The United States educational system has a long way to go overall. It’s been shown that of developing countries, the U.S. is one of the lowest scoring in terms of educational success. Why is this, though? Many feel the lag has to do with student activity and engagement.
There’s no denying that children do better in schools if they have activities that encourage and engage them. Statistically, there is a higher chance of a child doing better in school if they are happier. Students who are happy and involved in enriching activities associate the feeling with purposefulness. Having a sense of purpose has been shown to foster perseverance, which is a better indication of lifelong academic success than the I.Q. test. This theory is backed by research – a recent study surveyed students, and 94% of the students surveyed did better if they reported higher levels of happiness.
Gwinnett County Public High Schools are well-known as a system that supports their students’ happiness levels through support. Recently, the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology was listed as the best school in Georgia and the 13th best school in the United States. They attribute their success to the support it receives from its teachers and staff, as well as the resources it has been provided – resources that likely would not be available without the help of The Gwinnett County Public School Foundation.
Extracurricular activities at Gwinnett County Public Schools, like sports, are structured to translate to students’ life experiences. Their sports participation rewards students; however, their involvement also is dependent upon their grades. The system sets up the students for success while supporting them, the opportunity to form strong bonds between their teammates, and providing them with structured extracurricular activity.
Why Keeping Gwinnett County Students Happy is Important
Gwinnett County is in a unique situation where the student population is so diverse that without outside support, it is unlikely that each student would receive the help they needed at school. As an Atlanta metro area location, students from all types of backgrounds are present in the school systems – including wealthy families as well as families from lower-income brackets. Training and employing good teachers is only one of the factors in the equation of success at Gwinnett County Public Schools, but more goes into success than just committed teachers. Without support outside of the school situation, it is unlikely that all students will do well in school, which translates over to their long-term success.
Studies have shown that access to school supplies, proper meals, and engaging educational content have all been key to the success of students. With Gwinnett County having welcomed over 180,000 students in the 2018-2019 academic year, it was essential that each student receives the same educational quality, regardless of their economic background. The Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation, with the support of senior executive director Aaron Lupuloff, has been critical in assuring that 1 in 10 of Georgia’s students gets the education they deserve and the curricular experience they need to be successful throughout their lives.
Ways Gwinnett County Has Helped Improve the Quality of Education
Aaron Lupuloff is particularly invested in keeping money in the Gwinnett County Public Schools. In a recent interview, he said: “It is very easy for me to passionately tell the story because I have five graduates of Gwinnett County Public Schools.” Although he acknowledged his role as well as his wife’s role in raising their children as part of their success, he mentioned that their success is primarily due to the arts, athletic programs, and academics at the schools they attended.
Their support while their children were in school was not focused solely on their children’s success, but also on the success of the school district. Both Lupuloffs understood that for their children to honestly do well, the success of the school district was critical. With this passion, an academically-oriented community was built up by locals to support their public schools. As Lupuloff said, “The secret sauce is that great schools build great communities. If individuals embrace this message, they will embrace helping others”.
Aaron Lupuloff’s assertion is corroborated by looking at the efforts of the local communities to provide supportive school environments. Fundraising at Gwinnet County Public Schools isn’t due solely to efforts by parents, teachers, and students. It also derives help from the community and businesses within the county and across the state. Last year, 12Stone church organized a supply drive that collected book bags, school supplies, calculators, and other necessary items for children in the area who might not have access to those items. Of the drive, Aaron Lupuloff said, “This is the second year that 12Stone members have conducted this drive and they increased the number of items donated over the prior year by three hundred percent!”
Local churches, businesses, and wealthy community members have not been the only ones to help with school educational efforts, either. The Atlanta Falcons contributed to the first-ever girl’s flag football team at Gwinnett County Public School districts. The goal of this experiment was not only to provide a structured afterschool option for girls at North Gwinnett but to take this to a statewide level. The Falcons, GCPS Foundation, and the Arthur M. Blank Community Foundation are passionate about girls across the state having an outlet for safe and constructive physical activity, as well as team playing benefits that will last their lifetime.
In an effort to address the gap between American students’ science apptitude and their peers around the world, Gwinnett County is opening a school sharply focused on this subject. The new county high school is named the McClure Health Sciences High School.
Students who attend receive a high school education that prepares them for college and a future career of helping others. Specifically, the school’s curriculum is tailored to the health fields, a nod to its namesake, Dr. Robert McClure
We have a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum through the lens of health science. Our goal is to prepare students for a successful collegiate experience and post-secondary career. – Principal Nicole Mosley
The health science facilities at the new high school rise to post-secondary program standards. Students experience both hands-on and virtual training in state of the art lecture halls and collaborative spaces.
