Facing reality, and the chopping block

During the next few months, town department heads will be preparing unpopular lists. They will be lists of positions, services and supplies that the town would eliminate if taxpayers decide they cannot support up to $5.2 million more in taxes next year.

Departments will list about $3 million in items they would eliminate to close a budget deficit. They will also look at $2.2 million more that they could cut to keep from spending any more money in fiscal year 2009 than they are spending this year. Of course, the town will end up spending more next year, but the second, deeper-cuts list will put more options on the table | and lead to emotional cries throughout the community.

There will be bombastic exclamations and defense of threatened areas; the Andover town budget grows substantially each year without any increase in service. So, barring real change to perks in town contracts, the town must do one of three things: It can prioritize and stop doing some things; it can tax its people to a point that drives more longtime but lower- and middle-class residents to move; or it can do a little of both.

The list of potential cuts will be painful for many to see | particularly employees on the chopping block | but it is a necessary evil.

It is only by seeing exactly what an override of Proposition 2 1/2 will "buy," and letting people determine whether they prefer to pay more in taxes or live without these things, that people can make informed decisions.

The purpose of tests

Testing helps students learn from their mistakes | assuming, of course, that the students can actually study the results.

However, a small group of Andover teachers, particularly in the math and science departments, have not been honoring a simple request: to return tests to students after they have been graded.

Doing so has obvious value. The students can see where they made mistakes. Involved parents can encourage their children to spend more time honing those particular skills.

True, it wouldn't make life any easier for teachers. It would mean teachers would have to spend time coming up with new, if similar questions, rather than using the same test year after year. They would have to change a few numbers so that the questions used do not exactly duplicate ones from previous exams, yet still test the same areas.

The schools are not requiring teachers to do this. Instead, as a compromise, school leaders have discussed requiring parents to file a written request to get a copy of their children's tests.

Parents shouldn't have to jump through hoops to help their children get a better education in the public schools. All teachers should return tests to students, as most educators have done for generations.

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