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AP First-Timers Thrive in OPRF Huskie Scholar Academy – Opportunity Gap Drops by 20%

Disparity in achievement among racial groups is a persistent problem that hadn’t escaped the will or the effort of the former OPRF Administration lead by Superintendent Steven Isoye. Isoye’s Administration focused on an opportunity gap they believed was movable. That opportunity was increasing student access to rigorous curriculum. The gap was between the number of students in Advanced Placement (AP) classes and the number not in AP that might respond well to the challenge.


One view of racial equity is when the distribution of students by race for the whole school is reflected approximately in specific curricula, like AP coursework. For example, in 2017 54% of OPRF students were white while 70% of AP students were white. Conversely, black students made up 23% of the student body yet AP enrollment by black students was 8%. The following chart describes racial inequity in 2017 following this description. Welcome, Equal Opportunity Schools.



Equal Opportunity Schools, a Seattle non-profit, was working on solutions for the same gap in access to rigorous curricula. Its mission: “to ensure students of all backgrounds have equal access to America’s most academically intense high school programs—and particularly that students of color and low-income students have opportunities to succeed at the highest levels. This will sound familiar if you’re following the objective of detracking at OPRF. EOS recently shared a view on thinking about equity. That is, participation in various curricula by different racial subgroups at a rate that approximates the racial composition of the student body. This was spot-on with the Isoye Administration goal.


In a recent conversation with Fred Arkin, D200 BOE member at the time, he described the EOS model at work in OPRF. The 2016/2017 school year was identification of 143 AP first-timers, family interviews and internal preparation. Others joined with the total number of AP first-timers at 200 students taking at least one AP class in English, Math, History, Science, Economics, Art or Government. “EOS provided a system to find the students that hadn’t attempted an AP class but showed potential, gain their trust and trust from their family, put supports in place like a summer school primer and a mixed study hall community where AP kids were helping those new to AP coursework. The kids needed to know the school was behind them, they needed clear instructions on what to do and how to do it, and the teachers held them accountable. The best part was celebrating them in their success”. The program came to be called Huskie Scholar Academy. “The success of this initiative at increasing access to higher level curriculum was outstanding” said Arkin.


The graph below shows first-semester grades earned by AP first-timers (Targeted) along with the grades of (non-targeted) AP students. Across all subjects, more than 63% of AP first-timers had earned a grade of A or B compared to 80% in the non-target group. Ten percent of AP first-timers earned a grade below C whereas that number for non-target students was 7%. These are results after the first semester, and nearly every targeted student continued into second semester.


Based on these first semester results, the OES - Huskie Scholar Academy had large and positive effect on increasing access to higher level curricula for students that might not otherwise tried an AP class. The program increased access through human capital and collaboration without a change to curriculum. All racial subgroups were represented in the Huskie Scholar Academy program and the table below shows trends for success after the first semester were indistinguishable by race.


Success after the first semester appears strong and nearly every targeted student continued with AP coursework during the second semester. Although limited, these results can be used to estimate the effect on closing the opportunity gap that is access to more rigorous curriculum. The chart below uses data from the IL State BOE report card for three school years. Student enrollment in AP coursework isn’t reported before 2016. The opportunity gap in access to AP coursework was calculated according to EOS suggestion, where equity is representation in AP classes by a racial subgroup at a rate similar to that race’s representation at the school. For example, in the 2015/2016 school year white student participation in AP was 17% higher than the percentage of white students at OPRF (54%). Black student participation in AP was 19% below the percentage of black students at OPRF (24%). As a result, the opportunity gap is estimated at 36% (17+19) between black and white students during 2015/2016 school year before any EOS – Huskie Scholar Academy work began.


The 2016/2017 school year was used to target AP first timers and establish systems; AP coursework began in the 2017/2018 school year. Participation among all race groups increased with black students the largest group of AP first-timers. The gap between white and black students declined from 28% in 2016/2017 before the program to 22% in 2017/2018 after the first year of the program. This is a 20% decline in opportunity gap after the program.



The work was estimated at $39,000 and sponsored through a grant with actual cost to OPRF at $6,500. A December 2017 board report with results through first semester can be found here.



The EOS - Huskie Scholar Academy is evidence from within OPRF that cost effective and valuable strategies for creating greater access to rigorous curriculum do exist that don’t involve “a change in the structure of a school system”. Although there is limited data, there was a trend for increasing access to AP coursework across all racial subgroups. Further, grades of AP first-timers after one semester were similar to grades of their non-target AP classmates.


One suggestion is the OPRF Administration might study the affects of this program more deeply and share results with the community. What aspects were most effective in getting students into classes with appropriate rigor. Did these students take another AP class the following year? Did the program have any negative effects on black students not included in the program or other honors or AP students? How do results compare to outcomes for students in previous cohorts who would have been offered the same Huskie Scholar Academy program?






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