This is in response to the Wednesday Journal education article titled, “OPRF test scores still split on racial and income lines,” [News, Dec. 21, 2022 https://www.oakpark.com/2022/12/20/oprf-test-scores-still-split-on-racial-and-income-lines/]:

Our prior superintendent, Joylynn Pruitt-Adams, was hired in 2016. Our current superintendent, Greg Johnson, was named in 2021 after being with the district since 2017. Both are well-intended educators. The transition was described as follows in this very publication [Johnson’s strong OPRF hires, Dan Haley, News, June 16, 2021, https://www.oakpark.com/2021/06/15/johnsons-strong-oprf-hires/]: “What’s the most important thing a leader accomplishes? Setting up the leader who follows for success.” The column went on, “And now we are into the Johnson era and based on the hires and promotions he is making, the man is ready to execute on the vision that he and Pruitt-Adams have led us toward.”

Haley’s column was correct in hinting that our past two superintendents shared the same vision for OPRF. This vision, and broader ideology, has now produced a record that our community can evaluate. WJ recently wrote an updated article [Dec. 21] reporting on the 2017 through 2022 academic school record which included the following:

•      “Overall 57.6% of OPRF students met or exceeded expectations in ELA, and 51.4% did so in math. Test scores remain below where they were in the pre-pandemic year of 2019 when 65.6% of OPRF students met or exceeded expectations in ELA and 58.5% did so in math.”

•      “Last April, OPRF juniors took the SAT as part of state-mandated testing. In English Language Arts, as measured by the evidence-based reading and writing portion of the SAT, 74.6% of white OPRF students met or exceeded the state’s expectations compared to just 20.4% of Black students at OPRF.”

•      “The gaps were even wider in math. Asian students outperformed their classmates in math with 39% of Asian OPRF students exceeding expectations in math compared to 20% of mixed-race students, 19.3% of white students, 7.1% of Hispanic students and just 1.8% of Black OPRF students.”

•      “But the percentage of Black students in the lowest category of partially meeting expectations actually increased in 2022 to 65.2%, up from 60% in 2021. In 2021 3.2% of Black OPRF students exceeded expectations in math compared to just 1.6% this year.”

So, it takes intellectual honesty for leaders to recognize the current strategic direction is not working out as intended. It further takes humility and courage, minus any unhelpful virtue signaling, to pivot to help our students. Doubling down on failed policies is not rational and sounds remarkably familiar to the political hacks, on the left and right, who have poisoned today’s discourse. We should not put blinders on and “stay the course.” Rather, we need leaders who are willing to use data, the scientific method, iterative processes and actual relevant evidence to help our community and students move forward together.

Go Huskies.

Ross Lissuzzo is an Oak Park native and current River Forest resident.

Data source links for those interested to assist in evaluation: State Report CardRecent WJ ArticlePrior WJ ArticleOPRF Board Strategic Goals ,Recent Board Presentation on State of the District

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