College and Careers Pathways Kicks Off!

Experts in education gathered to discuss the barriers that hinder Georgians from reaching postsecondary success at the first College and Career Pathways Working Group, held November 13. Among those in attendance were leaders from noted college readiness nonprofits, leaders from the private sector, and postsecondary educators.

Beginning this important dialogue included a look at what “college” and “career” readiness signifies for students in Georgia. Sources such as Achieve, Inc. say that:

“…“[C]ollege ready” means being prepared for any postsecondary education or training experience, including study at two- and four-year institutions leading to a postsecondary credential (i.e. a certificate, license, Associate’s, or Bachelor’s degree).”

Georgians must possess the tools to thrive in a two year or four year college setting, as well as have the ability to learn quickly with on-the-job training. Members of the working group aim to outline a vision of “readiness” that channels efforts in schools to not only help students meet educational benchmarks, but also prepare more students for “real world” challenges. Refining these definitions and giving context to the way students in Georgia are prepared for higher education and employment will be a key next step for the working group.

Discussion at the first meeting also focused on improving the quality of teaching in schools across Georgia. Student and parent interaction with teachers can greatly impact the likelihood a child is adequately prepared for postsecondary education. Public Impact, a research and strategy collective focused on quality k-12 learning, finds that one high quality teacher can produce up to a year and a half of learning progress in just one year. Also considered was the need to recruit more high quality educators while raising the accountability of all stakeholders–parents, teachers, and students alike. Exploring ways to link teacher evaluations with student performance will be an equally important next step.

The College and Career Pathways Working Group will continue to review the challenges students face–including identifying common qualities college-ready students share and examining how schools serve at-risk students.  Going forward, experts of the group will meet monthly for the next year, continuing on December 18. For more information on The College and Career Pathways Initiative please visit the GCO website here.

First Steps for College and Career Pathways


There are many pathways that will lead students to success later in life. We just have to get them started. Courtesy: Experience

The dream of an abounding future for folks in Georgia obliges a closer look at the current pathways for our young ones to reach success as adults. College attendance is shifting from a privilege for a small group, to a growing necessity for the majority of us. Sources such as the Lumina Foundation project that by 2025 60% of all jobs in America will require an Associate’s degree or higher. Currently only 36% of working Georgians have reached this mark.

In addition to preparing more students for traditional college settings, it is imperative that we build new pathways that lead directly to thriving jobs. Technical colleges, apprenticeships, public-private partnerships and other training programs remain underutilized resources that could provide new possibilities for student outcomes. To create a seamless transition from high school to postsecondary education, and on to careers, we must remove barriers to opportunity now.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity is excited to launch its College and Career Pathways Working Group this November. With a mission to discuss the issues that bar students from postsecondary success, GCO has assembled a cohort of experts across the education space to lend their experience and insights to creating sustainable solutions.

Key Focus Areas of College and Career Pathways

  • Defining college and career readiness
  • Teacher quality in Georgia
  • Use of virtual learning for college and career readiness
  • Identify important components of  the transition to postsecondary education
  • Impact of the rising cost of college attendance

At GCO we look forward to creating a new dialogue for college and career readiness in Georgia. Finding solutions for the problems that threaten to keep more Georgians off the path to middle class by middle age will undoubtedly require that we draw support not only from experts, but also schools, communities and at home. What part can each of us take to adequately prepare youngsters to make their dreams a reality? Let’s share the work of making tomorrow a little peachier!

A Day with the Ivies: Charter Schools 101

As Breakthrough fellows at the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO), experiences in the community provide unique insights and personal touches to the research they lead. Recently Michael, Yenipher and Aundrea had the opportunity to visit Ivy Preparatory Academy, an all- girl charter school in our backyard here in Norcross, GA.


Students at Ivy Prep practice their “ones” and “twos”. Courtesy:


From the moment we arrived I could tell Ivy Prep is devoted to one powerful mission – developing college-ready scholars.  And not just for any college – this school strives to prepare its students to be scholars at our nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities.

Touring the campus, friendly student ambassadors directed us from classroom to classroom where we noticed that each time a teacher asked a question, instead of raising their hand or avoiding eye contact with the teacher, students would raise one or two fingers indicating that they either knew the answer (“ones”) or were unsure of it (“twos”). This method of student participation was just one unique aspect of the Ivy Prep culture we became familiar with during our tour.

Culture is a critical component in creating the unique setting at  Ivy Prep. A week prior to starting sixth grade students learn to raise one or two fingers when responding to a question, what to wear and what not to wear, how they are to behave transitioning between classes, and so forth. This week of training, known as “Culture Week”,  sets the tempo for the remainder of their educational experience at Ivy Prep. Additionally, the culture prepares students to thrive in alternative classroom settings. For high schoolers at Ivy Prep, an integrated technological approach– or blended learning model– allows students to complete all of their courses online with the exception of math and language arts providing more freedom to work at their own pace.


While Touring Ivy Prep, there were posters of different colleges and universities, motivational quotes and pictures of role models everywhere. Interacting with a  group of girls waiting outside a classroom, they spoke well of their school experience, were well disciplined, educated and motivated to go to college.

The visit solidified the importance of educational attainment. Parents sometimes underestimate the large percentage of time children spend in school, the importance of the quality of their education and the environment that shapes their development. It can take extra steps to find the right school for your child, but it can make a difference of a lifetime.

Through the example of Ivy Prep, it seemed many more students in Georgia can benefit from opportunities such as these. Many parents are just not aware of Ivy Prep or similar schools and how it can transform a child for the better. Parents need to value educational attainment in order for their child to do so. One values educational attainment by making sure that the school their child attends produces quality results and instills principles the parent believes in.


Within the beautiful facilities of Ivy Preparatory Academy, it touched me as a woman of color to see such a diverse group of young ladies being directed to “Believe. Achieve. Succeed”–the school’s foundational motto. Likewise, the evident culture of college at Ivy Prep, attentive participation within the classrooms, and stylishly uniformed students bustling about all served as a great introduction to charter schools for me.

More than 2.3 million students now attend charter schools across the U.S., and these innovative models are quickly becoming staple education options in communities all around Georgia. For parents exploring alternatives to a traditional public schools, theses charter school settings can be positive learning environments for kids. Additional time in the classroom, blended learning models, and the single gender setting–which was adopted to give girls a chance to just be themselves–are some of the ways Ivy Prep aids their students in becoming successful scholars. And all without steep tuition costs!

Still, it is important to remember charter schools face obstacles similar to traditional public schools–such as constricted funding and surpassing state academic standards. If you are considering alternatives to traditional school settings it is important to be thorough in your search for finding the right learning environment for your child. There are many charter schools in the Metro Atlanta Area, so look for schools that fit your child’s interest or offer special programs. Take a tour of a school you are interested in to see the learning model in action. Investigate what success the school has had by checking out testing scores and college placement results. Or ask others in your community about their experience with charter schools. These were all important lessons from our day with the Ivies.