Sometimes you really can go home again. As Dr. Gwen Benson of Georgia State University walked the halls of Dunbar Elementary, the former Atlanta Public Schools employee couldn’t help but note how far the district has come.
“It’s more inclusive of students with disabilities, and there’s more support for students and principals,” said Benson, who served as Principal for a Day. The associate dean of the GSU School of Community Partnerships also noted that, “professional development for principals is at a higher standard.”
Benson walked the halls with Betty Greene, Dunbar’s actual principal, and noticed walls covered with student projects that fulfilled academic standards in topics ranging from science to social studies.
“We don’t have blank walls,” Greene said. “[Students] are excited when they see their work up, and images of themselves on the walls.”
Principal for A Day seeks to build long-term partnerships between the Atlanta business community and APS schools. Most of the district’s learning institutions have at least one corporate partner. However, the relationship between Georgia State and APS goes much deeper.
A professional development program places university faculty members in Kimberly Elementary, Bunche Middle, Therrell High and Carver Early College at least once a week. These professionals help APS educators refine lesson plans and enhance classroom instruction.
Georgia State also manages a Teach For America program that has helped professionals like first-year EIP teacher Jonathan Baggett successfully transition into APS classrooms.
Peeking into teacher Gloria Ivey’s class, Benson noticed there were fewer students than during her time as a special education teacher with APS. “With the smaller class size,” she said, “you can’t hide.” Green added that smaller classes make a significant impact on student performance.
“They all have to be active participants,” she said. “That’s how we make gains.”