Narrowing the Achievement Gap in Education
With more than 96,000 students, Fulton County Schools is Georgia’s largest charter system and has been named by Money magazine as “One of the Top 100 School Districts in Places You Can Afford.” It has long been recognized as an exemplary school system, representative of an model community. My personal mission is to make sure that every youth in Fulton County performs to his or her highest potential and has access to all opportunities that sound education can provide – outcomes that should exist whether a child is taught in north or south Fulton County Schools.
I have applauded the efforts of outgoing Fulton County School Superintendent Robert Avossa in addressing dropout rates for the district, and particularly those of young people in South Fulton. From 2011 to 2013, graduation rates among African American students improved by more than five percent overall and nearly eight percent among African American males in particular.
Further, Langston Hughes and Westlake high schools, both in South Fulton, posted significant double-digit gains in this category over the same period. Dr. Avossa told me this happened because the school system made narrowing the achievement gap between black and white students a stated priority and focused on academic intervention and coaching to make it a reality. It is my hope that the new permanent school chief continues this fine work.
The old African proverb states that it takes a village to raise a child. While some dismiss this as a cliché, like so many clichés, it is rooted in a fundamental truth. In order for county achievement gaps continue to improve, we need the input of community stakeholders, from parents to business leaders back to the educators charged with this important task. Our future and that of our children depends on it. After multiple visits to examine conditions at the Fulton County Jail, I quickly learned the overwhelming majority of prisoners housed share one commonality: more than 80 percent of them dropped out of school. If ever there was a journey to success, perhaps this is future proof that education is the proverbial first step on that trek. Whether the eventual destination is a position requiring a college degree or work in the trades following vocational training, neither goal is possible without first completing a high school course of study.
John Henry Eaves is Chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and a long-standing education advocate. He is also the proud parent of a daughter currently enrolled in the Fulton County School System. Please share your comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook (Facebook.com/JohnHenryEaves) and Twitter @JohnEaves.