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Guardians of Atlanta’s Future Thought Leadership

Focusing on the future requires learning from the past

By Ken Zeff, Ed.D., Executive Director, Learn4Life

We all share a lengthy list of grievances against the past year, especially its impact on our children. Articulating these challenges can be overwhelming, but now is not the time to give up on hope, but rather to be energized by the bright spots of success that exist throughout our region.  

Before 2020, education outcomes in Metro Atlanta had been improving in the key indicators in the cradle to career pipeline. Substantial inequities for students of color still existed at unacceptable levels; however, as a region we were making progress in several key indicators, including third grade reading and eighth grade math proficiency. That progress was real and did not happen by chance. Educators and parents, working alongside nonprofits, philanthropy, and business were coming together to support public education.  

Part of looking forward is taking some time to understand the past. At Learn4Life, we bring cross-functional leaders together, in the presence of data, to find what has been working and develop plans to scale those interventions to more students. We analyze the achievement data of all schools in the region to identify schools that are outperforming expectations. We then dig into those schools’ strategies, send teams of visitors to understand their successes, and identify interventions we can scale.

And there are plenty of bright spots in our region. We have seen improvements in literacy outcomes when teachers receive professional development on proven instructional strategies. Middle school math proficiency accelerates when students have STEM-integrated, project-based experiences. That critical leap from high school to postsecondary is more manageable when there is support to navigate the complexities of preparing for and applying to the right postsecondary program, especially for first-generation college students. All of these obstacles are real, but fortunately, there are notable successes for each of these challenges that are detailed annually in L4L’s State of Education report.

We are encouraged that educational solutions can be found when we learn from each other. Thank you to the many leaders and learning partners, in every corner of our region, who have joined this collective effort to build a more equitable and prosperous community for all students in metro Atlanta.

 

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