OPRF prepares for freshman detracking

Throughout the past few years, OPRF has made steps to rework its freshman curriculum. Both students and parents have been confused about what this means and when it will happen.

OPRF is planning on starting the new system fall of 2022. This change will only affect freshmen; honors and AP classes will still be available for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Detracking, or restructuring, is meant to give incoming freshmen equal opportunities and to help eliminate the achievement gap. Tracking started in the early 20th century when there was an influx of immigrant students. “Critics (have) argued that tracking, especially in practice, created greater learning opportunities for high-performing students at the expense of their lower-performing peers,” Maureen Hallinan wrote for Education Next, a Massachusetts-based publication focused on education reform. Change to this system includes removing the honors and college preparatory classes, replacing them with one high-level, rigorous curriculum.

What happens if the curriculum is too easy or too difficult for a student? “Students will be given opportunities to do higher-level work and there will be more of a focus on differentiation,” says Justin Cousin, an English teacher who previously worked on the freshman English curriculum but is no longer involved due to a title change. The new curriculum will also be applied to world languages, history, and science; teachers in these departments have been collaborating to put the finishing touches on the curriculum.

While detracking seems technical, Laurie Fiorenza, director of student learning, sees it in a different light. She expressed how detracking is meant to give freshmen a chance to get to know themselves. Having one curriculum, in Fiorenza’s view, gives students the chance to explore their interests and figure out what they want to do with their high school career. “Giving students a jumping-off point allows them to find themselves rather than being told who they are by parents and teachers.”

Detracking was delayed because “COVID-19 and the construction have delayed progress. The curriculum also has to be 100% done for the school to begin implementation,” Cousin says. While the new curriculum is being curated this year, classes will stay the same for freshmen. With the new curriculum, honors credits will be able to be earned by freshmen “the same way any other honors class awards credits,” Superintendent Greg Johnson says.