Will freshmen be shortchanged?

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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As part of communicating OPRF High School's plan to eliminate the freshman honors track for English, science, history, and world language courses, Associate Superintendent Greg Johnson emailed OPRF families saying, "The research is clear that increasing access to more rigorous curriculum increases achievement." 

This echoes FAQ's OPRF High School's website, which says, "Won't this hurt students who would normally be placed in honors classes? Absolutely not." The website also includes a list of several research studies to support its findings. However, my independent review of the research paints a different picture. There are multiple studies finding that honors tracks are beneficial to the students in those tracks. This research points to the difficulty teachers have when classes have students with a wide variety of levels of ability and motivation. 

The common-sense conclusion could be correct, that eliminating honors courses may hurt students who would have been in those courses. Unfortunately, OPRF High School has only showcased the findings of a cherry-picked set of studies to support its plan, promoting the change as a clear benefit for all, rather than transparently explaining the pros and cons of the change. The school's spin on the research is so deceitful it can be described as Trump-ian. 

Eric Friedman

Oak Park

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Kevin Peppard  

Posted: September 21st, 2019 8:01 PM

@Eric Friedman: I heard you speak Weds. at OPRF, about "cherry picking of data, the concept of ""positive predictive values" and "correlation coefficients of 0.0".Those were the first shots fired at Lexington. Any interest in forming an opposition with a more productive approach than OPRF has now?. Write to me at my Facebook account,, or look me in up in the online "White Pages".To others: Do the same. Carpe diem. '

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: September 21st, 2019 6:36 PM

Thanks for this piece Mr. Friedman. This new policy does nothing more than neatly fit into the agenda of leadership at OPRF. You see, since they can't lift up the black students, the next best thing is to dumb down the white ones. All in order to have "equal outcomes". The end justifies the means. They will spin this as "social justice" or more "diversity" in the classroom, etc. Welcome to 1984 where 2 + 2 = 5.

Robert Zeh  

Posted: September 21st, 2019 4:18 PM

I read through some of the papers that OPRF linked to in support of detracking. They should not be used to determine public policy because they are flawed. The flaws range from cherry picked statistics (the Evanston paper looks at ACTs above 24 rather than the entire distribution) to papers that measured what happened at schools that implemented detracking and a host of other changes, making attribution difficult or impossible. One of the papers isn't even about the advisability of detracking, but about how to politically implement detracking.

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