Editor’s note: We ran the first half of this piece on Dec. 29. The second half was inadvertently cut off. Here is the entire One View:
Facts don’t care about our feelings. However, if OPRF High School ignores facts for much longer, more than feelings will be hurt; less student opportunity will be the result.
We all understand that one of the best things any community has going for it is a vibrant, dynamic, diverse and energy-filled high school that educates our young adults fully while creating community goodwill. We are fortunate to have such a high school. However, many believe OPRF is at an inflection point. I hope our local school leaders begin to look at issues less politically and more critically before much of that goodwill, and taxpayer generosity, is gone.
Our OPRF leadership, many of whom have long been involved with OPRF in varying roles or in board seats, recently “discussed” the State of the District at the Dec. 16 District 200 Board of Education meeting. For me, it was uninspiring and much of the same. While the meeting alluded to a lengthy document, the actual board discussion was void of meaningful challenge or deliberation to help our students. Administrators offered few answers but several admissions.
In fairness, OPRF is still a high-performing district. Yet trends do matter, and the trend is currently not our friend. The students in our community who need our support are not getting it. Families are beginning to look at non-public school options more and we somehow are being told that there is nothing to really see here; just move along.
I offer two graphs that suggest there is something to see here. A picture tells a thousand words.
The pandemic is clearly impacting our students. However, the trend data was not inspiring pre-pandemic. Our community already had a subset of OPRF students with math proficiency in the teens. Instead of adopting fancy, paid-for consultant-speak that too often ends in “pedagogy,” how about we teach more math? Let’s increase tutoring, early childhood supports, and in-school summer school options instead of closing the campus in the summer, twice.
While the COVID-19 impact is very real, we can’t have it become a convenient excuse for far too many ineffective pre-COVID decisions. It also should not be used as an excuse for the pre-COVID culture that has emerged over the last five years or so. For insight into OPRF’s culture that existed pre-COVID please see the Illinois Youth Survey and 5-essentials survey data.
While our leaders have been selling us the latest and greatest identity-based school solutions, our unique, talented, diverse, and brilliant students are being led in a way that is producing lower academic achievement; that will ultimately reduce opportunities. If I can be so bold as to offer a New Year’s resolution to our OPRF leaders: try listening to students, who recently questioned the wisdom of curriculum changes (https://trapezeonline.com/3302/opinion/editorial-detracking-been-there-done-that), and return to looking at academic data to inform your decisions. Now that would be a New Year’s resolution that would positively impact many lives and something that would build good will instead of eroding it.