The Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education (GPEE) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that shapes statewide, systemic education reform efforts in Georgia. The partnership brings together education, government, civic, and business leaders to work for positive changes in Georgia’s public education system. The organization’s success is dependent upon communicating the central role that better education plays in Georgia’s future and in implementing strategies to ensure that education improves in the state.
Founded in 1990 as a convergence of private interest and public need through the efforts of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Economic Developers Association, the GPEE is an independent organization with headquarters in Atlanta. Its mission is to impact education policies and practices for the improvement of student achievement by informing and influencing Georgia leaders through research and nonpartisan advocacy. It consistently advocates a reform framework based on (1) high educational standards for all schools, (2) monitoring progress toward achieving standards, and (3) accountability for all components of the public education system.
One of the partnership’s first initiatives was the Next Generation School Project, a school-improvement program committed to increasing kindergarten through twelfth-grade student achievement in reading, language arts, and mathematics in local school systems. In 2002 the project began to focus on extending student learning time in the form of longer school terms, longer school days, or weekend sessions to better serve students at risk of failure. Another early initiative was the partnership’s annual Bus Trip across Georgia, which began in 1993. A statewide tour for business, government, and community leaders, the bus trip showcases schools and educational programs showing outstanding achievement or strong community partnerships.
Together with the University System of Georgia, the GPEE helped to develop the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement after the state received a $3 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The institute has been training and supporting hundreds of educational leaders in the state since 2002. That same year the GPEE and the Georgia School Boards Association cosponsored the first Education Policy Forums, now a regular election-year program. These education policy briefings for local school board and state legislative candidates cover a wide range of educational topics that provide the participants with a nonpartisan foundation on which to make future decisions.
Additional nonpartisan advocacy work conducted by the GPEE since its inception includes the successful promotion of such educational reforms as a lottery-funded statewide pre-kindergarten program; a constitutional amendment calling for appointed school superintendents and elected school boards; and an amendment allowing school systems to hold local referendums to establish sales tax funding for school construction purposes. The GPEE’s advocacy work is tracked in its annual digest, “Top Ten Issues to Watch.”
In an effort to engage the business community in the educational process, the GPEE partnered with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 2004 to create the Economics of Education program. This series of briefings emphasizes the strong link between economic prosperity and the state’s public education program and specifically underscores the detrimental economic impact on individuals and communities if higher education levels are not achieved.
Due to teacher scholarship money raised by the GPEE and a legislated pay increase for educators earning national board certification, the number of nationally certified Georgia teachers increased from 111 in 2000 to 1,780 by 2004. Georgia now ranks sixth in the nation on this important indicator of teacher quality. The GPEE also publishes Teacher Connection, a tri-annual newsletter for teachers that outlines current research for teachers and addresses how that research can be incorporated into classroom practice.
The organization’s leadership and resources are constantly engaging in a wide range of issues designed to reform the state’s educational system, which plays a critical role in establishing the quality of life for all Georgians.