Hall County and Gainesville school systems are part of 11 districts statewide to be selected for the Georgia Road to College grant, $2.6 million distributed through the College Board from the Goizueta Foundation of Atlanta.
The primary purpose behind the funding is to increase student participation and success in college-level courses, then encourage students to attend and complete some form of post-secondary education. In fact, many students can receive college credit for Advanced Placement coursework, depending on their score on the final AP exam.
The training of select teachers and administrators in middle and high schools is supposed to have the teachers work hand-in-hand so there is a natural progression in education as a student passes through grade levels.
“We know that we can’t plop a junior in high school down in this most rigorous course and expect them to be successful unless we have carefully prepared them along the way,” said Sally Krisel, director of innovative and advanced programs with Hall County schools.
Krisel calls the collaboration between teachers and administrators at different grade levels “vertical teaming.”
Both school systems will have several administrators and teachers begin training over the summer.
Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction with the Gainesville school system, said teachers involved with the program are partnering with Buford City schools for training. Workshop topics include “Setting the Cornerstones,” “Effective Thinking Strategies” and “Reflection and Action Planning.”
The training is conducted through the College Board.
“(The grant) doesn’t just impact AP classes,” he explained. “They’re working on creating the pipeline for those classes.”
The Goizueta Foundation was developed to help Hispanic students in doing well in school, and moving on to postsecondary education. While the grant money comes from the foundation, and went to school districts with a high level of Hispanic students, both Moore and Krisel said that all students benefit.
“It is an important goal for all of us to have all of our students prepared to achieve at whatever is this highest level that they aspire to,” Krisel said.
“The foundation itself is set up to try to increase that pipeline of (Hispanic) students. And they know that by doing that, and choosing schools that have higher Hispanic populations, that more Hispanic students will end up in AP coursework, and have more opportunities for college,” Moore said. “Nonetheless, the grant itself doesn’t target any group. It ends up impacting all students.”
Both Krisel and Moore pointed out that typically all students benefit from any particular program, whether or not it is aimed at a certain group.
“For the most part, in the partnerships we have, we’re trying to meet the needs of the full range of demographics,” Moore said.
In Gainesville City schools, there are just more than 4,000 Hispanic students, 56 percent of the total student population. In 2013, there were 31 students identifying as Hispanic out of the 227 taking AP exams.
For Hall County, 38 percent of its total student population is Hispanic. Numbers were not available on how many students took AP classes. There are approximately 27,000 students in Hall schools, Krisel said.
The grant, administered by the College Board, will cover three years of training stipends. It’s part of the Georgia Road to College initiative, which was developed to encourage student participation in AP courses, thus increasing college readiness, “particularly in districts serving large or rapidly growing Latino student populations,” according to a College Board press release.
Along with Hall and Gainesville schools, the grant covers Atlanta, Buford, Cherokee, Cobb, Dalton, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett and Valdosta school districts.