Forest Park Elementary School District 91 Superintendent Lou Cavallo was asked to be a member of the Vision 20/20 task force being developed by the Illinois Association of School Administrators, he told the school board Thursday.

Cavallo is one of two administrators of the West-40 region to be selected. The group will consist of 28 members from all over the state.

The goal of the group is to counter the mandates for change made by the Illinois State Board of Education and the US Dept. of Education with a “better plan” to achieve “maximum education success for all students,” according to the IASA website.

“In the last couple of years, there have been lots of changes in education that we’ve been reacting to,” Cavallo said. “We decided instead of reacting, we should be proactive and come up with better strategies ourselves.”

Cavallo told the board he’s been a vocal questioner of the mechanisms, costs and policy for the new PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessments which will replace the ISAT tests. Cavallo said was disappointed, he said, that just as the district had been having such success with MAP testing, which tracks the academic growth of students and generates a tailored curriculum plan. The PARCC high-stakes state tests will assess proficiency at one point in time, similar to the ISAT.

Cavallo told the board he was advised that to fit in the PARCC tests, the district should drop the MAP assessments.

“So all that work [with the MAP assessments] will be washed away?” said President Frank Mott.

The PARCC tests, which are given by computer instead of No.2 pencil, are theoretically scheduled to begin next year. But Cavallo said the state is unsure if they can start the tests because many schools don’t have enough computers, bandwidth or connectivity to adequately test the students.

Cavallo said Forest Park would have to spend around $400,000 to upgrade technology so that students could take the test. Then he complained the tests would eat up instructional time so the entire end of the year after Spring Break would be spent testing groups of students.

“We need strong leadership among administrators to say “‘No, this is not in the best interest of kids’ instead of ‘Just tell me how I can comply,'” Cavallo said. He also said some schools could pay extra and get a pre-test at the beginning of the year – which many districts wouldn’t be able to afford.

“This arrangement could result in even more inequity in Illinois. The kids who need it most will be left behind. I can’t let that happen.”

Cavallo said teachers would be evaluated by the test results “being given penalties for circumstances beyond their control. It’s going to make us lose good teachers and hurt kids.”

The group will meet regularly starting June 6 and present its findings in June 2014, according to the website.

“As a colleague said to me, this will be either be a very exciting experience or a complete exercise in futility,” Cavallo joked.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...