Project GRAD Helping Atlanta Schools Students Achieve Their Dreams

Written by Jason Thomas for www.schoolsk-12.com

In the year 2000, the Atlanta schools began a five-year comprehensive school reform program, Project GRAD, in a third of their schools. The purpose of the program is to ensure a quality education for all of the Atlanta schools students, especially those in economically disadvantaged communities. The program also intends to graduate more of its students, preparing them to enter college, and be successful during college and in life. According to Dr. Beverly Hall, superintendent of the Atlanta schools, Project GRAD will prove that problems facing inner city schools can be overcome by using the right resources, strategies and a collaboration between the schools and their communities. Overall, the program encourages Atlanta schools students to successfully stay in school, graduate and go on to college.
 
The program is implemented in “feeder clusters”, meaning a cluster of elementary and middle schools that “feed” students into a specific high school are part of a Project GRAD chain. This ensures the Atlanta schools students are influenced by the program from elementary school through high school.
The first class to be enrolled in the project graduated in 2004. There are now Project GRAD students in 49 colleges and universities around the nation.
 
Project GRAD has five components:
 
  • Scholarship Program — The cornerstone of Project GRAD is its college scholarship program that promises $1,000 per year during college. The program is privately funded and awards scholarships to all Atlanta schools students in a feeder chain who:
 
    • Achieve a 2.5 grade point average in their college prep courses,
    • Attend two specially-designed summer institutes during their high school years,
    • Graduate on time with their class, and
    • Take higher-level math courses during high school, including Algebra II.
 
  • MOVE IT* Math  (*Math Opportunities, Valuable Experiences, and Innovative Teaching) — MOVE IT Math is an instructional, student-centered program to improve learning and teaching in the Atlanta schools from kindergarten through sixth grade.
 
  • Success for All (SFA) — SFA is a school-wide program to improve student reading and writing from pre-kindergarten through middle school.  SFA emphasizes early intervention for Atlanta schools students to ensure each child succeeds in reading throughout the elementary grades.
 
  • Consistency Management and Cooperative Discipline (CMCD) — CMCD is a comprehensive instructional program within the Atlanta schools. It is tailored to respond to the needs of individual campuses, building upon the shared responsibility for learning and classroom organization between the teachers and students.
 
  • Communities in Schools (CIS) — CIS is a nonprofit dropout prevention program and social services agency. CIS provides guidance, counseling, community outreach, and family case management services for Atlanta schools at-risk students.
 
Since the inception of Project GRAD within the Atlanta schools, school officials have been analyzing test data and aligning resources, staff development, and instructional programs to address the areas that need improvement — and it is paying off for the Atlanta schools and its students. Besides the increased college enrollment of Atlanta schools graduates, school officials just finished meeting a five-year, $20 million fundraising campaign in less than three years for Project GRAD. Additionally, the Atlanta schools’ program is being used as a model for other inner city school districts across the nation. Many of these school districts have sent their administrators to see how the Atlanta schools are successfully implementing Project GRAD.
 
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