Using a single, standardized test to measure classroom achievement can be viewed in a few different ways. On one hand, if the schools are doing their jobs it shouldn’t matter if the kids take one test or a million tests – the results will be there. On another, it’s preposterous to believe that one exam can account for all the nuances that impact a child’s intellectual development.

These aren’t the only opinions that one might hold of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that requires public schools be judged by the results of an annual test; there are as many theories about how we ought to measure education as there are about how we should deliver it. But the rules are what they are.

Here in Forest Park, we happen to have two school districts that fall on opposite ends of the performance spectrum. In some ways, their scores make the annual exam all the more – or less – relevant.

Both District 91 and District 209 have regular assessment tools in place to help educators impact what is happening in the classroom. Irregardless of any standardized test, it’s a good thing that these schools are trying to get a handle on whether their methods are working.

District 91, which teaches kids in grades K-8, has had much greater success under the federal education guidelines. Routinely, kids in Forest Park’s five public school buildings are testing at levels that suggest they are on par with their peers statewide, if not better. There are students who are less successful, and generally those kids can be identified by the same demographic predictors that hold true across the country.

Because these schools are flirting with the ever-increasing standards under No Child Left Behind, the federal education act should serve as an incentive. Especially in recent years, administrators and board members in District 91 have rededicated themselves to improving education, but rightfully have been reluctant to embrace what they see as a false standard set by the federal government. What ought to be seized upon though, is an opportunity to prove that the schools are a big asset to the community. To use a sports analogy, the district is in the playoffs regularly enough that winning a championship should be the goal.

District 209, which serves high school students at three campuses in Proviso Township, has never come close to hitting federal benchmarks for student performance. In fact, with fewer than 15 percent of students at Proviso East and Proviso West doing grade-level work, scores could improve by 4 percent every year for the next decade and still fall well short of federal targets. The annual exam is irrelevant. The question begged by each year of diminishing test scores in Proviso is what – and when – the bold intervention will be.