It’s a new year, with new resolutions, a new calendar, and a new vision for public education in Illinois. I have been privileged to be a part of the Vision 20/20 initiative — a forward thinking view of public education in our state which acknowledges the importance of this endeavor for the future of our children, our state and our nation.

It’s a new year, with new resolutions, a new calendar, and a new vision for public education in Illinois. I have been privileged to be a part of the Vision 20/20 initiative — a forward thinking view of public education in our state which acknowledges the importance of this endeavor for the future of our children, our state and our nation.  

Many times, public educators and our affiliated organizations are more known for what we oppose — lack of funding, too many mandates, too much testing, too much red tape, too many regulations and not enough of the proper resources to do all that we are charged to do with our students. At one time or another — all of the above is true. However, in the fall of 2012, Illinois Association of School Administrators expressed a desire to turn in a different direction in our journey with public education — which meant focusing on the future with a common sense blueprint for public education, eliminating the “woe is us” attitude and collaboratively and clearly concentrating on fulfilling the dream of public education in Illinois by the year 2020.   

To start this process, 42 superintendents were called to Springfield to start the planning and the conversation. Being a part of this group was exhilarating, exciting, inspiring and a true honor. 

By January of 2014, in addition to the IASA, the Illinois Principals Association, Illinois Association of School Boards, Illinois Association of School Business Officials, Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools and the Superintendents Commission on the Study of Demographics and Diversity had all joined forces in this valiant and essential effort that is laser focused on the needs of the children of our state. (Issues such as pension reform and teacher evaluation were not discussed — these are “adult” issues, and as such, can be resolved and discussed in a different forum.) 

Vision 20/20 is rooted in four essential pillars: Highly Effective Educators, 21st Century Learning, Shared Accountability and Equitable and Adequate Funding. These four areas were deemed to be the most critical and important factors in achieving the vision of public education in Illinois. A quick summary of each pillar: 

• Highly Effective Educators: The quality of teachers and school leaders is the greatest predictor of student achievement schools can influence. By attracting, developing and retaining our state’s best educators, we can have a profound impact on student learning. Specifically, this pillar focuses on our ability to recruit and retain high quality educators, as well as having the support to provide on-going, critical and relevant professional development.  

• 21st Century Learning: For success in life, students need more than knowledge of math and reading. It is time to expand the definition of student learning, commit to the development of the “whole child,” and invest in policies proven to link all schools to 21st century learning tools. Developing the “whole child” means acknowledging that the skills necessary to be successful after high school go beyond a test score — and that the preservation of instructional time is critical. Early childhood education must also be a priority, as well as expanding equity in technology in schools across Illinois and linking our students to college and career opportunities. 

• Shared Accountability: A quality education for all Illinois students cannot be ensured without the collaboration, compromise and hard work of both educators and legislators. With that in mind, it is necessary to expand educator responsibility in the legislative process, create a shared accountability model and restructure mandates to allow more local district flexibility. Specifically, this means restructuring mandates, and developing a differentiated accountability system — one size does not fit all. Underperforming schools need support, resources and clear expectations for improvement. Higher achieving schools could have more flexibility with accountability. Finally, it is crucial that educators and legislators communicate and interact regularly about the issues that must be addressed in public education.  

• Equitable and Adequate Funding: All students in Illinois are entitled to a quality education. It is our duty to ensure our students have access to all necessary resources by improving equity in the funding model, appropriating adequate dollars for education and allowing local school districts the autonomy needed to increase efficiency. Likely the most important of the four pillars, this area focuses on stabilizing funding for public schools, basing funding on local need and enhancing district flexibility at the local level to increase efficiency.  

As we move toward the spring legislative session, you can expect to hear more about this initiative from the educational leaders in our state and hopefully our legislators as well. On Jan. 13, the Morton Community Unit School District 709 Board of Education will be voting on an official resolution to support Vision 20/20. Public schools can and do work in Illinois, and Vision 20/20 is an outstanding example of the hard work and dedication that exists to realize and fulfill the dream that we should all hold for our kids.

Information about the four pillars was taken from the Vision 20/20 website, which I encourage you to visit at www.IllinoisVision2020.org.   

In addition, you can follow Vision 20/20 on Twitter, @ILvision2020.