sullivan said that the board “did not need to vote on the administration’s initiation of the restructuring, which is within the superintendent’s purview. The curriculum changes themselves will be part of the 2021-22 academic catalog, and board approval of changes to the catalog — i.e., the curriculum — is required every fall, before students start signing up for those classes.”
She said that, in order to be fully transparent, the administration is asking for the board to approve the curricular units that will be taught on a pilot basis next school year. Sullivan added that the upcoming board vote will not alter the administration’s timeline for, or its process of, implementing the changes.
Sullivan explained that, despite the new development, Supt. Pruitt-Adams’ assertion back in August that her administration has the authority to initiate the de-tracking effort on its own, without a board vote, still stands.
“This actually falls in the realm of my authority and part of the work I am charged with is to increase access and opportunity for all students, and to make sure they get a rigorous curriculum,” she said during an interview on Aug. 23.
The curriculum changes were also presented to board members before the district issued a formal announcement in August.
“The board is aware [of the curriculum changes],” Pruitt-Adams said on Aug. 23. “We had meetings with them prior to this and they’re all supportive of the work and are ready to see this through. There’s been no pushback.”
The freshman de-tracking initiative is designed to expand access to honors and AP courses for black and brown students at OPRF, who have historically been disproportionately denied access to those advanced courses, D200 officials have said.
Sullivan said that the school board is scheduled to discuss the freshman curriculum change at its regular meeting on Thursday, Oct. 24.
Correction: A previous version of this article did not accurately reflect the comments of Karin Sullivan. This story has since been updated. Wednesday Journal regrets the error.