2019 Annual Report
Georgia Foundation for Public Education Board of Directors – 2019 Ann W. Cramer, Board Chair Walter Helms, Board Vice Chair Debbie Burdette Al Hodge Otis Johnson Davis Knox Robert “Buzz” Law Kenneth Mason
Fulton County Cobb County Troup County Floyd County Chatham County Clarke County Fulton County Fulton County
Expenses & Investments Administrative Expenses Grants
$44,349 11% $372,937 89%
GFPE Donors The Georgia Foundation for Public Education (GFPE) thanks all those who invested in Georgia’s public-school students through a donation to GFPE in 2019. $4,000 - $9,999 Walter Helms Georgia Power Professional Association of Georgia Educators Prosper Kpentey $1,000 - $3,999 America’s Charities Elise Berman Pamela Buzbee Fernbank Science Center The Dot and Lam Hardman Family Foundation, Inc. Matt Jones Robert Law McMunn Family Foundation Putnam County Middle School Union Grove High School $50 - $999 John Ables Neva Acevedo Tehsin Akram Lacey Andrews Amy Alderman Alphaskills Inc.
Kathy Aspy Atlanta Partnership of Business Education Inc. Diana Baird Adele Baker Marlin Baker Ken Banter Michele Barnwell Geronald Bell Rebecca Blanton Marian Bone Jessica Booth John Bowen Barry Brazelton Nancy Brim Amanda Buice Sandra Burnham Brian Butera Miriam Caldwell Sharon Camp Debbie H. Caputo Matt Cardoza Randolph Cardoza Kevin Carroll
Patricia Chandonia Sandra DeMuth Chattahoochee-Flint Superintendent Association Jason Clay Jeannette Clawson Caitlan Cole Danielle Coley Lee Anne Cowart Ann W. Cramer Leigh Ann Cross Lisa Day Lisa Darden Georgia DECA Suzanne D’Itri Anisha Donald Caitlin McMunn Dooley Gail Dowis Lindsay Dunn B.R. Durbin Tamara Echard Karen Egner Desiré Edmond Louis Erste
Ellen Etheridge Evans High School Kelley Farmer Nadine Fincher Peri Fletcher Forsyth County BOE West Forsyth High Donna Fuller Debbie Gaillard Thomas Gaines Kalpana Garigapally Cassandra Gaul Cindy Gibson Audrey Goode Adria Griffin Stephanie Hall Cindy Ham Harlem High Kelli Harris-Wright Savannah Harvin Mike Hatfill Derrick Hershey Andrea Hodge Paige Holland
Georgia Foundation for Public Education ■ 2019 Annual Report
$50 - $999 (Continued) Sheryl Hughes Peggy Jackson Otis Johnson Susan Johnson Ellza Jones Jamie Joyner Clara Keith Laura Kell Davis Knox Linda Korb Alicia LaFontaine Sherry Lester Bettina Linden Laura Little Amy E. London Donald Love Gary Loventhal Cory Maddox Ellen Manuel Mae Martin Kenneth Mason Lewis Massey Garry McGiboney Therese McGuire Janice Mendence Tracy Merriman Allan Meyer Middle Georgia RESA Debara Montgomery Julie Morrill Jeannie Morris Frank Mullins James and Kelley North Sabine Oneill Angela Palm Parkway Elementary Mahesh Pawar Kathy Peavy Lynn Pennington Cynthia Pitts Cynthia Popp Tammy Poteet Paula Poulicek Deborah Pound Dorcas Powell Martha Powers-Jones Geraldine Price Putnam County Elementary School Putnam County Primary School Helen Rice Nancy & David Rice Steven Roache Michael Royal Debra Sampler Camey Sanchez Susan Sanders Stephanie Sanders Melany Kate Sas Cindy Saxon Pat Schofill 4
