Who is responsible for our children’s education? Parents? Schools? Most would probably quickly agree that these parties are of paramount importance in insuring the education of future generations. However, what if businesses, faith-based groups, and non-profits were added to that list? What if there was community-wide shared responsibility for education?
Norcross high school is ranked 8th in Georgia. It boasts numerous athletic state championships, and is an International Baccalaureate World School — carrying a rigorous curriculum track that attracts students from other districts across Gwinnett County. However, only 70% of NHS students graduated in 2012.
At first glance, many would be shocked at this reality. How does a school of this undeniable high academic quality produce a graduation rate barely above the state average (69.72% in 2012)? In order to fairly answer that question, it helps go a few layers deeper into school data.
The Norcross cluster served just under 12,000 students in the 2011-2012 school year, of which 25% were classified as English learners and 72% as economically disadvantaged. The state averages for those classifications are 5% and 57%, respectively. This reveals a valuable insight: there are complexities impeding education that are rooted outside of the classroom. Given the external factors in place, Norcross is truly doing a phenomenal job at educating our children.
Demographic trends show that these emerging complexities are only growing in scope. So what is the solution?
You probably guessed it…that old “ it takes a village” cliché; except with a bit of a twist. Granted, the parent and teacher have a bit different role than the town blacksmith, but the blacksmith should still have a great interest in the education of his future clientele.
Because a community is impacted by its schools (e.g., property values, attractiveness to employers, etc), it should take a vested interest in their performance. As evidenced by the Strive Partnership in Cincinnati, OH, cross-sector community investment in education is proven to effect significant change in educational outcomes. They have adopted a philosophy of varied accountability, but a fully shared responsibility.
Breakthrough Communities is GCO’s approach to taking the proverbial bull by the horns in the Norcross school cluster. We believe that by establishing a community-wide common agenda, participating in mutually reinforcing activities, utilizing shared data measures, and implementing continuous improvement, we can see the systems of support changed for our students.
Imagine how student performance could be changed if after school programs, summer day camps, community based mentoring efforts, tutoring initiatives, and teachers were all watching the same numbers, and each one knew exactly how their efforts played an integral role in improving those numbers.
What if, through a collective alignment of efforts, the Norcross High graduation rate increased to 90%? Don’t you think that the benefit of that change would impact more than the additional graduates and their families? The represented cohort of 195 graduates would increase the gross state product by $3.1 million each year and spend an additional $215,000 each year exclusively on purchasing vehicles.
So, next time you read an article or hear a news report that is blasting poor school performance, stop and ask yourself two questions: 1) What is the rest of the story behind the alleged poor performance numbers? 2) How can you be a part of changing the future realities for students?