The Top Ten Education Issues to Watch in 2017

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by Steve Dolinger

The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education since 2005 has begun the new year unveiling its signature Top Ten Issues to Watch report that identifies and analyzes many of the key public education issues facing our state. Do you have your copy yet?

If you are familiar with the publication, you know each topic we address is broken into three areas: Issue Overview, Significance for Georgia, and Action Steps the Georgia Partnership believes the state needs to take to keep our public education system progressing. The report begins with “Indicators for Success: Where is Georgia Today.” This section provides a snapshot of where our state stands in comparison with the U.S. as a whole.

For example, 24 percent of Georgia’s children are considered to be living in poverty. The U.S. number is 21 percent. What about low-birthweight babies who often have learning issues as they enter the education system? Nine and a half percent of Georgia infants fall in the category while the number is 8 percent nationally.

At the Georgia Partnership, we believe the state is making progress in many areas and even ahead or matching other states when it comes to some categories like the number of our children 3 to 5  years old attending preschool. Georgia boasts a 50 percent participation rate while the national average is at 47 percent. We’re making gains in the high school graduation rate. We have narrowed the 12-percentage point gap in 2012 (U.S. 79 percent, Georgia 67 percent) to four points (83 to 79 percent) in 2016.

Each year, usually in the fall time frame, the Georgia Partnership’s policy and research director, Dana Rickman, convenes a policy committee made up of a variety of sectors including education, business, government and civic representatives. The brainstorming session always identifies far more than 10 topics but from there the committee starts the hard work of dissecting each one to determine the Top Ten that will comprise the new report. There is a great deal of discussion and research that goes into the final selection process.

This year you will find some recurring topics such as funding, early learning, and teacher recruitment and retention, and preparing the workforce. New subjects examine issues of growing importance such as “Student Mental Health—Time to Take Center Stage” and an especially topical issue, “No Opportunity School District—What Now?”

Through the good graces of the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, we will present two of the Top Ten issues in this blog space over the next couple of weeks. These brief posts will provide details of the subjects and will offer insight on why they were selected. This will provide readers of the Top Ten with a great appreciation for the final list of topics.

I started this by asking the question if you had your copy of the 2017 edition. If the answer was no, there’s an easy solution. First, you can immediately find and download a copy on the Georgia Partnership website. If you would like a hard copy, that’s simple too. Just drop us an email and we will provide a free copy. Please help us spread the word the annual report is available. The more Informed Georgians we have in our state when it comes to our public education system, the better for all of us.

Dr. Steve Dolinger is president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and a Georgia Family Connection Partnership Board member.