Carol Seay Jordan Sewell Kikuyo Silvestar Charlotte Smith Perry Smith John Snipes Southern A&E LLC Manley Spangler Smith Architects Angela Spagnuolo Stevens & Wilkinson GA, Inc. Teresa Stevenson Suzette Stewart Theresa Stowe Deshonda Stringer Karen Suddeth Pamela Thompson Allison Timberlake Sandra Tinsley Anna Trude Sharquinta Tuggle Julie Turner Premkumar Venkatasamy Seth and Cathy Vining Tamara Wade Cheryl Walburn Linda Walker Denise Weir Lyn and Gary Wenzel Gyimah Whitaker Corbin Williams Gerald Williams Kathy Williams Larry Winter JoAnn Wood Richard Woods Tomecka Woody Brandy Woolridge Yargo Elementary School Kristin Yetter Up to $49 Juan-Carlos Aguilar Travis Allen Carly Ambler Carlette Ansley Amy Atkinson Susan Barrow Petrina Baxter Shekina Beckham Ellen Bennett Michelle Brown Nykia Burke Angie Caldwell Julia Laurie Cartrett Andrea Catalano Saikumar Chamarthi Linda Chapman Shelia Clackum Vickie Cleveland Cyndee Covert Shirley Crosby
Viola Darrington Jayesh Dave Anne Davis Constance Derrick Amarnath Devarasetty Erin Dilcher Michael Dowling Jaquenetta Dugger Mary Eddleman Kim Flakes Tami Flowers Jurita Forehand-Mays Lori Fugere Lauren Gallagher Teresa Gaspierik Craig Geers Amanda Gibson Maura Goggins Mark Gordon Sandra Greene Lynn Hamblett Ann L. Hamner Regina Haney Lisa Hardman Kevin Harris Julie Harrison Corrina Harvey Dawna Hatcher Joy Hatcher Claudette Hillman Shernita Howard Symantha Jefferson Michele Jones Karma Jordan SYam JYothula Holly Kaas Yung-Hee Kim Della Kilpatrick Angela Kirtland Charles Koppelman Anne Ladd Mourya Lanka Carl LaPan Elizabeth Lewis Draffen Cara Lindsey Frank Lock Angela Lowe Richard Malerba Liss Maynard Robert McLeod Alicia Mercer Angela Middleton Kellye Mills Whittney Mitchell Adele Moore Betty Moss Susan Nelson Jeannie Newman Rachel Nobles Yolanda Norman August Ogletree
Keith Osburn Courtney Perrin Denise Peterson Eva Porter Dana Preston Suzanne Prochaska Robin Pullen Paige Pushkin Charles Queen Mary Ramsaier Mary Ream Mary Rees Melissa Reid Charity Roberts Amy Rowell Catherine Sargent Ajay Sharma Naveen Sharma Christopher Shealy Leslie Shearstone Betty Shirley Brent Shropshire Kaye Sikes Martha Smith Stephanie Smith Donna Standridge Jeanne Starr Ellen Steinberg Felicia Stephens Virginia Stroik Crista Stubbs Stacey Suber-Drake Paula Swartzberg Bob Swiggum Brunilda Taveras Bangarraju Thilam Tammy Thomas Debra Thornton Venkata Satya Sai Sarma Tipparaju Keisla Tisdel Tina Tolen-Harbert Kelley Toon Raghuram Valusani Susan Vania Leslie Waldon Jan Walker Nancy Walker Haifeng Wang Janet Watford Gail Webster Dana Weinstein Meghan Welch Nikki Welch Robert Wheeler David Wiggins Shante Williams April Woodfin John Wright Karen Wyler Michelle Zupan
A New Strategic Plan: GFPE’s Vision for the Future The Georgia Foundation for Public Education Board adopted a new strategic plan beginning in 2020. Our priority outcomes are: • • • •
Equitable opportunities for children in every community Students prepared for local workforce opportunities Students mastering grade-level literacy and numeracy Safe and healthy students
We plan to accomplish this through three Strategic Themes: 1. Identity and Engagement 2. Resource Development 3. Organizational Excellence Our guarantee is our mission: The Georgia Foundation for Public Education exists for the single purpose of supporting educational excellence for students in Georgia.
Did you know your purchase of a Georgia Educator or Support Education license tag directly supports public-school classrooms through the Georgia Foundation for Public Education? We are able to give funds to programs like Georgia Teacher of the Year, the Rural Education Fund, Dual Language Immersion mini-grants, and much more thanks to the purchase of these tags. Please consider supporting K-12 public school students statewide by purchasing a tag for your vehicle!
