New initiative to improve metro Atlanta schools


A new initiative to improve public education in metro Atlanta will report on school performance while looking for, and spreading, ideas for improvement.

Former interim Fulton County Superintendent Kenneth Zeff is spearheading the effort, dubbed “Learn4Life.”

He is teaming with philanthropies and leaders in business, government and education to scout out ways “for scaling best practices.” The group will also dig up the “root cause” of lackluster performance.

Georgia already has two state agencies that produce school report cards. The Department of Education creates the College and Career Ready Performance Index and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement publishes a host of measures, including the Georgia School Reports website.

Zeff said this is different because the focus is on regional averages rather than particular schools in the participating districts: Atlanta, Decatur and Marietta cities and Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

One of the six "key indicators” Learn4Life will monitor is reading on grade level by third grade; Zeff said 28,000 students in the eight school districts cannot. “This is a metro Atlanta problem,” he said.

State lawmakers recently passed the First Priority Act, which calls for intervention in Georgia’s lowest-performing schools and also requires a determination of the “root causes” that hold them back. Zeff said this initiative is different because it seeks to improve -- and learn from -- all schools in metro Atlanta, not just the lowest performers.

The partnership includes the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and the Atlanta Regional Commission. The indicators it will monitor cover public education before, during and after K-12 enrollment, from kindergarten readiness to post-secondary completion. It is modeled after partnerships such as Strive Together in Cincinnati.

Dennis Lockhart, recently retired president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said at an unveiling of the initiative at the Chamber offices Tuesday that “business community support for this is essential.”

Four superintendents headlined the event: J. Alvin Wilbanks of Gwinnett, Meria Carstarphen of Atlanta, David Dude of Decatur and Grant Rivera of Marietta. Carstarphen welcomed the help and said the performance data do not surprise her: she’s seen worse at some schools.

“It makes me worried about the future of Atlanta,” she said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Education

Are American students and their parents willing to work as hard as East Asians?
Are American students and their parents willing to work as hard as East Asians?

With schools starting back this week, parents fret about whether their child’s teacher will be engaging, how much homework to expect, and if their child will be able to balance classes with soccer or band. In East Asian countries, parents voice a singular worry: Will their child learn? Academics eclipse all other activities, and ...
National PTA sends stern warning to Georgia unit
National PTA sends stern warning to Georgia unit

The National PTA turned up the heat on the Georgia PTA, warning leaders of the parent-based organization to clean up their act after complaints they were manipulating an upcoming election for new officers. In a letter sent Thursday, National PTA President James L. Accomando wrote, “The National PTA Board of Directors is closely watching Georgia...
Your guide to the 2017-2018 Clayton County school year
Your guide to the 2017-2018 Clayton County school year

The 2017-2018 school year is here. Clayton County Schools will host orientation events for families Thursday. Elementary school orientations are 1-3 p.m., middle schools from 3-5 p.m. and high schools from 5-7 p.m. Schools begin Aug. 7, which is a Monday. First day of school: Aug. 7 Early dismissal dates: Aug. 23, Sept. 20, Oct. 6, Oct. 31, Feb. 16...
DeKalb Schools lost 900 more teachers over the last school year
DeKalb Schools lost 900 more teachers over the last school year

The DeKalb County School District lost about 900 teachers for the second consecutive year. But the district should have a teacher surplus, according to numbers furnished by the human capital management office. That same office reports 271 teacher vacancies as of July 10. District officials have offered nothing to suggest why they need hundreds more...
Students, families borrow more for college
Students, families borrow more for college

Sallie Mae, released results of its latest poll on how students and families are paying for college. Sallie Mae originates, serves and collects private student loans. The organization had 800 students and 800 parents polled to figure out how American’s are paying for college. Here are some of the findings: Students reduced personal spending in...
More Stories