OPRF waits a year

Opinion: Editorials

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There is a window for bold change. Rarely does it open. And certainly that window will close if there is not discernible action, or just as certainly, if the bold action flops. 

Right now at Oak Park and River Forest High School there is a remarkable aligning of forces for substantive action to take on inequity baked into the school's history and current practices. A superintendent with vision has assembled her team. The school board is unanimous that change is essential. The faculty has coalesced remarkably around a seismic change in curriculum for freshmen aimed at advanced academic experiences for more students of color. With opposition in the villages low, but with a clear pulse, the school has seemingly been on an accelerated course to overhaul the full curriculum for incoming freshmen in the fall of 2021.

And now it isn't.

Rollout has been delayed a year until the 2022 school year. The administration and the faculty, in an encouraging joint statement, said that making such substantive changes and doing it right simply required more planning. We get it. This rollout has always been ambitious and complex. 

It has also always been aiming toward that open window. 

As frustrated school board members expressed last week when the news went public, this bold action was intended to be this board's bold action. A fully unified board's action. Sure there is some pride in accomplishment at stake here. Mainly, though, we heard worries from sitting board members, some likely retiring board members, that a contested election for the school board could shift the dynamics of support. That's real. This is a school district that balled up construction of a swimming pool and made it the main topic of OPRF conversation for the better part of a decade.

That said, the greater worry is that the foundational step of sincere equity action could fail without adequate planning or with poor execution. This plan touches most members of faculty, and dozens of courses in English, history, science, language need to be remade. We would also argue the district needs to do a better job of telling its story to the wide community.

The decision is made. Delay a year. But to keep that window of change open, OPRF needs to hold this coalition together, keep the urgency of change vivid, and really knock this new curriculum out of the park.

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Reader Comments

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Tom MacMillan from OAK PARK  

Posted: March 11th, 2020 2:34 PM

Never watch Fox News Jason, I will leave that to you to enjoy. Congrats to your son. Honors credits accumulated from OPRF can be worth a full year of college credit, so 3 years to pay for instead of 4 . The issue on this new program is that if Honors gets watered down, or eliminated, that could eliminate or reduce those credits and cost students $30k or more in extra college tuition they could have avoided by being in the Honors program, as it has been up until now. Nothing comical about that or your previous posts. D200 is putting that at risk for a lot of people at OPRF. They have no idea what they are doing, hence the delay, while they make things up as they go along. This is a hot mess.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: March 11th, 2020 7:24 AM

@Tom, how very Fox News of you to make some point on a snippet of what I said. My point is very clear below and nowhere did I say the honors parents have no right to be concerned. My whole post is about the fact that this program might very well benefit all other kids which is why it would only be honors parents concerned. Nice of you to turn that into some made up issue about discounting honor student patents. The most comical part is that I am the parent of an honor student at OPRF.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: March 10th, 2020 3:44 PM

@ Tom their is a deep truth in part of your comment. The reason I even agreed to move back and pay high taxes was for the quality of the schools. once that stops being a compelling reason, what is left? All parents should be concerned about making sure all these kids get good education. In case people have not notices, China/India etc are eating our lunch, the wealth divide is exploding - go to nay IVy LEague school and over half the kids are from other countires. We need these kids to get best possible education. On micro level, of course I am concerned for my kids as well each of should be ...

Tom MacMillan from OAK PARK  

Posted: March 10th, 2020 3:02 PM

Jason sums it up so clearly, "the only real vocal group are those worried about their kids..." where it is somehow OK to discount that worry because it only impacts the Honors Kids. They don't matter. Using that logic, those kids and their parents don't deserve any concern or respect. Just grab their tax dollars, throw their kids some below average classes and call it a day. Great idea Jason, that describes the program perfectly. Real incentive for people to buy into Oak Park for their families.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: March 10th, 2020 2:15 PM

Christopher Bell I do not think it is the school system causing the decline in home values. The school system has been declining for years ever since the first sales person walked in with a kit on how to make your school better and discussed it over a free dinner. The predicament may be the exceedingly abundance of dwellings attainable within the boundaries of Oak Park, is conferring discretion of the predilection of habitation for a segment of the population

Christopher Bell  

Posted: March 10th, 2020 1:25 PM

@ Gregg - you comment regarding the RE collapse is correct. The WSJ recently said OP values have fallen since 2008 and houses that sold quickly now sit for 1-2 years. Direct experience with listing we purchased in 2005 is even $150k discount wont move it - spoke with trademen recently who said worked on 12-13 homes in Oak Park and non are selling. The reality is the taxes are making OP unaffordable and for every dollar of taxes, subtract the value of equity (discounted over time of course). I have said this many times but OP has los the mojo from my parents generation of owners. OPRF/ District 97 decline is the canary in the coal mine. Change is required

Mikhail Ivanov  

Posted: March 10th, 2020 12:44 PM

It's so concerning that a plan is being executed that has no realistic chance of decreasing the opportunity gap. If there are no models for success nationally, why are we pretending that this is a mandate? Unbelievable.

Jim Frenkel  

Posted: March 10th, 2020 9:50 AM

Eric, the link you shared didn't work. But if what you say is true about Evanston's results, that is very troubling.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: March 10th, 2020 9:22 AM

If equity is the issue, why doesn't the administration terminate high performing and well qualified teachers in favor of lower performing teachers with less of a backround . Same goes for Administrators, get the qualified well backrounded Administrators out in favor of lower performing Administrators with less of a backround.

Gregg Kuenster  

Posted: March 9th, 2020 11:49 PM

The OPRF Superintendant wants the teachers to give the low scoring AA students high grades. This is EQUITY. As the Wayans Brothers so aptly state in the TV show Living Color " Homie don't' play that." This is high school not politics. If the better students cannot get into better universities, families will not move the children into OPRF. This is part of the reason for the ongoing OPRF real estate collapse.

Eric Friedman  

Posted: March 9th, 2020 9:37 PM

@Jason, unfortunately, what you described is not the experience in Evanston. Their combined classes now have a lot of D's and F's. Apparently it is very difficult for teachers to engage all students in these classes, and some are simply falling behind and failing. So this change might be bad for students of many different levels. For data on these trends in Evanston, check out https://www.thee3group.org/aag2.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: March 9th, 2020 12:08 PM

There are certainly concerned parents but this article might be correct when you think about the impacts. This really only has the potential to be negative for kids that were going to be in an honors program. If your kid isn't likely to be in honors then this is a benefit to you. It gives you a better chance to move into honors so the only real vocal group are those worried about their kids that are very likely to be in an honors class. I think it was smart to delay as this is only going to work if it's well planned out and the faculty is well prepared for the change.

Tom MacMillan from OAK PARK  

Posted: March 9th, 2020 6:55 AM

If WJ is going to pretend to be independent, it is time to stop taking sides against parents who obviously want to delay what they see as damage. The school board is doing things the community does not want.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 3rd, 2020 11:18 PM

Yes Eric you are. Because if you - like me - had been reading over the years the WJ and their ludicrous, clueless and inane editorials, you would know that this delusional little number is par for the course.

Eric Friedman from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2020 9:37 PM

Am I the only person surprised by this editorial's reference to "With opposition in the villages low?"? It seems like the Wednesday Journal wasn't paying attention at the community meetings, where there was a lot of opposition. The editorial also states "The faculty has coalesced remarkably around a seismic change in curriculum?" This is different from the rumor I heard, which is that a lot of faculty members aren't on board.

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