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Building Civic Capacity to Support Public Education

Insights and information on the schools in your community.

As your Gwinnett County Public Schools District III School Board member, it is my privilege to communicate with you through this opinion column in the Peachtree Corners-Berkeley Lake Patch. 

The Gwinnett County Public School System’s goal is to be a good neighbor for Gwinnett and to share best practices about teaching and learning and community development with those who can benefit. 

I am grateful for the support of those community members who are parents with children in our public schools as well as those with no children in our schools for helping us create and sustain the best urban public school system in the nation

I am also grateful to our community for working to build the civic capacity to support public education.

In 2010, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation awarded the Broad Prize for Education to Gwinnett County Public Schools and provided $1 million in scholarships for over fifty students in the GCPS Class of 2011.

What did it take for GCPS to earn the distinction of Best Urban School System in the Nation?

Among the first requirements is a community that supports an excellent public education for all students.  Ours is a blessed community, one that takes pride in students’ academic achievement, athletic accomplishments, and career and college readiness.

The second requirement is sound business operations of the GCPS $1.6 billion budget.  To continue to earn community trust, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks and our School Board provide several measures of transparency.  These include monthly reviews of budget expenditures; quarterly reports about key areas of school operations; and annual audits including the disbursement of SPLOST funds and the GCPS Retirement system,  

A measure of the soundness of the school system’s operations is the AAA Bond Rating that Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s have awarded to GCPS—one of only four in the nation—of 15,000 school systems—to receive a AAA rating from both S&P’s and Moody’s.

A third requirement is an excellent curriculum that meets the standards set by the community.  For more than 15 years, GCPS has collaborated with parents, business, community, academic, and volunteer leaders to develop and continually refine the system’s curriculum. 

Known as the Academic Knowledge and Skills curriculum, content of the AKS k-12 program of studies is reviewed, updated, and revised by members of the GEMS Oversight Committee.  Through the AKS curriculum, we have produced students who lead Georgia and the nation in SAT and ACT scores, college scholarships, and career success.

A fourth requirement is having reliable and valid measures to report to our community of student academic performance as well as measures of the principal’s and teacher’s role in student academic achievement.  In concert with our community, the school system pioneered development of local school plans for improvement (LSPI), results based evaluation systems (RBES), as well as Local School Advisory Committees (LSAC).  Having these components in place played a major role in the Broad Foundation’s ability to compare GCPS with the other ninety-nine school system in competition for the 2010 Broad Prize.

Perhaps most important is the fifth component—an outstanding principal and teacher force that delivers the AKS curriculum to students.  School systems and communities from across the nation come to Gwinnett County to study our community and to observe our principals and teachers as they demonstrate best practices in teaching and learning. 

According to Eli Broad, sharing best practices is what school reform by building civic capacity is all about. 

When he announced GCPS as the winner of the 2010 Broad Prize in Education, Eli Broad said, “The challenge I direct to Gwinnett County is to share what you have learned with others who can benefit.” 

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