Editor's note: This piece originally appeared as a Lead Letter in the Florida Times-Union on Sunday, Aug. 12.
Duval County’s new school superintendent, Diana Greene, is challenging our community to get off the bench and support education as part of “Team Duval.”
Her call couldn’t come at a better time. Public education in Jacksonville has made significant strides in graduation rates and other metrics, placing first in the nation among urban districts for student achievement in the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Our community helped make that happen.
But we have much more work to do. Our students are still struggling in reading and math proficiency, and we must do better to close the achievement gap between white students and students of color. As Dr. Greene has said, it will take all of us for Duval County to get an “A.”
Fortunately, the New Town Success Zone offers a great example of what it takes. Inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone, the New Town initiative has channeled Jacksonville’s many assets to support students from struggling families and schools from birth to college. Geoffrey Canada, the education innovator behind the model, speaks in Jacksonville on Sept. 26 at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund’s (JPEF) inaugural EDTalks.
Based on Canada’s work and JPEF’s research, here are some concrete ways the community can team up to support Jacksonville schools.
Volunteer time and resources. As Canada’s model has shown, parents and the community are critical to students’ success. Businesses and community members can donate time and resources to youth-focused organizations.
Learn the facts, and be an advocate. To be effective advocates, it’s important the public understand what we’ve accomplished and what more we need to do -- including improving proficiency and closing the achievement gap.
Vote for your school board member. Voters will decide three competitive races on Aug. 28. Our research has shown an effective working relationship between the school board and superintendent is critical to the success of Duval children and youth. Making an informed choice is one of the most important ways individuals can support our schools.
Could Duval County support an NFL team if we wrote off the Jaguars every time they lost a game? We push them to do better, but we don’t stop rooting for them.
There are many ways Jacksonville can do the same for its schools. JPEF is committed to doing our part, and we need everyone in Jacksonville to join us.
Rachael Tutwiler Fortune is the Interim President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and a proud graduate of Duval County Public Schools. To learn more about EDTalks and JPEF, visit jaxpef.org.