For as long as there have been strategic plans there has been the debate between having “goals” and having “stretch goals.” 

Are goals a target to hit and should therefore be modest and nearly guaranteed? Or are goals meant to be aspirational and always somewhat out of grasp?

With the school year just beginning at Forest Park’s District 91 public schools, the administration, teachers and school board seem to be splitting the difference. After falling short last year on a series of highly measurable and overly ambitious goals for math and reading scores, among others, the strategic plan adopted earlier this month by the school board is more realistic — without being a slam dunk.

We’re not criticizing a public school system where last year the collective view of teachers and administrators is that major investments in new testing and teaching initiatives were going to pay off big and show up quickly in test scores. We love that optimism and confidence in both themselves and our kids.

However, we also know that last year’s really solid improvements across a whole range of measures sort of got swallowed up when all the upside fell short of the high-flying goals. That can be dispiriting.

Make no mistake, this year’s goals are not in the piddling 1 or 2 percent range. That sort of improvement will never get this district where it needs to be, particularly as it ties to equity for students of color. But taking aim at 10 percent growth rather than 20 percent in key academic and social indicators is both realistic and bold.

Good time to be a Pirate

It’s a good thing to win your first football game after 35 consecutive losses. That’s what the Pirates of Proviso East did on Friday night when they knocked back the Round Lake Panthers 20-7.

We were more interested, though, in the story we carried this weekend by William Boone and Jaliyah Arnold, student reporters at District 209. They reported on the innovative efforts by a new coaching staff to build team camaraderie by getting their student athletes out of their pads and helmets and into entirely new experiences.

The team recently visited the Museum of Contemporary Art in the city and have plans for another museum trip to Ukrainian Village coming up. Still waiting approval, and remarkable in its audaciousness, is a canoe trip down the mighty Des Plaines River from Maywood to Lisle. The often overlooked Des Plaines runs just behind the Pirates home field off First Avenue, making their “Pirates on the River” adventure even more appropriate.

New thinking is what has long been missing at the Proviso high schools. Whether it is in approaches to teaching, building connections to families, or getting the football team on water, it is a good time to be Pirate.