Campus News Georgia Impact

Gates grant will be used for school improvement project

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement a $370,938 data utilization grant to improve college success. GLISI-a public-private initiative that provides leadership training and capacity building for K-12 school systems throughout the state-is affiliated with the Fanning Institute, a unit of the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach.

As part of the Gates Foundation College Ready Initiative, the grant will support an 18-month project to help high schools use college success data to make improvements in instruction and teacher practices that raise students’ college readiness and completion rates.

“The Gates grant is an incredible opportunity to support 10 district teams to access, utilize and apply post-secondary ­information from the National Student Clearinghouse and other state data reports to improve instruction that leads to increased college readiness and completion for Georgia’s students,” said Gale Hulme, GLISI executive director.

Teams from 10 school districts will learn how to read reports from sources such as the National Student Clearinghouse, interpret what they mean and use the information to influence school improvement and classroom instruction. Each team will include a principal, counselor, teacher, data administrator, district office administrator and a representative from a local university.

Data have been used successfully to improve high school graduation rates and help schools meet annual yearly progress goals. However, meeting those minimal standards is not adequately preparing high school graduates for success in post-secondary education.

Approximately 80 percent of first-year college students drop out prior to earning a degree-an issue this grant seeks to address.

“If we’re going to compete with Korea, China and top industrialized countries, our students need to be successful through college and beyond,” said Mary Anne Charron, senior performance consultant at GLISI and principal investigator. “Now our focus needs to be on P-20 successes.”

In addition to NSC data, participating school districts will learn about and use data from the University System of Georgia, the Technical College System of Georgia and the state’s longitudinal database. These reports are available for every district and high school to show how their graduates fared as college students. GLISI also will create performance-based modules as tools to help other schools mine the data for themselves and will offer a coaching component to help leaders use the data.

Charron, a former high school principal, said that seeing these data will convince high school leadership to invest in making changes to increase college readiness. As with any change, the next step will be to determine how school leadership can cascade their findings into the culture and practice of the school.

GLISI, founded in 2002, has a national reputation for helping education leaders positively impact student achievement and improve organizational effectiveness, ensuring that the workforce is able to meet the needs of 21st century communities.