Non-profit Accountability Challenge

Atlanta Public Schools’ mission is that “every student will graduate ready for college and career”. Its vision is to be “a high-performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system”. The non-profit sector works with Atlanta Public Schools, its students and families, in an effort to help APS carry out its mission and fulfill its vision. The fact is, however, that APS has some uphill work to do to carry out its mission. The most recent statistic (2013) shows that the graduation rate for APS is 58.6%. Why is this and how can we change it?

Kelli and I have been working with APS, as well as within the non-profit sector, for 8 years now through our non-profit, L.E.A.D. (Launch, Expose, Advise, Direct). Based on our experience we believe that the failure by APS to meet its 100% graduation rate stems, in large part, from non-profit partners working at cross-purposes to APS’ mission. How can APS achieve its goals if the non-profits serving it are not working together? It can’t and it isn’t. So when objectives aren’t met and the results are in to show little improvement year to year, the blame is placed on the kids for not listening and wanting to succeed and on all teachers for not being competent. Kelli and I see a different APS student and a different teacher.

We see students who are attentive and committed to their education. Maybe it is because we are committed to our own mission and vision, and they align with those of APS. Maybe it is also because we are doing what we set out to do and that is to help APS improve the graduation rate of young black male students, which currently stands at 40% (on-time or at all). Simply stated – APS’s agenda is our agenda. We have year over year statistics that tell the story of our successes. We are successful because we hold ourselves accountable.

We see teachers and administrators who are fulfilling many roles to provide a quality educational experience for our students. I believe the actions of a few employees have left this system with a scarlet letter and not enough champions for those educators still on the front lines fighting the good fight. We have also been successful champions of those remaining educators.

How can we change the way non-profits work within APS so that APS can successfully meet its mission? One way would be to hold its non-profit partners accountable for their work within the system. Showing accountability would be easy. Answer the question: How many students graduated from high school because of your direct involvement in APS?

Here is the thought behind such a challenge. As non-profits, we spend so much time, money and energy competing with each other for resources. What if we took the competition public and tried to outdo one another in a way that measured high school graduation rates of APS students? Consider sports and presidential campaigns. In sports, the best professional sports team is determined by who scores the most points during the season, and a presidential candidate can’t win the race without the most electoral votes. In the same way, a non-profit would “win” resources if they could demonstrate that they were directly involved in increasing the high school graduation rate of APS students.

It is my understanding that undeterminable amounts of money are being raised by Georgia non-profits annually for service in education. Given where Georgia ranks in education nationally, it is easy to conclude that these funds are being wasted on insignificant outcomes. If we compete in the open, those dollars would go to the most successful non-profits who can show results in assisting APS meet its mission.

The overall winners you ask? Well that’s easy – APS students and families, their communities, the city of Atlanta, the state of Georgia, the United States, and yes the World.

The alternative is to continue on in the same manner . . . making a profit while failing kids.

Lt. Jim Hodges (Atlanta Police Department) with L.E.A.D. Ambassador Cameron Giles. Learn more about the Safe At Home Game brought them together.