Georgia Foundation for Public Education ■ 2019 Annual Report
Your Impact – 2019
in Rural Education Fund grants, supporting everything from districtwide PBIS to afterschool STEM clubs – the school districts of Banks, Brooks, Echols, Grady, Lumpkin, Meriwether, Pulaski, Randolph, Tattnall, Upson, and Wayne received grants
for backpacks and back-to-school supplies in Atlanta Public Schools,
Lowndes County Schools
students received a copy of the Constitution and other U.S. founding documents thanks to a $14,000 gift from GFPE
Chattahoochee County Schools, and
to support professional development for K-12 public-school leaders through the Georgia Education Leadership Institute
school districts affected by Hurricane Michael received $1,000 grants to address student and community needs – the school districts in Baker, Crisp, Decatur, Dougherty, Early, Grady, Lee, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas, and Worth counties, and in Pelham and Thomasville, received funding.
elementary schools received grants to support their Dual Language Immersion programs
district Teachers of the Year supported with a $50,000 gift to the Georgia Teacher of the Year recognition and professional development program
Economic Development Partnership districts
– Marietta City Schools, Muscogee County Schools, Newton County Schools, Wayne County Schools, and Whitfield County Schools – received $5,000 grants to support their efforts to promote improved relationships between school districts and business/industry
to our three State Schools: Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, Georgia Academy for the Blind, and Georgia School for the Deaf.
grants to high schools implementing YouScience, an innovative career interest and aptitude test
summer literacy grants awarded to schools in Dade, Coweta, Crawford, Brantley, Richmond, and Cobb counties to support summer reading programs
GEORGIA TEACHER OF THE YEAR
Celebrating & Uplifting Georgia’s Best Teachers
Guest Column by Tracey Nance Pendley, 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year
he Georgia Teacher of the Year program, along with the many opportunities it offers, has been a blessing in my life and the lives of countless others. The program inspires collaboration and leadership for more than 114,000 teachers across 181 school districts. Georgia Teacher of the Year moves districts and schools across the state to celebrate and uplift their most impactful educators, giving much-needed recognition to educators who deserve endless shine, but who rarely receive it. Over the last year, I have learned how critical this program – supported by the Georgia Foundation for Public Education (GFPE) – is in identifying, celebrating, and amplifying the impact of the state’s brightest educators. In April 2018, I was so honored to be recognized as my school’s Teacher of the Year that advancing to district and state TOTY was not even on my radar. I was just grateful my colleagues and administrators saw the work I was putting in each day with my mentees, students, parents, and peers.
how amazing teaching is, but the rest of the world seems to shudder when we answer the question, “So, what do you do for a living?” Georgia TOTY helps us promote and celebrate public education in Georgia. Since being named TOTY, my story and instructional practices have been highlighted in online publications, newspapers, and magazines; I’ve given keynote speeches to audiences as large as 1,600 people, been interviewed on camera, led teacher orientation workshops, and visited college education programs. I’ve held an impromptu Q&A with 41 state Chief Information Officers, and even flown an F-16 fighter jet with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds! Thanks to the Georgia TOTY Program and GFPE, teaching in Georgia is getting some excellent publicity and we’re helping recruit the next generation of amazing teachers. Ultimately, I’ve discovered that the greatest reward isn’t a glass trophy or title – it’s the connections I’ve made with teachers and public education stakeholders, and the learning opportunities those encounters have fostered.
Later, I was fortunate enough to advance to the next round and be named my district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year and then the Atlanta Public Schools’ Teacher of My ultimate goal is always student equity the Year. All of a sudden, there were more Tracey Nance Pendley and uplifting teachers’ impact, and Georgia people looking in my door, asking me to TOTY has allowed me to shout that collaborate on districtwide videos, lesson-planning, and message from the rooftops. Whether at the school, district, teaching coaching. Simply identifying me as Teacher of the Year or state level, a Teacher of the Year’s journey does not stop was already expanding my impact across my school building with recognition. It’s a promise to uplift the profession and and district. to represent teachers and students well by being an example of teamwork, rigor, and high expectations for your students The Georgia TOTY program showers educators with and yourself. celebration, and I cannot overemphasize the significance of that. The culminating Teacher of the Year Banquet is a sight I cannot thank the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to see! Just picture exhilarated teachers in their nicest attire, and the Department of Education’s Excellence Recognition joined by their proud partners and children. I MEAN – when Coordinator, Ms. Keisha Ford-Jenrette, enough for the do teachers get to dress up?! It’s an evening I’ll never forget, investment they have made in me and in teachers across and the other district winners will tell you the same. Being the state. This program does not impact just one teacher. honored at an evening designed just for you is sincerely It inspires thousands across the state, and helps to share inspiring. It motivates educators to continue the hard work of best teaching practices so all students receive an excellent, teaching and to share its joys far and wide. equitable education. The latter is important because – it’s no secret – our profession has a significant public relations problem. We all know the statistics about teacher retention and recruitment. We know
Thank you for giving me a voice to share with thousands of people across the state just how powerful our profession is, and just how important our students and teachers are.