This is an innovative approach to not only student preparedness, but also the threat that charter schools pose to the public school system in America. Many parents enroll their children in these privitized schools with the hopes of increasing their college readiness and providing them with a higher quality level of education compared with public schools.
What they often get instead is an underperforming alma mater rife with problems. Some of these charter schools are run by private ‘chains’ that operate in many counties and states. Because they are operated like a business, cost saving methods hurt students.
Furthermore, according to the Washington Post, some evidence suggests that, “Cost-cutting charters such as the Rocketship chain offer a narrow curriculum focused on little more than reading and math test prep, inexperienced teachers with high turnover, and “blended learning” products designed to enrich charter school board members’ investment portfolios.”
Students and their families could also wake up one day to find they have no school to attend, as charters are unstable educational environments. According to The Center for Media and Democracy, nearly 2,500 charter schools closed their doors between the years 2000 and 2013.
When a public school closes, students are placed elsewhere in the district. Charter school students are on their own to find educational alternatives, however.
This only scratches the surface of issues that include the education as an investment opportunity model, corruption, lack of accountabiliy and transparency, and efforts to cherry pick the best students to inflate test scores.
Of the charter schools that do well, however, some similarities immerge.
When examining the characteristics of these high performing charter schools there are certain common characteristics amongst the 28 charter schools. What is most common is that they offer innovative education programs with most of them focused on a specific approach to education instruction or a specific academic area of instructional focus. – Washington Post
The McClure Health Sciences High School manages to meet these successful characteristics while operating within the public school system in Gwinnett County.
What Is The Gwinnett County Public School Foundation?
The GCPSF, as it is also known, is a non-profit organization that focuses on supporting the school district in several ways.
The Foundation vows that it remains “dedicated to providing financial resources to enrich and enhance education in Gwinnett County Public Schools,” and it has been adtive in this role since 2006. The Foundation is run by a Board of Trustees comprised of county community members who believe that the community is an essential component to successful public education.
The GCPSF’s efforts have raised $455,748 this school year which, in part, provided 139 local scholarships. These funds support 140 schools in the district, or the equivilient of 148,250 students.
The mission of the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation Fund, Inc. is to sustain the world-class standards of Gwinnett County Public Schools by strengthening internal and external community relationships providing resources and support to improve the educational future of all students. – Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation Website
Members of the Board include Chairman of the Board of Education Dr. Carole Boyce, Chief Financial Officer of the Board of Education Mr. Joe Heffron, Senior Executive Director of the Foundation Mr. Aaron Lupuloff, Executive Director of the Foundation Ms. Kelly Herndon-Patterson, and CEO/Superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools Mr. J. Alvin Wilbanks.
Community Support Fosters Student Self Esteem
Not only do these community efforts raise funds or result in supplies that students need to succeed, but they also let district children know they’re important. The sense of connection and support boosts both the feeling of personal responsibility and self-worth among students.
According to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, people are happier when they feel like their life has meaning. This search for meaning is difficult enough for grown adults, but children specifically struggle with their sense of self in the world.
Developmentally, adolescence is a time when cognitive and social changes occur. These changes naturally inspire young people to think about themselves, who they are internally, and what they mean to others.
According to the CDC:
Connectedness refers to a sense of being cared for, supported, and belonging, and can be centered on feeling connected to school, family (i.e. parents and caregivers), or other important people and organizations. School and family connectedness are linked to reductions in multiple health risk behaviors during adolescence.
For students in Gwinnett County, support from their community teaches and reinforces the concept that they’re important. How they behave is important. Their scholastic and future success matters to many people within the community.
Some of those people are their neighbors and other families just like theirs. Equally important, however, are the high-achieving leaders and successful community members who take the time to notice them. Not only can this inspire students to expect more for themselves, but it also provides a positive measure of attention that fosters healthy self-identity formation.
Gwinnett County As A National Example
The success of Gwinnett County schools and the role the community plays in that success creates an example for the nation. The formula can be replicated and, if students in the Gwinnett school district are any indication, the formula works.
While the goal of the GCPS Foundation will always be to serve the public schools in the county, they thoroughly believe that their actions can spur the next generation of education and support widespread educational reforms across the United States. The system set up at Gwinnett County Public Schools works, and it is only possible with support from the community and organizations. If more communities can start educational models like this, the United States will see the quality of their education expand, and future generations will reap the benefits.
Learn more about Aaron Lupuloff here:
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