Ray Charles famously crooned, “Oh Georgia, the road leads back to you,” for the Georgia Team at ERS, that meant a multi-day trek to share our school-level resource use findings and a principal training session in Fulton County. The trip was full of stimulating dialogue, impressively engaged partners, and, of course, a few wrong turns on a bleary-eyed, midnight run to Kinko's. Most importantly—and driving mishaps aside—we discovered that, while at different stages of implementation, all partner districts are committed to thinking more deliberately and strategically about school-level resource use and are willing to make the tradeoffs needed to focus their resources on their high priority areas.
Stephen Frank, Joe Trawick-Smith and I kicked off the trip with a visit to Marietta City Schools. Marietta was enthused by the project and demonstrated progress already made toward strategically designing their course schedule to meet district priorities. Prompted by our findings and led by the fearless and dynamic Superintendent Lembeck, Marietta is critically rethinking how to leverage their existing planning time to promote greater teacher collaboration as well as how to adjust their master schedule to provide more core academic time for struggling students, particularly in ELA and math.
On day two, the dynamic duo of Rob Daigneau and Don Hovey drove north to Hall County. Hall was enthusiastic about ERS findings and particularly open to exploring alternative classroom models, such as distance or virtual learning. After sampling the local flavor (e.g., fried gator) we shared our findings with Treutlen and Vidalia, which are much smaller districts than we typically partner with. While our across-school equity metrics in the previous session were designed for larger districts (Treutlen is a one school district), our findings on school-level resource use appeared to resonate and generated a great deal of positive energy and enthusiasm among leaders of both districts. For instance, after an engaging round of Resource Opportunity cards, a pilot-stage, district-specific resource trade-off game, built off of ERS' School Budget Hold’em, Treutlen’s Superintendent Ellington talked enthusiastically about the need to provide additional time in low-performance, core subjects and the possibility of dual-certifying teachers to maximize human capital; he now has plans to play with his board. Vidalia, meanwhile, was excited enough about our findings to invite us back to share what we found with their board.
On the final day, the team, now joined by Funmi Haastrup and Lois Rho, regrouped in Fulton County for the principal training session. This session, attended by roughly 40 principals, allowed time for the principals to collaborate with each other on strategies for their specific schools, with facilitation from the ERS team. The room was abuzz with shared ideas as leaders came together and leveraged their expertise. While these challenges are certainly not resolved in a one-day training, we're confident that the discussions boosted strategic thinking, paved the way for greater principal collaboration, and highlighted potential district- and state-level challenges to be discussed at the upcoming GADOE/cohort meeting.
We left energized by the enthusiasm of our partners and the knowledge that our SLRU findings will result in concrete strategies for resource realignment and our principal training session will bring school, system, and state leaders another step closer collaboration. Thus, the Georgia team eagerly awaits its next trip to Georgia, and traveling together on its road to transformation.
Education Resource Strategies is currently in a two-year partnership with the Georgia DOE. This is the first state-level partnership and includes a five-district analysis, as well as state-level analysis and a policy review.