The Teachers Support & Best Practices Initiative (TSBPI) presented by Cathaleen Roach at the Feb. 22 OPRF High School board meeting represents an important and needed development that many in the community have called for repeatedly for many years. Though we at the Committee for Equity and Excellence in Education (CEEE) agree with many of TSBPI's positions, a number of its suggestions cause concern.
TSBPI explicitly targets the long-criticized inequities in curriculum tracking at OPRF while demonstrating that such inequities persistently prevent large numbers of students from gaining an education comparable to that available to students in the AP and Honors tracks. CEEE believes it is also important to call attention to a central historical dimension of curriculum organization at OPRF that should inform all considerations of the TSBPI.
For over a generation, parents and citizens have criticized curriculum tracking, both for its manifest contribution to internal racial segregation as well as its ineffectual efforts at closing the achievement gap. Indeed, the 2008 School Improvement Plan explicitly acknowledged curriculum tracking as a significant component of the gap. Not surprisingly, this year's board policy guidelines wrap instructional program developments around goals for racial equity.
TSBPI and our committee (CEEE) agree on many points. We agree with the uncontroversial propositions that all students be provided with opportunities for high academic status, best-practice teaching and learning to enable continued education beyond high school. Most importantly, we agree that curriculum equity involves much more than simply addressing some vague notion about providing more attention to the "middle student."
CEEE diverges from the TSBPI proposal in several critical ways, most importantly on the need to address racial equity in all school programs — a priority repeatedly set by our school board. TSBPI implies throughout that equity occurs when students do the same thing, in similar ways, for the same amount of time within and between curriculum tracks. We strongly disagree. We also disagree with TSBPI's assumption that continuing the multiple-track curriculum structure is a best practice. Indeed, in speaking about best practices, TSBPI fails to acknowledge or consider significant innovations related to inclusion education and school discipline that support racial equity.
In fact, many professional organizations, bolstered by substantive research, call for major changes in OPRF's traditional curriculum organization. Examining "culturally responsive teaching" practices pioneered by education researchers Ladson-Billings, Irvine and Ochoa and the "authentic curriculum" models championed by Fred Newman and others can add much to our understandings of best practices that support racial equity in school.
In advocating for these ideas, be assured that CEEE, like TSBPI, seeks to preserve the rich quality, high standards and academic challenge of existing courses. Nonetheless, we insist that the time to rethink, reform and find academically, socially and racially equitable alternatives to the current tracking system is long overdue. Ignoring these considerations, as the TSBPI seems to do, severely limits its efforts at the inception.
Finally, despite some key disagreements, we are grateful to TSBPI for advancing the discussion on how to make OPRF a better school. Let us now expand this conversation throughout the community in preparation for the upcoming OPRF Strategic Plan process.
Answer Book 2019
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.
Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.
|Submit Letter To The Editor|
|Place a Classified Ad|