Learn4Life’s Ken Zeff on Making the Long-term Difference in Education for Region’s Youth
In April, the regional education partnership Learn4Life (L4L) released its second “State of Education in Metro Atlanta Annual Report.” The event featured school district superintendents, post-secondary presidents and business leaders coming together to share their insights on the challenges facing the cradle-to-career pipeline. The focus of the discussion was the five core counties in the region encompassing roughly 600,000 K-12 students. L4L unites school systems, local communities, businesses and nonprofits to improve education outcomes, taking a unique approach to identifying key indicators for collective impact.
L4L Executive Director Ken Zeff summarized the progress of the partnership over the past year.
“Learn4Life is different because we’re focused on what’s working. We’re channeling the resources and people, and when you take something like that to scale, good things happen,” Zeff said.
Key indicators that were established by L4L last year include kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading, eighth-grade math proficiency, high school graduation rate, post-secondary enrollment and completion. These indicators serve not only as milestones in a student’s development, they also provide measurable data points as the L4L partnership seeks to track progress.
“Throughout metro Atlanta, the idea of regionalism is taking hold. Our business, philanthropic and educational leaders seek proven solutions to improve education for all of our students,” said Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. “In this first year, Learn4Life brought together diverse stakeholders to build a deeper understanding of our region’s educational challenges. By leveraging the talents and resources across metro Atlanta, Learn4Life has identified proven solutions that we can scale for the benefit of each and every child.”
This past year, the first L4L Change Action Network was established to focus on strategies to improve third-grade reading, one of the key indicators of a child’s early success. Through research led by the Get Georgia Reading Campaign, 11 factors were identified limiting a student’s ability to read proficiently by third-grade. The Change Action Network identified successful strategies around three of the factors – physical health (oral, hearing, vision), early childhood education and teacher preparation and effectiveness.
Vision To Learn has partnered with L4L to provide eye exams to students as well a pair of glasses, free of charge to the students in need. Out of the nearly 7,000 students screened in 2017, around 1,900 failed the exam – illustrating the need in this area. Reach Out & Read is addressing the early childhood education factor by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging family reading. 167,000 books have already been distributed in 2017. Read Right from the Start on the Cox Campus is similarly committed to the teacher preparation factor. Teachers of children who enter school without the prerequisite literary skill often do not have the knowledge to make up for this difference and prepare the reading brain. Nearly 4,000 have completed the Cox course.
“We recognize this work take times to transform our community,” Zeff said. “This work takes focus and determination – aligning focus and resources doesn’t always come naturally.”
“This summer we will be putting together a network to tackle eighth grade math,” Zeff said. “For anyone looking to get involved, we certainly want to hear from you.”
L4L is committed to changing the educational outcomes of metro Atlanta students, and the coming years will be about tracking progress and developing the solutions that are working best for the region.
“We will continue to focus on these six key measures of our community’s progress because research tells us that these levers are critical milestones in a student’s academic career. L4L’s cross-functional networks are focused on each indicator and have begun to identify key strategies, that if taken to scale, will help accelerate student success,” Zeff said.