Georgia Foundation for Public Education ■ 2019 Annual Report
Tatnall County Photo
RURAL EDUCATION FUND
A GLIMPSE OF THE WORLD -
- AT SOUTH TATTNALL MIDDLE SCHOOL Glennville, Ga.
n a November morning at South Tattnall Middle School, students in orangeand-white headsets wandered through the school’s multi-purpose room – a bright, well-outfitted space with flexible seating and walls painted bright green. Just beyond those walls, early morning mist was lifting off the cotton fields and pecan groves of Glennville, Georgia. But the students were somewhere else. The students’ unusual orange headgear was, in fact, a set of virtual reality headsets, purchased by leaders at South Tattnall with the help of a Rural Education Fund grant from the Georgia Foundation for Public Education.
That day, as part of a lesson that blended social studies, English Language Arts, and the beloved musical Hamilton, students had one foot in Tattnall County and one in the hustle and crush of New York City. The headsets gave them a 360-degree view of the city, from the 9/11 Memorial to the Brooklyn Bridge. Yellow cabs rushed by, lights flickered in Times Square, and tourists and locals alike wandered through Washington Square Park. This virtual field trip set the tone for a wide-ranging lesson that required students to conduct a short research project to answer a question and draw on background knowledge to make inferences of text. School leaders wrote the grant that helped South Tattnall purchase the VR headsets in the hopes of improving literacy attainment. Many of their students have never left Glennville; they wanted to give them the background knowledge and reference points that are foundational for reading comprehension. “In order for children to comprehend and understand what they’re reading, they have to tie it to prior knowledge,” said Theresa Thompson, a Georgia Teacher of the Year finalist who wears a stack of hats at the school – engineering and design teacher, Multi-tiered System of Supports coordinator, gifted coordinator. “Many times, children recall words, but if a vocabulary word comes and they have nothing to tie it to, you have to stop and make those connections for them. The VR headsets allow us to activate prior knowledge, which then deepens their comprehension.” ■ Tattnall is a rural county in southeast Georgia; as of the 2010 Census, it was home Georgia Foundation for Public Education ■ 2019 Annual Report
to about 25,000 people. Major industries include agriculture – Tattnall is one of the 13 Georgia counties that produce true Vidalia onions, which are trademarked based on a limited production area – and three state prisons run by the Georgia Department of Corrections.
“It’s given them that prior knowledge to build upon,” said Candice Altman, the 8th grade language arts teacher and ELA academic coach who led the recent Hamilton lesson.
As of 2017, 23.7 percent of Tattnall County residents lived below the poverty line. At every school in Tattnall County, more than 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch.
When leaders at South Tattnall applied for the GFPE Rural Education Fund grant, they set a goal that their students’ gradelevel reading status – measured by the Georgia Milestones assessment – would increase by 10 percentage points in a year. When the results came in this April, they’d done that and then some; the percentage of students reading on grade level was up 12.6 percentage points, rising from 54.7 to 67.3 percent.
The virtual reality headsets at South Tattnall give students a sense of the possibilities a good education provides; a look at what might be beyond the doors their schooling can open. “We work hard to make sure we show them that you have opportunities, you have options, and we can help you get there,” Thompson said. “If I can’t personally help you, I’m going to find someone who can. I’m going to set you on that pathway.” Teachers have used the headsets to broaden and flesh out content for their students. In a recent unit, students were learning about bridges; they got to “visit” bridges in different parts of the world, in different kinds of weather. Seeing the settings of their studies up close has often made a subject “click” for students, teachers said.
