School District's Commitment to All Students Pays Off

Oct 20, 2010

By Hannah Matthews

Gwinnett County, Georgia Tuesday received the prestigious Broad Prize for Urban Education, the largest education award in the country. The prize rewards urban school districts that show the strongest commitment to student achievement and narrowing the achievement gap. Gwinnett County outperformed similar school districts in Georgia, and narrowed the achievement gap between African-American and white students in reading at all grade levels to among the lowest in the state. The school district also narrowed the achievement gap between Hispanic and white students. 

Gwinnett County's accomplishments are particularly noteworthy because the district experienced significant demographic changes in recent years. The immigrant population in Georgia increased by 233 percent from 1990 to 2000 and an additional 58 percent between 2000 and 2008. In Gwinnett county, more than 1 in 4 young children lives in an immigrant family. 

Gwinnett County has demonstrated innovation and commitment to young people at all levels. In 2005, I visited an elementary school there and sat in a kindergarten transition team meeting. Recognizing the changing demographics of the community, the school was just beginning to look at kindergarten entry as an opportunity to connect with newcomer families. The team included community-based child care and Head Start providers who had not previously been involved with school partners in any formal way. With funding from the SPARK initiative, six elementary schools in the district began holding Kindercamp programs for children entering kindergarten to address school transition. The program included parent workshops, which were available in Spanish and English. 

To sustain and expand the program, Gwinnett set aside district Title I funds to support kindergarten transition work in 25 Title I elementary schools. The funds supported a district Title I specialist to work with school transition teams, including community-based child care partners, and the KinderCamp program for families. The district has demonstrated that our learning systems can provide the tools that all young people need to succeed and effectively engage families in the process. In the earliest years, it  begins with a commitment to recognizing and addressing the unique needs of families, as Gwinnett County did by reaching beyond the school doors and embracing community partners. 

CLASP congratulates Gwinnett on this Broad Prize-and is happy to see a district that has made strategic investments in young children recognized for its accomplishments!

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