By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on July 27, 2018
Junior Achievement USA is launching a new national organization based out of Atlanta called 3DE that will help transform high school education around the country.
The new 3DE is an outgrowth of an initiative that JA of Georgia launched in 2015 at Banneker High School in south Fulton County known as JA Academy. At the time of the launch, Banneker was the worst performing high school in Fulton County.
“Now Banneker is one of the fastest improving schools in the county,” said Jack Harris, president and CEO of JA of Georgia. “Graduation rates are up 30 points since we started at Banneker. The Academy coming in was a catalyst for broader change across the whole school.”
Starting this year, there will now be six JA Academies in metro Atlanta – two in Fulton County, two in Gwinnett County and one in Atlanta Public Schools and another in Cobb County Public Schools. They all will be rebranded 3DE in August with the start of the new school year.
Harris said 3DE is the second phase of a pilot program to study how to grow the “school within a school” concept on a national scale.
Junior Achievement is kicking off a $55 million campaign to fund the second phase, which will expand 3DE to a total of 55 high schools in the country over five years. Nearly half of those schools will be located in Georgia with about 20 in metro Atlanta.
Harris, 42, has been named president and CEO of 3DE. He will continue to serve as CEO of JA of Georgia (a role he has had for a decade) for one more year. Then in July 2019, Harris will become CEO of 3DE fulltime.
Meanwhile, JA of Georgia’s executive committee has named John Hancock as its new president and chief operating officer beginning in September. Hancock currently is president of JA of Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Both Harris and Hancock will work in tandem during the transition and continue the close relationship between 3DE and JA of Georgia – creating a co-management model of the 3DE schools in Georgia.
“John is a terrific leader,” said Harris, who has known Hancock for about 15 years. “John has been instrumental in shaping the trajectory of JA, and I cannot think of a better partner and leader to build on the compelling momentum we’ve established here in Atlanta.”
Harris said the goal will be to raise between $15 million and $20 million for 3DE by the end of the year. On June 20, Delta Air Lines Inc. CEO Ed Bastian announced – to JA’s surprise – a $2 million gift to help launch the national 3DE initiative.
The name 3DE partly reflects JA’s three-dimensional approach to education.
But Harris said the name more importantly reflects the three-way partnership between Junior Achievement, public school districts and the business community.
“The joint venture structure with the school district provides a model that is very cost effective,” Harris said.
The 3DE model creates a school within a school, usually in a separated wing in a high school. The program has six dedicated teachers per grade level teaching from a specially-designed curriculum. Those teachers are employees of the school district.
Junior Achievement (now 3DE) also has two professionals at each school, one to work with the school administration to select and train the teachers, and the other to work on partnerships with the business community.
A 3DE school starts with 150 students in 9th grade (students that mirror the overall student body), and a new class is added each year. After four years, a 3DE school would have 600 students, 24 dedicated teachers and two professionals on the JA/3DE payroll.
After a 3DE is built out in a school, the program is expected to cost about $250,000 in private investment per school each year. That translates into an investment of less than $450 per student per year.
As of last year, the initiative in metro Atlanta had 750 students. Banneker will be the first school with a 3DE graduating class next spring.
The program’s early success of making a substantial difference in Banneker’s academic outcomes led JA to begin replicating the model in several other schools in metro Atlanta. The continued success in those schools led Junior Achievement USA to launch 3DE and the pilot’s second phase that will take it nationally.
By 2024, the plan will be to have a total of 26 schools in Georgia and 29 in seven states across the country – Florida, Texas, California, Washington, D.C., as well as schools in the Northeast and the Midwest.
“At the end of this five-year pilot we would be up over 20,000 students,” said Harris, adding that they are laying the ground work to open a new school in South Florida and one in Savannah, Ga., by the beginning of the 2019/2020 school year.
The goal is to use the expanded pilot as a way to study the model among diverse school systems and be able to tweak the curriculum and the 3DE playbook so it could be easily replicated across the country. Harris said the expanded pilot needs to live up to the educational integrity of the 3DE model and prove that it is scalable.
“We have two broad goals – creating greater opportunities for economic mobility for the students we are serving,” Harris said. “At the same time, we want to design a model inside educational systems that can create systemic change and be highly scalable.”
Harris is not thinking small. He believes the 3DE model has great potential to improve high school education throughout the country.
“If this model went into one out of every 10 high schools in the country – 2,500 schools – it would reach roughly 1.5 million students annually,” Harris said. “The Atlanta business community and the school districts have been incredible partners already. I couldn’t think of a better city than Atlanta – because of its engaged business community – to launch something like this.”