The VR project is part of a larger strategy that has moved the needle on literacy at South Tattnall, one that includes close collaboration between grade-level teams to embed writing in all classes, meaningful technology integration, efforts to ensure students have access to books at home, and empowering students to select their own exploratory courses. Taken together, those efforts have transformed student engagement -- including for students who’ve typically been hesitant or shy, not the type to raise a hand in class or volunteer to take the lead. “When the kids who have been in the shadows – when they’re the ones who start to shine? That’s what’s really, really interesting to see,” said Tori Flowers, who, like Thompson, wears multiple hats – this year, she’s the STEM coordinator and agricultural education teacher. South Tattnall Middle School faces challenges specific to rural districts. Broadband connectivity is a challenge – students often don’t have internet access at home, or have it only through a parent’s smartphone. The local tax base is limited, and there are fewer industries to tap for partnerships. Still, teachers and leaders at the school are committed to reaching students – as Thompson puts it – “in the time that we have, with the personnel we have,” and helping them reach beyond the classroom walls into the lives they could one day inhabit. Grants like those provided through GFPE’s Rural Education Fund help them extend those opportunities to their students. “All of our children in Georgia deserve an equal
opportunity,” Thompson said. “We need to make sure that we’re “Great answer,” they told one student after another. “What not forgetting some of our children. We could have someone background knowledge did you use to get there?” [here in Tattnall] who cures cancer, who cures diabetes. But if we only have one chemistry class? Our children…they should One of the questions addressed a theme that runs all through have more than one pathway, and they should be able to make Hamilton – both the musical and the weighty Ron Chernow tome that inspired it: the idea that decisions based on the opportunities Alexander Hamilton wrote himself and learning experiences they have. out of his circumstances, that he They shouldn’t be pigeonholed came to America and created a new because we just don’t have the money.” “[T]he percentage of students life and, in the process, helped lay the ■ foundation of our nation. On that recent November day, students watched a clip of Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Hamilton’s America and answered questions about how Alexander Hamilton overcame his circumstances.
reading on grade level was up 12.6 percentage points, rising from 54.7 to 67.3 percent.”
Next, students had to generate search terms to research Hamilton’s career and personal life, along with the Broadway show’s plot, style, and characterization. In tandem with the Hamilton research, students conducted research on New York City to determine the connection between the geographic and social opportunities the city provides, and how that intersects with the success of Alexander Hamilton. Finally, students completed research “in the field” via virtual headsets to draw on the background knowledge to arrive at inferences about certain landmarks in New York City. Students’ answers appeared onscreen during this interactive lesson, and they discussed their responses with their teachers and classmates. Altman, Thompson, and Flowers worked to draw meaning out of the students’ answers, encouraging them to think critically, teasing out the threads of what they knew about the content and how they knew it.
“How did New York provide opportunity for Alexander Hamilton?” the teachers asked their students. One student’s answer appeared onscreen, and summed up everything going on at South Tattnall Middle School.
“He was able to have a life,” the student wrote. Most people in Nevis, the tiny Caribbean island where Alexander Hamilton grew up, died young, she pointed out. But Alexander Hamilton got to live his life. In the simplest way, that sums up the purpose of an education – the prize principals and teachers and parents across Georgia want for their students, for their children. The ability to have a life. Altman, Thompson, Flowers and their colleagues at South Tattnall Middle School work to impress this on their students every day. “I tell them, no one can take this away from you,” Thompson said. “No one can take away your education. It opens doors.”
Theresa Thompson and Tori Flowers, two of the South Tattnall Middle School teachers who have used virtual reality headsets to open new worlds for their students. Georgia Foundation for Public Education ■ 2019 Annual Report
RURAL EDUCATION FUND
Visions of the Future in Wayne County Schools
he visual backdrop of the average middle-schooler’s life is relatively consistent: every day the same lunchbox or cafeteria tray, the same computer keys, the same laminate desks. But through a series of field trips in the 2018-19 school year, 84 students at Martha Puckett Middle School got to see, in vivid color, how their lives might look in the future.
within a few miles of Martha Puckett Middle School. “Wayne County has a diverse workforce that includes a wide variety of STEM-related professions,” they wrote in their application for a GFPE Rural Education Fund grant. “However, our dilemma is that the student population is largely unaware of the well-paying careers that are available and, as a result, many of our best and brightest young people are seeking employment in other areas of the state and country, when they could be getting those same jobs here at home.”
