Education has long been the whipping child for society's ills. As we recently celebrated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, we were reminded of how social inequality has affected our nation. As a nation, we continue to strive for educational equality for all students. In the quest for educational equality, the language has changed from equal access to accountability.
In 2001, the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted under President George W. Bush's administration. This act ushered in the age of accountability. Since then, schools have had to test their junior students and determine whether the school made adequate yearly progress.
The ultimate goal was that 100 percent of the nation's students would be deemed proficient in English and math by 2014. Currently, our nation and states fall far short from reaching this goal.
In April of last year, the accountability mantra took on new meaning. The Illinois Senate enacted Senate Bill 7, a comprehensive education reform bill. Senate Bill 7 has changed the landscape for teachers' evaluations in Illinois and works in conjunction with the Performance Evaluation Reform Act, which works to tie teacher performance to student performance. Starting in 2014, teachers' tenure will be tied to classroom observation, grades and other criteria.
I agree that change is needed in our educational system, and I totally agree with equality in education. Far too many kids are being left behind because of poorly prepared teachers, inadequate and unequal funding, and poor leadership.
Senate Bill 7 aims to deal with some of the inequalities in teacher quality, funding and leadership. However, government regulation does not and perhaps cannot tackle one of the most important components of education reform: parent involvement.
In my 25 years of experience, I have never seen a more effective accountability measure than an involved parent or guardian.
Too often, we depend on others to make things right for our children. Do not get me wrong — there is definitely a need for state and federal help to right some of the wrongs of our nation. However, we as parents and guardians should never underestimate the power of our ability to reform schools and hold teachers and administrators accountable for our students' education. Through our voices is where true change lies.
Dwayne Evans is principal at Thornton Fractional North High School. The opinions are the writer's.