Freshman detracking policy finalized


A screenshot from the Oct. 26 webinar

The D200 Board of Education unanimously approved the administration’s proposal to detrack all freshman English, history, and world language courses Oct. 28 after a long process that started in spring 2019. A single science curriculum was approved last year.

Next year, all freshmen will take an honors level course for these subjects. The goal is to allow students to grow their interests and discover their potential for learning before they are placed on a certain track. Laurie Fiorenza, assistant superintendent of student learning, said it is still being decided specifically how honors credits will be given, though all students that “demonstrate proficiency” will receive this credit.

“The Board of Education made the morally correct decision.”

Assistant Superintendent of Student Learning Laurie Fiorenza

Though details are still being worked out, the vote represents a move towards equitable learning and one that is a “systemic change,” said School Board President Sara Spivy.

“This will have more of an impact than probably almost anything else we’ve done,” Spivy said.

Detracking is meant to get more students involved in honors and AP classes by giving them an opportunity to figure out their interests and choose appropriate courses based on that.

History Division head Amy Hill also hopes to see students of color taking honors and AP classes “at a higher rate than they currently do.”

Oak Park and River Forest’s commitment to equity has been apparent to Fiorenza. She believes that “the Board of Education made the morally correct decision.” Fiorenza added the way the board votes was “the way that the majority of the community feels.”

Hill has been part of the process to detrack since the beginning. “It puts everyone on a level playing field,” she says.

With the current academic stressing grades and performance, Hill said she believes that “helping students shift their mindset” will realistically be a challenge, but one that will be worth it. She hopes the detracking process will allow students to value growth over grades.

“It’s going to enable me to more effectively know each of the students individually.”

History Division Head Amy Hill, on smaller class sizes

Spivy noted that this board decision seemed less controversial than past votes and community pushback, at least voiced through board emails, has been less noticeable.

“It was equally balanced, for and against it,” she said. She believes the hesitancy coming from parents is out of concern for their students’ learning experiences and the people who have voiced an opposing opinion about this decision “are afraid the school will not be able to deliver the individualized instruction the student deserves.”

However, Hill’s perspective is that the detracking program, specifically the reduction of class sizes to 24, will actually improve personalized support teachers for students. “It’s going to enable me to more effectively know each of the students individually,” she said.

Fiorenza noted the tutoring center will also continue to be a helpful resource for students.

With the new curriculum, teachers will be responsible for making sure students are appropriately challenged, or supported if they are struggling.

The board is open to feedback from parents and students involved in this curriculum. “I’m going to be very interested to hear feedback on how it’s going,” Spivy said. She said the board takes feedback “to heart,” and is interested in hearing community members’ opinions.