OPRF to take deep dive into extracurriculars

With participation holding steady at 78 percent, officials aim higher

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

District 200 officials said last month that they plan on conducting a comprehensive evaluation into the school's extracurricular program this year and make substantial recommendations regarding the program to the school board sometime next year. 

Assistant Superintendent Greg Johnson, Director of Student Activities Susan Johnson and Athletic Director John Stelzer made the announcement to board members during a joint presentation of the 2018-19 extracurricular participation report at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Aug. 13. 

"We're trying to take a look at some of our targeted needs and any challenges and barriers to participation," Stelzer said. "Right now, there's not a lot of meat on the bones as to what this will look like, but the hope is this time next year, we'll bring those recommendations forward and provide ideas on what that evaluation looks like." 

The percentage of students participating in extracurricular activities at OPRF has held steady, around 78 percent, since the 2016-17 school year. During the two years prior to that school year, the participation rate was around 72 percent. The national average for students participating in extracurricular activities is about 64 percent, Stelzer said. 

At OPRF, student participation among racial groups is roughly aligned with their proportion of the overall student population. In 2017-18, whites, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics accounted for 54 percent, 21 percent and 12 percent of the entire study body, respectively. The percentage of students from those racial groups participating in extracurricular activities was 56 percent, 20 percent and 11 percent, respectively. 

According to the participation report, those students who were involved in extracurricular activities in the 2018-19 school year averaged 21 fewer unexcused absences than those students who were not involved — 15 compared to 37. 

The unweighted GPA of participating students in 2018-19 was 3.2 while that of non-participating students was 2.7. The weighted GPA of participating students in 2018-19 was 3.4 while that of non-participating students was 2.8. 

Despite the progress of the last three years, Stelzer said administration officials are still considering ways of removing barriers to 100 percent participation at OPRF. He said that while administrators are conducting the evaluation into the extracurricular program, they'll also work on more immediate tasks, such as looking at current recruitment efforts, particularly those aimed at incoming freshmen. 

During the Aug. 13 meeting, D200 board President Jackie Moore said the data in the participation report could be broken down even further by race and gender in order for district officials to really know how participation is affecting students. 

"I don't know what's driving the unweighted versus weighted GPA for kids participating versus those not participating," she said. "Or if that's speaking to extracurriculars having an impact on everyone or only on certain students. That's certainly information we need, and I'd like to request we have it this semester if indeed there's a plan to do this evaluation." 

Johnson said administrators will obtain that information and share it out with the board at an upcoming meeting. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com

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Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: September 13th, 2019 9:59 AM

There are some class activities that might not be considered extra-curricular but often require after school time. For example, concerts, tours and fundraising events by the bands, orchestras and choirs. What I was concerned about watching "America to Me" was the difficulties encountered by the student was both in wrestling and band. He got a big hassle for wanting to attend the Bowl game with the Marching Band, something he had earned. When I was in school, back in the 1970's, I participated in football, choir and concert band. Is that possible today?

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: September 11th, 2019 3:08 PM

On the whole, I support this effort, in that it would move more students toward a feeling of belonging to the school, something lacked by too many . I proposed such an effort when I ran for the Board years. You could even make such participation mandatory, where there could be numerous "outs", such as going to a tutoring center, or performing some community service work (such as being a "Candy Striper" at a local hospital) every few weekends (we could supply the transportation). Hardship cases (e.g., a sick parent at home) could be adjusted for. Some districts have tried this, and it is legal. After all, the school stands "in loco parentis" (in the place of the parents", and has a strong degree of control during the school day. This has been tried and found legal in some districts. One member of the PTO Caucus. a nominating committee back then for Board membership, was a highly successful African American banker on LaSalle street. He called it "The Naval Academy" (he was an Annapolis graduate himself). There, everyone participates in something. If you're not on the football team, you can be the equipment manager, Or work on relationships of the Academy with the Annapolis community. Everyone does something, and you're a member of a team, the few Midshipmen who are privileged to enter. I realize that there are libertarian issues here , but the students are not yet adults, and may need direction not given in some homes. The Chicago Police will tell you that many gang members join up because it provides a sense of family that is lacking. With regard to improved grades and attendance, some of that may be spurious correlation, since those who participate in activities may be better students to begin with. So the program may be more useful in ameliorating some disaffection. But it's worth a try, and the District has the money to experiment, since it doesn't seem to want to return the huge surplus it has collected. Support Activities, not an over-sized Olympic Pool.

Mindy Credi  

Posted: September 11th, 2019 3:04 PM

Selzer is great, but he's just the AD. Shouldn't all extracurricular activities push to have representation? Math team? Debate? UN? Speech?

Jeanine Pedersen  

Posted: September 11th, 2019 2:25 PM

So should we assume from this article that biracial and Asian students don't participate in any sports?

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