In an effort to bolster community involvement, officials from Proviso Township’s high school district invited public figures from across the area to the schools’ first ever state of the district address, and hammered home the importance of preparing children for future success.

The dinner event was held Thursday, July 30 at the Proviso Math and Science Academy in Forest Park, one of three high schools run by the district. Superintendent Nettie Collins-Hart delivered a data-packed presentation on both the successes and struggles that are her top priorities, and used a series of charts and graphs to reinforce her plea for widespread support in the classroom.

“This is where we are,” Collins-Hart said, pointing to a bar graph of student scores in science. At Proviso East and West, the district’s other campuses, fewer than 10 percent of incoming freshman in 2007 were on track for a college education.

On the far right of the chart were scores representing the state average of roughly 78 percent.

“This is where we need to go,” Collins-Hart said.

The superintendent displayed several graphs demonstrating that students entering the township’s public high schools are ill prepared for the challenges they’re about to face. Once those students are in high school, said Collins-Hart, they do show signs of improvement. Compared to previous years, she said, more students are earning college scholarships, more students are qualifying for National Honor Society and more students are enrolling in advanced placement classes.

Yet, according to the most high profile measurements in scholastics today – tests administered under No Child Left Behind – Proviso students are woefully behind. Collins-Hart reminded her audience, as many educators have when talking about the federal benchmarks, that a single standardized test of this nature represents a snapshot, and cannot account for everything that a student might have learned.

“It does tell us something,” Collins-Hart said.

To bring more students up to speed, the superintendent laid out a plan that calls for intensive tutoring, efforts to boost attendance while shrinking truancy, and better collaboration between teachers and administrators. All of those improvements will be an uphill battle, however, as the district continues to cut spending and work within a hiring freeze for teachers.

All of which, said the superintendent, is all the more reason for community members to get involved.

“The school cannot do it all,” Collins-Hart said.

Listening to the superintendent’s remarks were many elected officials within Proviso Township, including Rep. Karen Yarbrough (7th Dist.), Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore, school board members from feeder districts and municipal trustees from Hillside and Stone Park. Patricia Granados, president of Triton College, also addressed the crowd.