At the District 91 school board meeting on Feb. 9, Superintendent Lou Cavallo announced that the district has decided to change the test used for the assessment of our students. As reported by the Review, the change is being made to better align with both the SAT test and Common Core and to get “longitudinal data,” “real-time data on how well classroom instruction is helping students,” “measure where kids stand right now,” and provide “adequate curriculum-based measures for students needing intervention on learning deficiencies.”
Nearly four years ago when commenting about assessment testing, Supt. Cavallo stated that “Illinois is in a state of flux.” Clearly, the flux continues for the state and D91. There is no question that assessment testing has been changing over much of Cavallo’s nearly 10-year reign as superintendent. While there may be legitimate concerns about the validity of past assessment testing and the associated state of flux, Forest Park residents have not seen any significant improvement in the assessment of our students who continue to score well below state averages.
In 2004, the residents in Forest Park approved the D91 referendum that raised our taxes for D91 by approximately 40 percent. Since passage of the referendum, Forest Park D91 has spent more per student than the vast majority of K-8 school districts in our area and in the entire state of Illinois. The high funding level provided to D91 has allowed us to reduce the number of students per teacher and reduce the number of students per administrator. Since 2007, our student-to-teacher ratio has gone from 14 to 11. In contrast, the state ratio has remained essentially constant at 19 students per teacher. Also since 2007, our ratio of administrators to students has gone from 130 to 70 while the same ratio for the state has gone from 231 to 177. The high funding also has allowed the district to offer no-tuition preschool and free computers to all students starting in third grade.
Past assessment test results have not demonstrated that our students are benefiting from the high taxes that Forest Park residents have been paying D91 for over 10 years. While the assessment test results might not be influenced by some beneficial programs like preschool and computer use, Forest Park residents have a right to demand tangible results that show our students are benefiting from all of the policies put in place by the school board and Supt. Cavallo.
This is especially true now that the assessment test has been selected by the current leadership to “measure where kids stand right now” and provide “real-time date on how well classroom instruction is helping students.”
Something has to change. The new testing must quickly and clearly show that our students are benefiting from the high taxes being paid by Forest Park residents. In the absence of tangible and quantifiable positive test results, something else must change and it should not be the test.
If the new test is not valid, Supt. Cavallo and the board will have no one to blame but themselves. So regardless of whether the new test is valid or not, if the new test results do not show clear student benefits, the school board will have to determine what changes are needed either in the leadership, administration, or budget.
Ultimately, the change may have to come from the residents of Forest Park by electing a school board that can produce and demonstrate results. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Unlike the past, let’s hope for results that clearly show that the high D91 funding is money well spent.