According to this year's Illinois Report Card data, the Oak Park and River Forest High School graduating class of 2015 posted an average composite ACT score of 24, good enough to be among the state's elite public schools. But when OPRF's ACT scores — and the rates of college completion, which the scores are supposed to help predict — are broken down by race, observers might as well be looking at two different schools.
A recent Chicago Tribune analysis of the Report Card data shows that OPRF was among just 26 high schools in Illinois where at least half of its 2015 graduates scored high enough in all four testing categories — English, math, reading and science — to be considered college-ready.
According to ACT, the benchmark scores indicating a college readiness for English is an 18; for math and reading a 22 and for science a 23. The national average composite ACT score is a 21 — considered the benchmark composite score indicating college-readiness, which basically means, according to ACT, that a student is likely to earn at least a C in the slate of introductory courses that comprise a typical freshman college curriculum. At OPRF, the 50th percentile ACT scores for 2015 graduates in English, math, reading and science were 24, 23, 24 and 23, respectively.
However, according to a recent report analyzing post-secondary readiness at OPRF conducted by Amy Hill, the high school's director of assessment and research, the average composite ACT score for black students this year was 19 — markedly below the 27 for white students and slightly below the state average of 21.
The analysis, which was released in October, indicates that this racial ACT performance disparity translates into a gap in post-secondary completion rates.
"Eighty-six percent of White graduates earned composite scores of 21 or higher, and 70 [percent] earned a post-secondary credential within six years of high school graduation," the analysis notes. "In comparison, 31 [percent] of Black graduates earned composite scores at or above 21, and 38 [percent] attained a post-secondary credential within six years."
But the gap in ACT performance between white and black students is just a symptom of much deeper historic inequities, the school's data demonstrates. For instance, black students — who account for 24 percent of the school's population — are significantly underrepresented in Honors/AP math and science courses, where they make up 13 and 9 percent of the students in those courses, respectively.
There's also a vast gap between GPA levels, which the analysis notes is a much more reliable predictor of post-secondary readiness than ACT scores.
"Analysis of data for OPRFHS 2009 graduates shows a direct relationship between GPA and likelihood of earning a post-secondary degree; students who earned a weighted GPA above 3.0 had a 50 [percent] likelihood of earning a post-secondary degree, and that likelihood increased as weighted GPA increased," according to the report.
More than 80 percent of white students in the class of 2015 had GPAs above 3.0 while the same could be said for roughly 22 percent of black students. The GPA levels and ACT scores for both groups have increased since 2003, but those increases have been markedly divergent.
The report notes that "racial disparities have widened" between black and white students at OPRF since 2003, when the seminal "Learning Community" report was released. That report concluded that a significant "learning community performance gap" existed between white and black students at the high school.
"We need to understand how it is that we drove a 2.3 point increase in ACT composite for [whites since 2003] and a 0.7 increase for [blacks in the same time period], how we supported a 0.58 increase in weighted GPA for one group and a 0.3 increase for another, and why our impact is racially disparate," the October analysis notes.
"Racial disparity in student experiences and outcomes is an adaptive challenge, requiring us to think differently and to change values, beliefs, roles, relationships, and approaches to the problem," the report said.
Answer Book 2018
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2018 Answer Book, please click here.
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