Learn4Life report shows slight educational uptick in metro Atlanta

By Maria Saporta

Learn4Life, a novel nonprofit that is focused on improving education outcomes in the five-county metro Atlanta region, released its third annual report Monday morning – one that shows slight progress in several indicators.

The “State of Education in Metro Atlanta” is measuring early grade literacy, 8thgrade math proficiency and high school graduation as the key indicators of the region’s overall performance towards its cradle-to-career vision.

Learn4Life

Cover of 2019 Learn4Life’s “State of Education in Metro Atlanta” (Special: Learn4Life)

The 2019 report also highlights several effective strategies that are having success inimproving childhood literacy and post-secondary success. In total, Learn4Life has identified six community-wide indicators as the keys to achieving a cradle-to-career vision of success for every child.

Learn4Life, founded in 2016, is a collaborative effort sponsored by four regional organizations: the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the Atlanta Regional Commission, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and United Way of Greater Atlanta. It incorporates the eight school districts in the region’s core five counties.

Learn4Life also encompasses a total of 400 individuals and partners working in the various focus areas.

The report identifies several scaling success stories frome the past year: more children are able to improve their reading skills through access to free vision tests and glasses; more teachers are gaining access to cutting-edge literacy training; more books are incorporated into pediatric care to encourage families to read and learn together; and additional high school students are receiving the support they need to navigate the challenges of applying for and preparing for post-secondary success.

A key indicator is kindergarten readiness. In 2017, only 22 percent of the families seeking high quality early childhood education in the Atlanta region were able to find places for their children. In 2018, that had jumped to 25 percent.

But Ken Zeff, executive director of Learn4Life, put it a different way. In 2018, about 246,000 people were looking for high quality early learning, but the supply of quality-rated early learning programs and school-based Pre-K only had 61,243 spaces.

“We are closing the gap a little, but there’s still a shocking gap of unmet demand,” said Zeff, who added that Learn4Life works with organizations, such as GEEARS to increase supply and improve the quality of early learning.

It is a similar story among all the key indicators.

Learn4Life

Learn4Life’s executive committee: Milton Little, Ann Cramer, Alicia Philipp, Ken Zeff and Doug Hooker in December 2016 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“We continue to be energized by the support for collective action in metro Atlanta,” said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.  “Our business, philanthropic and educational leadersremain eager to work together to lift upsolutions to improve education for all of our students. By leveraging the talents and resources across metro Atlanta, Learn4Life has identified proven solutions that we can scale for the benefit of student throughout the region.”

The Metro Atlanta Chamber is hosting a breakfast meeting Monday morning to unveil the report. Learn4Life also was having a panel discussion to discuss the state of education in the region. The panel was to include Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, as well as Morcease Beasley, superintendent of  Clayton County Public Schools; Stephen Green, superintendent of DeKalb County School District; and Grant Rivera, superintendent of Marietta City Schools.

Learn4Life has been working with dozens of regional leadersto identify and elevate “bright spots” of success that it can scale throughout metro Atlanta, Zeff said.

In this past year, Learn4Life identified and has worked to scale three proven solutions to help address some of the underlying factors of our region’s post-secondary completion rate challenges.

  • College Advising Corp: places well-trained, recent college graduates from our partner universities as full-time college advisers into high school counseling offices.
  • One Goal: equips teachers with curriculum, coaching and technology to guide a cohort of students through a daily, credit-bearing class to help navigate post-secondary education.
  • The Scholarship Academy: a comprehensive scholarship preparatory program that teaches low-income, first-generation college students how to navigate the maze of financial aid in order to fund their college education.

Zeff said the 2019 report serves as a call to action for the region to come together to support strategies that have been proven to address the root causesof academic underperformance.

“Learn4Life’s first two years were marked by collaboration and action,” Zeff said. “We now have identified more than a half-dozen proven strategies that hold the promise to move our region forward.”

Learn4Life

Indicators used by Learn4Life (Special: Learn4Life)

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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