The Committee for Equity and Excellence in Education (CEEE) extends its gratitude to the many D200 board members, administrators, students, parents, teachers, and community members who have worked long and hard to arrive at the proposed Freshman Curriculum Restructuring the administration presented to the board and community on Oct. 14. 

We praise the vital role of student voice in this process and the ongoing efforts to transform OPRF High School into a more inclusive and welcoming school culture.  Student input remains central to the success of curriculum restructuring for equity.

Our dedicated teachers have conducted comprehensive equity inquiries and designed new curriculum in a process launched in 2017, honing their courses, assessments, instruction, and classroom cultures with dynamic, equity-centered approaches that can help actualize the vision for racial equity D200 is pledged to.

Still, supporters of the tracking status quo persist. They reject national and international research, and D200’s own research that tracking consistently places social and academic limitation on our children, especially students of color. They refuse to believe all students can gain from curriculum restructuring focused on high level, scaffolded honors learning and continuous progress for all. 

We say to them, it is time move forward, to stop predicting failure, to stop stoking fear of change, and to accept and trust a rigorous quantitative and qualitative program evaluation that will ensure transparency and appropriate revision. We reject their “zero sum” thinking that believes if the many students whom D200’s own research concludes are underserved by freshman tracking gain with an all honors curriculum, their students will lose.

For certain, the United States and D200 are both at disturbing racial tipping points where we can remain in failed institutional arrangements of an inequitable racial order, or we can move forward supporting racial-justice-focused change in our society in general and our schools in particular. 

Finally, we remind all of our community that the Racial Equity Policy and Procedures adopted by D200 in 2019 prescribe deliberate equity-impact evaluations of curriculum and programs. In following those procedures and proposing curriculum restructuring, our school and community have begun to act on the challenge Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. anguished over in the last writing before his death. 

He counsels us today in his “Testament of Hope,” saying: “Integration is meaningless without the sharing of power. When I speak of integration, I don’t mean a romantic mixing of colors; I mean a real sharing of power and responsibility.” 

Freshman restructuring moves our school closer to Dr. King’s vision of integration. It represents one of the most important commitments to racial integration and equity since 1964 when scores of residents of Oak Park and River Forest signed a public pledge to defend the right of all people, regardless of race, to live where they choose. The all-honors freshman curriculum we urge D200 to approve on Oct. 28 makes the same commitment to racial justice for student-learning opportunity. Then let us turn our energy to supporting our teachers and students in this historic educational endeavor.

The Committee for Equity and Excellence in Education (CEEE) is chaired by John Duffy of Oak Park.

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