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

Politicians’ portrayal of teachers shifts with … politics
Politicians’ portrayal of teachers shifts with … politics

In most political debates about education, teachers are excoriated as selfish or exalted as selfless. Either they care only about the money or care nothing about it. Those archetypes emerged in the recent red state revolts in Kentucky, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Arizona in which teachers marched out of schools and into statehouses to demand change...
Spanking still allowed in Georgia, U.S. schools
Spanking still allowed in Georgia, U.S. schools

To spank or not to spank: That debate is once again in the headlines. The Tennessee Legislature on April 17 passed a bill that bans the spanking of disabled children at public schools. If signed into law, the measure would bar school officials from using corporal punishment on kids with disabilities, unless their parents give written approval...
Raising black student enrollment at UGA still a challenge
Raising black student enrollment at UGA still a challenge

Amalie Rosales asked a group of African-American students at a University of Georgia reception in Atlanta a question that reflecting concerns about what she will face as an incoming minority student. “How do you view diversity on campus?,” asked Rosales, 18, a senior at Sandy Creek High School in Fayette County. Freshman Caleb Kelly, a...
Participants fewer, passion same in new metro Atlanta student protests
Participants fewer, passion same in new metro Atlanta student protests

A handful of schools across metro Atlanta participated in National Walkout events Friday, with activities and messages that varied in shape, scale and focus, on topics from gun control to police brutality. The events were held Friday to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, when two students opened fire inside their Littleton...
State report finds accounting errors by Georgia Piedmont Technical College staff
State report finds accounting errors by Georgia Piedmont Technical College staff

Georgia Piedmont Technical College officials have made several errors in processing student aid, according to a state report released Friday. The report by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts comes as federal education officials and the Technical College System of Georgia conduct a wide-ranging review of the metro Atlanta college’s...
More Stories