OPRF hires research firm to measure equity

Board approves 1-year contract with Hanover Research

July 11th, 2017 4:17 PM

By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

At its June 22 regular meeting, the District 200 school board unanimously approved a one-year, $36,500 contract with Hanover Research, an Arlington, Virginia-based information services firm that will conduct empirical research on the effectiveness of Oak Park and River Forest High School's equity-related initiatives.

Last month, the District 200 school board approved an updated version of a strategic plan that was approved in 2014.

The plan calls for moving the district toward fully implementing a range of initiatives, policies and procedures designed mainly to eliminate race-based disparities in student outcomes, particularly disparities between white and black students.

District officials have expressed in the past the need for hiring an outside firm to provide data-driven analysis of, and assistance with implementing, some of the initiatives outlined in the strategic plan.

The contract with Hanover began on July 1, said Amy Hill, District 200's director of assessment and research.

Some board members, however, said that just as Hanover is tasked with evaluating OPRF's initiatives, D200 administrators should be specific in its evaluation of the job that Hanover is doing.

"We have to be very specific about what it is we want this partnership to do for us," said board member Craig Iseli. "Otherwise, we're not going to get what we want."

Board President Jackie Moore said that she wanted more specifics about how precisely Hanover will measure disparities related to equity and race.

In a June 22 memo, Hill summarized Hanover's work in four other school districts in Ohio, Virginia and Michigan. Hanover conducted a range of tasks for those districts, including analyzing student achievement data that was "disaggregated by race and other demographic factors," developing a phone survey, auditing "staff culture" and making "recommendations for diversity training for staff, administration, and teachers."

Hill said that one of Hanover's first tasks could be to evaluate OPRF's newly implemented Collaborative Action Research for Equity (CARE) initiative.

"Roughly 45 administrators, teachers, counselors and social workers have been trained to become CARE leaders during the 2017-2018 school year," according to a description of the initiative on the high school's website.

"CARE supports teachers in studying their professional practices and improving them in ways that remove racial bias," the website states. "The cornerstones of CARE are participating in authentic racial self-reflection, developing critical racial consciousness, engaging in healthy racial discourse, and conducting racial investigation of educator practice."

District officials said that they'll provide a progress report on Hanover's work for the school board to review in six months.