I read the recent Wednesday Journal article about OPRF High School’s Freshman Curriculum Restructuring [Switch to ‘honors for all’ OPRF freshmen, coming up for vote, News, Oct. 13] with great interest. As a parent of OPRF graduates, grandmother of future students, and an educator, I believe our high school needs to fulfill community aspirations for equity and excellence for all students.

For many years, I have followed research that shows that tracking systems, at OPRF and nationwide, are linked to lower overall performance and achievement for students of color. This new plan looks to be a course correction in keeping with both the research and real-world experiences in racially diverse communities.

The assumption of freshman tracking was that that it “met students where they are at,” but both student outcomes and alternative approaches show this system has been a roadblock and not a path forward for our freshmen.

The proposed system provides honors-level classes for all freshmen. With small class sizes (max. 24), students will begin high school with a clean slate, high expectations, honors credit, based on students exceeding expectations on core competencies, and necessary supports as needed. This approach provides the opportunity for students to develop as high school learners in that first critical year. Then families and the teachers who have gotten to know them can make informed decisions going forward.

Don’t take my or anyone else’s word on this. As I did, you can review the district’s webpage at bit.ly/AccessOPRF to see the research and the years of work that have gone into the plan. Concerns that I have heard — including watered-down curriculum or, conversely, students being left behind — are addressed. There is also documentation of beneficial outcomes for all racial groups of students in pilot efforts at OPRF and in established programs in other communities.

I am encouraged that a key component of the school’s plan is ongoing evaluation as it is implemented — so that further changes can be made going forward. This approach to learning and growing is what we expect of our young people and is what we need to do as a community to provide the best possible educational opportunity for every one of them.

Caren Van Slyke, Oak Park

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