It’s important to have goals. At Riverside-Brookfield High School, one of the stated goals is for every junior class to average a 26 on the formerly state-mandated ACT exam, which students use as a college admission test and the state uses as an indicator of academic achievement.

Very few schools in the state average a 26 on that exam, so setting that target as a goal is pretty ambitious. You might say, for a school like Riverside-Brookfield High School, that it is unrealistic.

Frankly, setting up arbitrary goals like an average ACT score of 26 is setting up administrators and teachers to fail. Especially, when you’re talking about a school, like RBHS, which is seeing its student body becoming more diverse, with more English language learners and coming from three different elementary school districts, with three different curricula and different student populations.

Some RBHS board members say they wish to be compared to schools like Hinsdale Central, one of those 26-average ACT schools. But that isn’t fair to the people charged with delivering education at RBHS, because the two student populations couldn’t be more different.

What’s more important for school officials to focus on is improving achievement of students as they progress through high school. That’s the real measure of academic success, not an arbitrary number.

In any case, the state no longer mandates the ACT as its test of record, opting for the SAT, which will be given to the entire junior class for the first time next spring. While we imagine the board will pick a number as its student average goal, we hope it’s realistic. Let’s hit that goal first, and revise upward.