Very happy to announce that OPRF has just been named an Exemplary School — it’s lovely to feel like all the work we do to improve our high school is really moving the needle and having a positive effect.
State Names Oak Park and River Forest High School an Exemplary School
Recognition signifies performance among top 10% of Illinois high schools
Oak Park and River Forest High School is proud to announce that for the first time, the state has designated it an exemplary school, signifying that it ranks in the top 10% of all high schools in Illinois. The designation is part of the just-released 2022 Illinois Report Card, which the Illinois State Board of Education issues annually to provide a detailed look at each school’s progress on academics, student success, school culture and climate, and financial investments.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be named an exemplary school,” Supt. Greg Johnson said. “It’s particularly gratifying given that last school year we were only beginning to emerge from the pandemic and trying to establish a sense of normalcy. It’s a huge testament to the resilience and commitment of our staff, students, and families. This is a recognition for our entire community.”
Since 2018, the report card has included one of four summative designations for each school, exemplary, commendable, targeted support, or comprehensive support. The designations are based on overall performance on eight academic indicators: graduation rate, chronic absenteeism, 9th graders on track to graduate, math proficiency on the SAT, English language arts proficiency on the SAT, climate, participation rate on the Illinois Science Assessment, and English learner progress to proficiency.
Prior years’ data for exemplary high schools show that OPRFHS already was in the top 10 percent of schools in terms of SAT performance. “For the 2022 Report Card, we were ecstatic to see that our chronic absenteeism rates improved and that our 9th graders on track data was back to pre-pandemic levels,” Johnson said.
Improvement did not happen by accident. After analyzing its data last December and recognizing the need to improve student attendance, the school took deliberate action to drive down absenteeism, rolling out an Attendance Matters campaign, conducting hall sweeps to ensure students were in class on time, and implementing a new rule that five tardies to a single class convert to an unexcused absence.
The change in chronic absenteeism was dramatic, falling from a five-year high of 20.5% on the 2021 report card to a low of 13.6% on this year’s report card. “Change is always challenging, and we saw some opposition to the new procedures at first,” Principal Lynda Parker said. “But by being consistent and staying the course, we saw significant improvement.”
While the news that OPRFHS stands out in comparison to peer districts is gratifying, school officials are clear that they are holding themselves to an even higher standard. “We still have work to do to address areas where inequities continue to exist, and we always want to ensure we are helping all of our students realize the highest levels of achievement possible,” Johnson said. “We are not done dealing with the effects of the pandemic, and it shows in our data. Some indicators have returned to or exceeded pre-pandemic levels, but as is the case throughout the state, others lag.”
Recent or upcoming initiatives include switching to an honors curriculum for nearly all freshman core classes, revamping the math curriculum to address learning gaps, increasing AP class offerings, improving student engagement with a classroom ban on cell phones, and focusing on restorative education practices as part of behavior management.
“I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished,” Johnson said. “And we’ll continue pushing toward our overall goal of achieving equitable excellence for all students.”