A few more sophomores at Oak Park and River Forest High School will be taking an Advanced Placement or Honors course next year compared to previous years. This year’s freshmen were the first class to participate in the new Honors for All curriculum in which 89 percent of all OPRF freshmen took Honors classes. Most of those students will continue to take at least one Honors or AP class next year.

As class registrations for next year are locked in, 66 percent of next year’s sophomores will be taking an honors or AP class compared to 59 percent this year and 56 percent the year before. One of the main goals of the Honors for All freshmen program is to get more Black and Hispanic students enrolled in Honors and AP classes.

In a memo to the school board Dr. Laurie Fiorenza, assistant superintendent for student learning, noted “a slight increase in freshmen to sophomore honors enrollment compared to the past four years.”

“When this data is disaggregated by race, we see that the data indicates a slight increase compared to the last four years across all races,” Fiorenza noted.

But as these freshmen become sophomores wide disparities in enrollment in Honors or AP classes will still exist next year. 41 percent of Black OPRF sophomores next year will be taking an Advanced Placement or Honors class compared to 60 percent of Hispanic sophomores, 77 percent of white sophomores and 85 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander sophomores. 

But the number of Black sophomores taking at least one AP or Honors class has been steadily increasing. The 41 percent of Black sophomores taking at least one Honors or AP class next year is an increase from the 36 percent of Black sophomores taking an Honors or AP class this year. In the 2020-21 school year only 26 percent of Black sophomores took an Honors or AP class. Only 22 percent of Black sophomores took an Honors or AP class in the 2019-20 school year.

The number of sophomores taking higher level classes has increased across the board. In the 2019-20 school year 54 percent of all OPRF sophomores took an Honors or AP class compared to the 66 percent of current freshman who have signed up for an Honors or AP class next year.

The grade distribution among freshmen in the third quarter remained in line with previous quarters. Overall there were slightly fewer A’s, B’s, D’s and F’s but more C’s. The number of A’s received by Black students dropped significantly compared to last year when fewer Black students were enrolled in Honors classes. In last year’s third quarter 25.7 percent of the grades earned by Black freshmen were A’s compared to 18.7 percent this year. The number of B’s earned by Black freshmen inched up from 28.4 percent last year to 29.8 percent this year. The number of C’s earned by Black freshmen jumped significantly from 22.6 percent of Black freshmen grades last year to 31.3 percent this year. D’s received by Black freshmen slightly increased to 11.3 percent this year compared to 9.1 percent last year while F’s fell significantly for Black freshmen dropping to 9.3 percent this year to 13.8 percent last year.

The number of A’s earned by Black freshmen at OPRF has been decreasing as the current school year has progressed. In the first quarter of this year 25.4 percent of the grades received by Black freshmen were A’s. That percentage dropped to 20.9 percent in the second quarter and 18.7 percent in the third quarter. The percentage of A’s earned by white freshmen at OPRF has remained pretty constant this year with A’s accounting for 49.5 percent of grades earned by white freshmen in the first quarter and 49.6 percent in the third quarter.

Last year A’s accounted for 46.2 percent of all grades earned by white freshmen. Overall A’s accounted for 41.3 percent of all grades received by freshmen at OPRF in the third quarter compared to 42.7 percent last year.

“By and large, our students are passing classes with grades of C or better across all races,” Fiorenza wrote in her memo echoing language used in her report on first and second quarter grades. “Currently, the grade data does not indicate a significant cause for concern.” 

In a statement to Wednesday Journal, Fiorenza wrote, “We recognize that grades can fluctuate during a single school year and are particularly interested in ensuring more Black students and other students of color have access and are successful in our rigorous honors coursework. Our teachers are committed to monitoring student progress and adjusting their approaches throughout the year. Their efforts have produced some nice results this year and will continue into next year.”

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