While Common Core, the new national effort to set academic standards for public schools, gets caught up in the vile extremes of our national politics, the program is moving closer to implementation in school districts across America.

Some districts have prepared well. Others have dithered. Happily, Forest Park’s District 91 elementary schools have embraced this necessary effort as Supt. Lou Cavallo made plain last week at the annual State of the District discussion at Garfield School.

Allowing that some teachers were feeling “overwhelmed” by the coming changes to lesson plans and teaching techniques, Cavallo said that overall the district was enthusiastic about the effort to raise expectations for academic achievement. Common Core’s implementation this fall will correspond with new, more expansive, and hopefully, more actionable, student testing. It will also link to new approaches to evaluating the success of schools and teachers.

While we have our doubts about testing and believe that testing can be only a part of any method of evaluating teacher and school performance, we strongly support the concept that higher expectations and accountability are critical to the long-term success of our public schools.

Speaking of the long-term success of Forest Park’s public schools, Village Commissioner Mark Hosty attended last week’s presentation by Cavallo and raised strong concerns about the quality of the local schools. Citing his experience as a Realtor, Hosty suggested that long-time Forest Parkers were selling their homes based on perceptions of bad behavior by students at the Forest Park Middle School. Keep in mind that Hosty’s children do not attend local public schools.

Meanwhile, fellow Commissioner Rory Hoskins attended the same meeting and spoke up about his satisfaction with the middle school that three of his four kids had already attended.

We’ll allow that middle schools most everywhere get some grief from parents. Is it the school, the age, the hormones, the nostalgia parents feel for their lost little children? 

But we’d suggest that elected officials in Forest Park ought to be extremely cautious in public remarks about the quality of the elementary schools. This town already functions and suffers without a full-fledged public high school as Proviso East was written off by villagers 40-plus years back. To say, as Hosty did, that “half of our baseball and soccer teams” have moved out of town is inflammatory rhetoric based on, at best, anecdotal experience.

Public education in Forest Park is essential to the future of this community. There is much that is right and forward-looking in District 91 schools. Cavallo made a good case last week for the district’s progress. Are there challenges? Of course. Should they be honestly and publicly discussed? Of course. But this complex topic requires more nuance and knowledge than Commissioner Hosty typically demonstrates. 

This is another moment that requires better leadership than Forest Park has demonstrated lately. 

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