There are a number of valid criticisms of the federal education law, No Child Left Behind, and its emphasis on standardized testing. Nonetheless, it is still an important piece of legislation that has educators sitting up and paying close attention to student performance. Students in District 91 are sitting for the latest round of high stakes exams under NCLB this week, and while parents ought to be concerned with the results of this snapshot, the district’s newly installed performance measures are a more worthy focus of the community’s attention.

Educators here are in the midst of revamping the entire curriculum across all subjects, starting with the reading program. Along with this effort will be detailed guidelines that map out grade-level expectations so that parents and teachers can see whether students are keeping pace. Measuring that pace, at least in the reading curriculum, are monthly assessments intended to give immediate feedback on how each student is handling the lesson.

These local measurements are more nuanced, provide greater detail and occur in real time, which presumably should make them more valuable than any annual standardized test. Teachers can more readily plot the progress of individual students and tailor their methods now – not next semester or next year – to accommodate trends.

If No Child Left Behind is the mallet that pounds a square peg through a round hole, District 91’s own measurements are the rest of tools in the workshop that more adeptly shape the final product.

Best of luck to the teachers, students and parents laboring with federal expectations. Your craft will be measured in gross aggregates this week. The rest of the school year is yours to smooth whatever rough edges are found.

Mixed signals

The response from public officials regarding a proposal to yank the traffic light from the intersection of Circle Avenue and Madison Street has us hoping that this little experiment isn’t a total disaster.

Aside from however Commissioner Mark Hosty’s 30-day trial of instituting a four-way stop at the junction actually plays out, the lack of a more informed hypothesis to guide this process is another reason to nix the commission form of government. No assessment of the problem was done and no approvals for the change were necessary. During his statement of intent to the village council recently, Hosty prided himself on being a man of action and said the success or failure of this project is best determined by letting the scenario unfold.

It’s certainly noteworthy that any permanent change to the traffic regulations at this intersection will need the council’s approval. But in the meantime the mayor will issue a separate directive to get some baseline data on traffic patterns. This goes directly to the question begged by the commission form of government. Who’s running the show?

Any commissioner has the authority to issue marching orders within the department they head. Apparently, that’s the case even if that decision creates a hazard for motorists, pedestrians and emergency vehicles.

 


Correction

A Feb. 27 front page story previewing the standardized tests administered under No Child Left Behind incorrectly reported the start date for the Prairie State Achievement Exam. That test, taken by all high school juniors in Illinois, begins on April 23.