Opinion: Collaborative effort needed to improve region’s schools and future


Across metro Atlanta, the statistics are sobering. Just 40 percent of third-grade students in the region are reading at grade level. Even fewer eighth-grade students – 38 percent – are meeting state math standards.

And consider that for every 100 students who enter ninth grade, only 37 enroll in a second year of college or other post-secondary institution. The distressing question: What happens to the missing 63?

The answer for too many is they enter adulthood with an insufficient education, limited skills, and few options for building their own and the region’s economic prosperity.

Our school systems are full of committed, dynamic educators, but they face a regional challenge that requires a regional response. That’s why our two school systems have joined six other metro Atlanta districts and an array of leading businesses and nonprofits to form a partnership called Learn4Life.

This effort is regional in scope. It includes the school districts in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties, and the city districts of Atlanta, Decatur, and Marietta, serving 600,000 students in all. Four leading civic institutions also play a foundational role: Atlanta Regional Commission, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Metro Atlanta Chamber, and United Way of Greater Atlanta.

Learn4Life aims to build a sustained, action-oriented agenda to improve education outcomes and workforce readiness. In order to focus our community’s collective energy we need a common set of measures.

We have identified six research-based indicators to assess cradle-to-career education success as a region: kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading proficiency, eighth-grade math proficiency, high school graduation rate, post-secondary enrollment, and post-secondary completion. These indicators are a subset of the United Way’s comprehensive Child Well-Being Index.

Our first benchmark report, issued a few weeks ago, showed just how far we have to go.

Learn4Life convenes community leaders, education experts, parents, and practitioners into teams we call Action Networks that take deep dives into each indicator.

The goal is to identify “bright spots” – strategies that are producing real, measurable progress in our region. We’ll then provide funding and other resources to help scale these proven ideas so they can be shared across the metro area. We are starting with third-grade reading.

We know this kind of approach works. Some 70 communities across the country are following this model with success. For example, metro Cincinnati has been at this work for about a decade and has seen consistent improvement in outcomes. The region came together to build on that success and pass a levy to significantly expand access to preschool and strengthen the pre-K-12 public school system. In the Dallas region, third-grade reading performance increased after the community invested in teacher retention, among other strategies.

Gains in education are happening every day, in every corner of our region. But it will take sustained, aligned focus to lift all students. There are no quick fixes.

Indeed, ensuring the success of Learn4Life requires active engagement and financial commitment from our region’s business and civic community. A prosperous, vital metro Atlanta is our collective responsibility.

Meria Carstarphen is superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. J. Alvin Wilbanks is the CEO and superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools. For more information about Learn4Life, please visit L4LMetroAtlanta.org.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

READERS WRITE: APR. 20

Universal health care would be best for U.S. Regarding an April 13 letter, physicians, who expect (and usually get) the most respect and the highest medical incomes, need to come out and admit that the answer to our expensive but ineffective system is universal health care. I am sure many of their RN’s would join them. They know how sorry the...
Opinion: Unwise to unleash dogs of war

As sabers rattle ever louder across fields, plains, oceans and deserts, President Trump’s words from earlier this year haunt the stable mind: “I would love to be able to bring back our country into a great form of unity,” he said. “Without a major event where people pull together, that’s hard to do. But I would like to...
Opinion: Nikki Haley’s SOS to the nation

WASHINGTON — “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” These eight words from Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will go down as among the most powerful indictments of the rancid governing culture President Trump has fostered. They may also shed light on one of the great mysteries of the moment: Why...
Opinion: Trump — prisoner of the War Party?

“Ten days ago, President Trump was saying ‘the United States should withdraw from Syria.’ We convinced him it was necessary to stay.” Thus boasted French President Emmanuel Macron Saturday, adding, “We convinced him it was necessary to stay for the long term.” Is the U.S. indeed in the Syrian civil war “for...
READERS WRITE: APR. 19

Solar power not a cure-all for state’s energy needs Regarding “Georgia Power launches new solar partnership with corporations” (AJC.com, April 12), perhaps the author should back up the notion that renewable energy is “cost effective.” Is Google, situated in Atlanta, going to pay less per kilowatt-hour for solar electricity...
More Stories