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Here are two examples of accountability in education.

The first is a bit perverse but still winning. The second has the energy of self-interest which is always a positive motivator.

At the Proviso Township High Schools we continue to look for the bottom. Under new Superintendent Stanley Fields, we’ve watched as he discovered the most egregious over-spending of past years. We have taken some comfort that maybe shamed board members have actually toned down the most over-the-top pettiness at the board table. And until last week we thought we had seen the lowest test scores ever recorded.

Not so.

The 2006 Prairie State Achievement Exam results have been released and they are staggeringly awful. Seventy percent of black students and 78 percent of Hispanic students are not reading at grade level. Eighty-five percent of blacks are below state standards in math. Eighty-seven percent fail to meet the mark in science.

This is failure of epic and epidemic proportions. And yet there is a bright side in the new administration’s total lack of excuses for the performance. “It really has everything to do with the plan that the district has followed with respect to student performance. More specifically, that the district has had no plan; there is no direction.”

So said Fields, the first year superintendent. His bluntness is necessary and refreshing. And he is working on his first year honeymoon pass. When the next test scores are released he will need to have shown, at least, that the bottom has truly been reached. Beyond that we all must recognize the enormous hole this district has dug and be patient in looking for a slow turn.

Meanwhile in Forest Park we are happy to see Walther Lutheran High School come to the rescue of St. John Lutheran School. The Melrose Park high school has struck a deal with the St. John congregation to keep the school from closing this spring and to invest in the school going forward. There is only upside for St. John which has worked mightily to keep its school alive but had hit an absolute wall in financially subsidizing the school.

The self-interest on the part of Walther Lutheran is that it needs a constant flow of students into its high school. Losing St. John as a feeder school would not-so-gradually undermine Walther. So it has taken the bold and progressive step of aligning its interests with that of St. John in not only keeping the elementary school open but in investing in an expanded staff.

Hear the candidates

It is a positive election season in Forest Park with a vigorously contested race for mayor and eight candidates running for four available seats as commissioners.

So far we’re impressed by the energy, the ideas and the goodwill of the commissioner candidates. But choices must be made and the best way for voters to decide is to see the candidates live and in person.

Thursday evening, in a forum sponsored by Main Street, the Chamber and the Review, all 10 candidates, including the two mayoral hopefuls, are expected to turn out to answer your questions.

The event will start at 6:45 at the Middle School. Don’t miss it.