Quite a year it has been. Both locally and nationally we have endured a lot of division, a lot of disheartening political leadership. And that ride is not over, not nearly. But we’ve reached December and with that our focus and attention shifts toward the holidays in all of their many dimensions.

Our Tom Holmes surveyed Madison Street shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving and found a remarkable mix of energy, worry and hope. The recent national election was much on the minds of people at Counter Coffee and Louie’s. Many were troubled, a few enthused by coming changes. But it seemed making the pivot to a joyous holiday season was less natural than in other years.

Pivot we must, though, and we’d take this moment to urge, if not peace on Madison Street, then at least a holiday détente in the contentious battles of the past months. Whether one is supportive of video gaming or a critic, whether one is horrified by the cynical referendum-clogging initiative or sees it as a slick political move, we are basically talking about a small group of small business owners. They may own a bar, an ice cream shop or the local hardware store. But they each rely for their living on the trade of local customers.

So for this Christmas season, the most critical 30 days in the calendar for any retail business, let’s choose to support the businesses that have chosen Forest Park.

 Test scores in Forest Park

The annual standardized test scores are in for local schools across the state of Illinois. There was a time, not many years back, when school administrators, school boards and local newspaper editorial boards, lived and died by the test results put up by a bunch of kids doing their best on a given day with their No. 2 pencils. 

We seldom praise former President George W. Bush, but we do give him partial credit for the portion of his No Child Left Behind initiative that put a focus on school accountability. Until Bush, there was an acceptance that some segments of school-aged kids were not able or expected to perform academically. Black kids, poor kids, rural kids, second language kids and the burgeoning ranks of special ed kids were all given a pass. And that pass applied to school districts and school boards, too. 

The problem was that the Bush plan tied accountability too heavily to standardized test scores. And that is far too simple a measure for the great weight that was placed upon them.

Now there are more individualized methods of testing children, more immediate measures which allow a teacher, a school to customize a response to one child or a small group when a shortfall is discovered. And so while the test scores for Forest Park’s District 91 schools were marginally improved this year, the bigger news remains the district’s progressive efforts at remaking its curriculum and fine-tuning its ongoing testing.