Equity and Excellence
According to our mission statement, "Oak Park and River Forest High School provides a dynamic, supportive learning environment that cultivates knowledge, skills, and character and strives for equity and excellence for all students." A particular area of focus is on eliminating racially predictable differences in student outcomes, with white students as a group outperforming students of color.
This disparity is not unique to our community and in fact is seen in schools across the country. At OPRF, we believe one key to addressing the issue is reframing it as an opportunity gap, rather than what’s commonly called the achievement gap, which puts the onus on students. Instead, we believe it is our responsibility as an institution to identify and remove unconscious biases and system-wide barriers that inhibit success for all students. The following are some of our equity-related initiatives.
Strategic Plan: Equity Goal
One of the six major goals in the district's strategic plan, Equity says, "OPRF High School will continuously strive to create an environment where the academic achievement and social and emotional growth of students will no longer be predictable by race, socioeconomic status , or other social factors." Implementation plans for this goal focus on enabling students of color and/or low socioeconomic status to gain greater access to and success in college prep, honors, and AP courses, as well as setting targets for creating an environment in which all students feel welcome.
Tri-Board Committee on Equity
In spring 2017, the boards of Districts 90, 97, and 200 held a joint community forum to share the work each district is doing around equity. An outcome of the meeting was that the three boards voted in favor of creating this committee, with representatives from each board, to better coordinate efforts among the districts.
Racial Equity Learning Strand
Over the course of five years, all faculty and staff members participated in a professional development series called the Racial Equity Learning Strand, which concluded at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
Involving a personal examination of race, the strand helped participants engage in and deepen interracial dialogue about race; school policies, programs, and practices; and how these affect student learning.
Culture, Climate, and Behavior Committee (CCB)
The Board appointed this special committee in 2016. Its charge was to recommend ways to eliminate disproportionate discipline for students of color and create a welcoming environment for all students. CCB, which comprised Board members, administrators, staff, students, parents, and representatives from District 90 and 97, issued its recommendations in April 2017. Click here to see them.
Collaborative Action Research for Equity (CARE)
Roughly 45 administrators, teachers, counselors, and social workers have been trained to become CARE leaders during the 2017-2018 school year. CARE supports teachers in studying their professional practices and improving them in ways that remove racial bias. The cornerstones of CARE are participating in authentic racial self-reflection, developing critical racial consciousness, engaging in healthy racial discourse, and conducting racial investigation of educator practice.
District Equity Leadership Team (DELT)
Established in 2012 and composed of administrators and faculty members, DELT’s role is to guide the work of exploring the impact of institutionalized racism on student learning, create a vision for eliminating racial achievement disparities, and work to dismantle the barriers to academic success for all students.
Equal Opportunity Schools Partnership
During 2016-2017, OPRF collaborated with Equal Opportunity Schools, a national organization focused on increasing access to Advanced Placement (AP) classes for underrepresented students. The high school's AP participation data showed that when compared to the demographics of the school, students of color and/or low income were underrepresented by more than 300 students. More than 200 with the potential to succeed enrolled in AP courses for the first time for the 2017-2018 school year, with a variety of supports made available.