OPRF board clashes over test score gap
Updated: November 10, 2011 11:21AM
OPRF High School board members had a heated exchange Thursday night over the continued gap between white and black students’ test scores.
Oak Park-River Forest High School did not meet federal AYP, Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind.
The overall composite AYP score was 72.8 percent who met or exceeded standards in reading and 68.8 percent for math. With the AYP minimum standard rising to 95 percent in 2012 and 100 percent in 2013, it’s unlikely any subgroup, including whites, will meet AYP in future testing.
However, School District 200 board members expressed concern over the gaps between white and black students.
Of the white students who took the Prairie State Achievement Examination, 87.4 percent met or exceeded standards in both reading and mathematics. The next highest percentage was Hispanic students, at 70 percent and 61 percent respectively. Blacks met or exceeded standards only 39.7 percent in reading and 40.7 percent in math.
Sharon Patchek-Layman said she “was astonished” that after eight years of AYP, there had been little or no change in the disparity between black and white test scores at OPRF.
“We started at 40 percent eight years ago,” she said.
Amy Hill, director of assessment and research who presented the report, termed the test results both familiar and “unsettling.”
“Patterns in the data remain similar (with past years),” said Hill. “The largest difference in groups is between whites and black, ranging between 6.2 and 8.1 points.”
“Over the years, the composite scores have increased slightly,” Hill said. “But the disparity remains. There is no incremental change in that gap, as we’d hoped to see.”
While adequate black test scores have risen from 6 percent to 14 percent over the past eight years, Hill said “we know we can’t be satisfied with that rate for African Americans.”
“The numbers are unacceptable,” said assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Phil Prale, who said that school officials have several strategies they think may address the disparity.
Patchek-Layman said the school board lacked a sense of urgency in resolving the achievement gap.
Board member Terry Finnegan took issue with Patchak-Layman’s assignment of blame, saying that the school only has a student for less than a third of five days of the week.
“I don’t think you’re being fair about all the factors outside of school,” said Finnegan. “I don’t want to lay it all on the school. The school doesn’t control the entire day.”
Board member John Phelan noted the problem of disparity “is a national problem” and objected to Patchek-Layman’s characterization of the attitude of the board and administration.
“It’s not for lack of trying,” he said.