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William Butler Yeats said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” That is actually a good metaphor for our commitment at Evanston Township High School to light a fire in all students to be motivated and feel challenged to get the best education this prestigious high school has to offer.

We are making measurable progress. For example, more and more students are taking rigorous classes that prepare them to take honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes during their four years at ETHS.

Last spring we set an all-time record for AP enrollment – 766 students (well over half of our juniors and seniors) took 1,800 AP exams. A little more than a decade ago, only 22 percent of our juniors and seniors took AP classes.

This coming school year, even more students are enrolled in a wide variety of interesting, challenging AP classes that require critical thinking and prepare them for the rigor of college coursework. Up until recently, primarily white students at ETHS were enrolled in AP classes. That is no longer the case. Today students of all races are flourishing in AP classes.

We’re lighting a fire in our students, and our work is gaining national recognition. Last spring, U.S. News and World Report ranked ETHS in the top 2 percent of high schools in the nation. Impressively, a quarter of those top schools are magnet schools and selective-enrollment schools. A week after that ranking appeared, The Washington Post issued its ranking also using data collected nationally, but applying their own formula which included an Equity and Excellence Index for ranking high schools. Once again, ETHS was ranked among the top high schools in the country, ahead of other top-flight schools like New Trier and Oak Park River Forest.

However, for all our success as a school, we have a great deal more work to do. We must challenge every ETHS student, opening doors of opportunity for each one to take our most rigorous classes, not slamming doors by having low expectations for some students.

As George Washington Carver recognized, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom,” and we must provide an excellent education for every young person and give him or her freedom to pursue a productive quality of life. The future of our community and the future of our nation depend on all students getting the best education we can provide.

Horace Mann had it right when he observed, “A human being is not attaining his full heights until he is educated.”

I believe that neither our school nor our community is attaining our full heights until all students are educated well. We are celebrating our successes and important recognition for the work we are undertaking at ETHS, but we have more challenging work ahead of us.

The Evanston community generously funds public education, but we need your personal support and your high expectations for all students to learn and attain a valuable education. With the start of the 2012-13 school year, let’s get about the work of lighting the fire.