The real magic of testing in school isn’t in knowing how this third grade did in math versus the fourth-graders who took the test a year back. What’s powerful is knowing that a single student made strides against a target set specifically for him or her. 

That is the knowledge that Forest Park’s District 91 elementary schools are gathering each year with its Measures of Academic Progress, or MAP, testing program. And the numbers, reported to the school board Feb. 12, are largely encouraging. Mostly students are hitting their individualized growth targets in percentages in the high 70s to mid 80-percent ranges in both reading and math.

While this is good information, it is only useful data if each school and individual teachers in each school have the capacity to adapt a student’s instruction to reach them at the exact level of learning they have hit. 

Then acknowledging individual learning styles, being able to break classes down to very small subsets and calling in added resources such as a district-level math coach are the essential tools that are leading to academic success in the district.

Generally speaking, we believe that standardized testing is overused in public schools these days, though we support the impetus for accountability that has led us to this point. That’s why it was good to hear at the last board meeting a balance between pride in the accomplishments represented by the MAP testing but a clear expectation that focus must remain on each child as an individual learner.

 Lawyers first, of course

Meanwhile, over at District 209, the Proviso Township public high school district, the discussion last week had nothing to do with students, individually or collectively. As usual.

Want to understand why this school district is sinking like a rock? Watch what the school board talks about. It is seldom our children. 

Last week, as the board discussed ways to fund $10 million in desperately needed  life safety repairs, you could almost say that was about children. After all students need wiring that supports technology; they need roofs that don’t leak. 

But with the district’s top finance person pushing and the state-imposed Financial Oversight Panel pushing for action to allow construction at fair prices by this summer, the powers that be on the school board started talking about lawyers, more lawyers, different lawyers, connected lawyers, being cut into the process of reviewing all the documents. 

The head of the finance panel finally avoided a two-week delay in moving the bond issue ahead by agreeing to let the chosen lawyers get their piece, so long as they did it quickly. 

We’re with Kevin McDermott, the rare independent on this board, who told the audience that Dan Adams, the president of the school board, was simply angling to get Del Galdo Law Group, LLC its slice of the deal.

Despicable really. And something Forest Park voters ought to note as they prepare to vote in the April 7 election.