By Dr. Steve Dolinger

Dr. Steve Dolinger

It’s back-to-school time in Georgia and citizens across the state remain concerned about the quality of education being delivered to their children. Negative headlines plant seeds of doubt. Many of the questions we face here in the Atlanta area are being wrestled with in many other locales. The list is long and complex.

Is our curriculum strong and challenging? Are our teachers the best they can be? Is our funding adequate to provide the resources needed by every educator in every classroom for every student? Are there weak links in our start-to-finish education pipeline? If yes, what are they and can they be fixed?

Making Georgia a Top 20 state?

Is classroom discipline an issue at your school? What about our state’s graduation and post-secondary attendance and completion rates? Weak SAT scores have long been a point of contention. And what about our educational leadership and governance? Is it sufficient to lead Georgia out of the bottom of the education barrel, where many naysayers say we languish?

What will it really take to move our state into the top 20 tier of states when it comes to providing a quality education for its citizens? That is the very question my organization, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, asked in our annual Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2011 report that identifies, analyzes and offers courses of action for many of our most pressing education issues. We at the Georgia Partnership are optimistic that we are moving – albeit much too slowly – in the right direction.

Keeping businesses informed

Almost 20 years ago we were born out of the need for the Georgia business community to be better informed and able to address education issues. This non-profit, non-partisan organization has made innumerable contributions, but how do they really impact our education system today?

The partnership is engaged on several fronts. Its genesis in 1992 was through the efforts of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Economic Developers Association. Although it operates independently, it maintains strong ties to the business community and counts many businessmen and businesswomen among its leaders. But its impact goes beyond that of solely being a business community advisor.

Without going into detail in this limited space, let me invite you to our website at www.gpee.org. You will see that we have had a hand in such areas as teacher quality and leadership, the building of a strong curriculum, the sharing of best practices through reports and programs, partnering with innumerable organizations and communities to both get things done and increasing education capacity across the state.

Economics of Education

One of our signature programs since early 2004 has been our Economics of Education presentations. I have traveled to every corner of Georgia addressing audiences about the inextricable link between economic prosperity and their education system. It seems most attendees feel their own system is top notch but it’s always “the others” needing help. The bottom line is they all need help and can improve if we pay attention and make a commitment to look for ways to make a difference.

Our greatest investment

I encourage every citizen to become better informed. What are your school, system, and state level issues and goals? Who are your leaders? What support or expertise can you provide?

Whether you have children in school or not, you are an education stakeholder. My advice is to act like it. Our investment in our education systems – both monetary and human capital – is the greatest investment we can make for our community, state and nation.

Georgia can be a “Top 20 Education State.” Help me prove it!

Dr. Steve Dolinger served as Fulton County Superintendent of Schools (1996 – 2003) and has served as the president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education since 2003.