Students saw the whirring equipment that will form the backdrop of their days if they choose a career in medicine. They conducted chemistry experiments at Rayonier Advanced Materials – a chemical company with a Jesup facility that employs 840 people. They toured “Big cities rely on small the local Emergency Management Agency, the city’s water treatment plant, places. ... You have to have and YellaWood, a lumber retailer with a treatment plant in Jesup. that core to build up the Much of what the students saw was new to them. Taegan Elium, a seventhgrade student at Martha Puckett, was surprised at how advanced much of the equipment was; Addie Hayes, another seventh-grader, hadn’t expected to find manufacturing genuinely interesting. The field trips gave the students a chance to think through what they’d like to do after high school, equipped with knowledge about the possibilities available to them.
rest of the state. Sometimes, I feel like people forget that we’re out here – but there are still brilliant minds here.”
“If you think about what you want to do earlier,” Elium said, “you can prepare.” That’s what leaders in Wayne County Schools intended when they planned the series of field trips – all of which took place 12
To combat those misperceptions – and ensure students were prepared for the careers available right in their backyard – Martha Puckett Middle School used their $5,000 Rural Education Fund grant to launch a new club to explore science, technology, engineering, and math. They called the club sySTEMix. Students who joined sySTEMix participated in the series of field trips to local industries. They also meet regularly after school to take on STEM projects designed to foster collaboration and critical thinking. Recalling the projects they’ve done so far, students describe an iterative process, an open space for learning what works and what doesn’t.
“I knew from the start that we needed a sturdy base,” Elium said, describing her attempt, in collaboration with her classmates, to build a functioning tower out of toothpicks and marshmallows. Still, the group had to tear down and rebuild the structure five times before it would stay steady. It might sound simple, but what the students are describing is
the beginning of a problem-solving, trial-and-error mindset that will serve them well in any career they choose. ■ Wayne County Schools graduates students at a higher rate than the state average – in 2019, the district had a fouryear graduation rate of 93.8 percent. But they face many of the same challenges as their peers in other rural districts: teacher recruitment and retention, high poverty, resource and technology gaps, and the continued departure of young people for jobs in other regions of the state. “Preparing students for higher education and/or the workforce is only half of the challenge we face,” school leaders wrote in their grant application. “Students are generally unaware of the STEM career options that are available to them in Wayne County, and that is a major contributor in why they are looking for careers outside our county. Our greatest need is educating our students in the STEM-related career opportunities that are available to them so that we can retain the talent that is leaving our county.” The district ultimately used their Rural Education Fund grant to cover instructional materials and salaries for sySTEMix, and to cover bus drivers and fuel for the field trips to local business and industry sites.
Alexis Torres, one of the teachers who’s helped oversee sySTEMix, said that’s helped students see that a prosperous future doesn’t have to take them far from home. “This is their community,” she said. “It’s their home. They could see where there’s an opportunity where they don’t have to leave – they could stay here.” The reception from parents and students to the school’s grant work has been overwhelmingly positive, said Dr. Reggie Burgess, the district’s instructional supervisor for grades six through twelve. “[Parents] have been so appreciative of our efforts in exposing students to the career options that are right here in our community,” Burgess wrote in the district’s final report. “Many of them had no idea that high-paying jobs (some that do and some that do not require college education) are so prevalent in Wayne County.” Torres said grants like those offered through GFPE’s Rural Education Fund are essential for the economic health of the state as a whole. “Big cities rely on small places,” she said. “You have to have that core to build up the rest of the state. Sometimes, I feel like people forget that we’re out here – but there are still brilliant minds here.”
Addie Hayes, Taegan Ellum, Landon Taylor, and Quency Herrera used dental floss to create realistic spider webs at a recent sySTEMix meeting. 13
DUAL LANGUAGE IMMERSION MINI-GRANTS
Future in Forsyth County Schools
Forsyth County Photo
mid all the usual trappings of kindergarten and first grade – missing teeth, cubbies, redfingered clocks, laminated weather charts, small hands raised and waving in the air – students at Brandywine Elementary School are speaking in beautifully accented, rolling Spanish. Clad in primary colors and polka dots and neons – all the bright colors of childhood – students in Maricela Eustice’s first-grade class approach a smartboard, one by one, and read short phrases: Dual Language Immersion teachers at Brandywine Elementary Nos divertimos en la playa – we had fun at the beach. Nosotros nadamos – we swim.
