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Bridge to Success aims to close achievement gap in Fulton schools

Three-year program offers options to classroom instruction

  • Updated

ATLANTA — Fulton County Schools is one year into an ambitious three-year program to get students back on academic track after the COVID-19 pandemic.

With reams of research showing student achievement lagged during the nearly two-year span of the pandemic, district officials are confident the gap can close by 2024.

“While there are some successes, we have a lot of work to close the achievement gap which has widened,” said Fulton Schools’ Chief Communications Officer Brian Noyes. “Our continued implementation of [academic interventions] aim to support all students in the district and initiate new programs to close these gaps in the future.”

Hembree Springs Elementary

Hembree Springs Elementary School in Roswell. 

Last spring, Fulton Schools launched the “Bridge to Success” plan which consists of several strategic goals to reach in three years. Those targets include learning recovery from the COVID-19 disruption, obtaining the highest growth averages among Atlanta Metro area students, and earning high marks from stakeholders, such as parents and teachers, with the district’s performance.

The overarching goal, noted Noyes, is to directly address the impact of the pandemic on lost instruction and learning, and also ensure the safety of students, staff and families.

While the Bridge program is embedded into the daily curriculum of schools, including after school and weekend programs, services also extend into the summer. Last year nearly 20,000 students received summer school instruction. This summer, the district expects to have approximately 15,000 students learning in-person and virtually.

Federal funds support program

Funding for the Bridge to Success program comes almost exclusively from federal COVID relief funding provided to schools under three rounds of disbursements. In total, Fulton County Schools received $262 million, making it one of the largest recipients among Georgia school districts.

“Our district, like many others across the country, and around the world, has faced unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19,” Chief Financial Officer Marvin Dereef said. “Fortunately, the federal government has made funds available to help us mitigate the learning loss [and] ensures our ability to put resources in place to help all our students.”

Based on the plan submitted to the Georgia Department of Education, Fulton Schools expects to direct nearly all of the funding to programs and people who are supporting the Bridge to Success program and related instructional needs.

With one year of the Bridge program complete, and the second year underway, district officials are in the process of gathering input on its impact.

Officials look for trends

Results from the state-mandated Georgia Milestones testing are expected to be released soon which will contain information on student achievement. The information will not present a clear picture of pre- and post-pandemic because the state waived participation requirements the past two years. However the data should show trends within specific student groups.

The continuation of virtual instruction will likely be an issue the district will address in the coming years. Extensive research conducted by Georgia State University concluded in-person instruction was the key to academic achievement.

Last year Fulton Schools opened an all-virtual school, FAVE, for students and parents who preferred online learning. The future of that program is being reviewed.

“We have seen positive and negative trends at FAVE as we work with our staff and families to adopt this new environment and model,” Noyes said. “Plans are underway to sharpen instruction, student engagement, and parental participation so we can achieve the results we know we are capable of.”

Information about the Bridge to Success program can be found at on the Fulton County Schools website, fultonschools.org/bridgetosuccess.

Candy Waylock is an award winning education reporter who has covered all things education for Appen Media over the past 20 years. She is an Alpharetta resident.