The standardized test scores of the District 91 Forest Park elementary schools may not be all they might be. But if there were still letter grades being handed out, we'd give this district, its administration, faculty and school board, an A for Effort.
The 2018 test results are in, and as usual Supt. Lou Cavallo took them on very directly and honestly at the board meeting in December. Even the superintendent wondered how the state could rate the district as "commendable" with test scores such as they are.
There is progress. Reading scores are improving. The gap between students of color and white students has narrowed in Language Arts. The math scores are pretty much a horror show, though Forest Park is far from alone there.
What's always encouraging is the progressive and aggressive plans this district makes to address the very real shortcomings. Curriculums are continually updated. Textbook series are changed out. Specialized support staff are deployed. And the effort appears to be very collaborative between teachers in the classrooms and principals and the district office.
Of course, none of this comes cheap. Forest Park taxpayers have been generous — and patient — in their financial support.
The test score challenge is real. The declining enrollment is worrisome. The district has been weak in widely telling its story. But efforts on all fronts are underway and that is appreciated.
More the merrier
We like elections. Especially contested elections. They get the adrenaline flowing — the ideas, too. So what is just ahead in Forest Park is gratifying and exciting.
Nine candidates for four seats on the village council. Two mayoral candidates. Two slates and an independent in Proviso's District 209 high schools. And seven running for three seats on the District 91 elementary district board.
This marks two shifts that are good for Forest Park's democracy.
First, we have covered way too many uncontested elections, particularly for the school board. We have seen too many people, good and sincere though they may have been, running for third and fourth terms on the school board and park board. Clogs up the works. Slows innovation.
The other plus is that we have moved through the petition-challenging period without a single candidate facing a petition challenge. That's good; that's healthy. Maybe all the candidates hired high-priced election lawyers to advise them. More hopefully, maybe Forest Park has moved past the moment where the first tactic to win an election was to disqualify an opponent's candidacy on some sort of petition challenge.
We don't care how petitions get stapled. We don't care if all the petition forms match. We care about having a choice of candidates and having competing ideas.
The Review and the Chamber of Commerce are planning candidate forums for March. The Review is also discussing additional forums in cooperation with the library and the Village Free Press.
Let's have an election.