“Perfecto!” Eustice exclaims as one student finishes reading. “Muy bien, Alexander.” This is a normal Monday at Brandywine, an elementary school on the Forsyth County side of Alpharetta, Georgia. The school is in its second year of implementing Dual Language Immersion (DLI), a program in which students spend at least half the school day in English and the rest in another language (in this case, Spanish). Currently 101 students are in the program – 51 in kindergarten and 50 in first grade – with another 20 on a waiting list. Research shows students who participate in DLI pick up the second language at a much faster rate than those in traditional foreign language instruction. And the program appears to improve cognitive skills, academic performance, and attendance rates, too – not to mention future benefits as students enter the workforce. At Brandywine, leaders were looking for a way to better serve students who were not native English speakers. They reviewed
their College & Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) data each year, and found they weren’t making the progress they’d hoped with those students. “We thought this model would be perfect – that it would fill the need for those kids,” Principal Todd Smith said. “We just needed to figure out a way to better teach them and enhance their learning.” The school’s K-2 assistant principal, Daisy Tremps, is a native Spanish speaker and ESOL certified. She’s helped lead the school’s DLI initiative. “We needed to find a different way to serve our ESOL students,” Tremps said. “The research is very clear about building the home language first, and that ultimately impacting achievement years down the road.” ■ To shore up their efforts, in 2019 the school used a Dual Language Immersion Mini-Grant from the Georgia Foundation for Public Education to purchase books and literacy resources in Spanish – some for classroom use, and some for students to read at home. They also hosted literacy workshops for families – and provided transportation and childcare to make it possible for parents to attend. Those workshops were a way to drive home the importance of reading at home, an essential support as students build vocabulary – and build their enthusiasm for reading. At that event, students and their families took home books to keep – many of them Spanish-language versions of the students’ favorite books, like the Pinkalicious series, Jan Brett’s colorfully illustrated animals, and the New York Times-bestselling Pete the Cat.
■ A mini-grant of $2,000 may not seem like much to support a program this impactful – especially in Forsyth County, where the district has been a strong supporter of DLI and foreign language instruction more broadly. But Smith, the Brandywine Principal, said it’s essential to fill in logistical gaps in the early years of implementation.
“... an amazing connection happens. I’ve seen it. It’s like,
The purchase of books and the ability to provide transportation and childcare during parent workshops strengthens the foundation of the program as a whole.
‘You can be my friend, I can be your friend.
We’re the same.’” That was a moment many of the students’ teachers won’t forget. “You know, you usually hand a book to a child and they’re like, ‘I get to keep this?’ and they just glow,” kindergarten DLI teacher Jennifer Smith said. “But then, to see that in a parent’s face? That’s something else.” ■ Implementing DLI hasn’t always been smooth sailing, teachers and administrators said. Imagine all the brand-new knowledge coming at the average kindergartener, then translate half of it – addition, subtraction, phonics and all – into an unfamiliar language.
Beyond the academic benefits, Dual Language Immersion has fostered a deeper sense of community and respect within the school community at Brandywine. The school has started offering evening English classes through Literacy Forsyth; English-speaking parents are now asking for Spanish courses as well. Spanish-speaking parents who might otherwise feel uncomfortable or disenfranchised are volunteering in the classroom, many for the first time. The program is giving students an immediate academic benefit and a leg up on their future – but it’s also giving them a sense of home within the walls of their school. “It has empowered our children and our parents – not only in the classroom, but in the outside world,” first-grade DLI teacher Kaylie Scott said. “It’s changing their lives.”
But the first-graders in their second year of the program are already strong Spanish speakers. Their teachers describe hearing them at recess or in the hall, switching between languages with bilingual ease. And at Brandywine, where nearly 27 percent of students are English Learners, DLI has made students of all backgrounds feel at home among their peers. In every class, English-dominant students are partnered with Spanish-dominant students. So, for every student, there’s a portion of the day – English instruction or Spanish instruction – when their partner turns to them for help. “If you’re in the Spanish class and you don’t speak Spanish, you have to ask for help, and this other child is willing to help you,” said Ana Rossi, a kindergarten DLI teacher. “And then, an amazing connection happens. I’ve seen it. It’s like, ‘You can be my friend, I can be your friend. We’re the same.’”
Dual Language Immersion students at Brandywine Elementary School. BES received a DLI mini-grant from the Georgia Foundation for Public Education
Georgia Foundation for Public Education ■ 2019 Annual Report
We would love to partner with you in offering opportunities like these to the students of Georgia. Learn more at gfpe.org/invest
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