This past week, I joined 34 students in Fairburn, Georgia for a ceremony celebrating their completion of the Learn and Earn pilot program in math and science. For 15 weeks, these students in the Fulton County School System had been participating in after-school tutorial sessions conducted by the Learning Makes a Difference (LMD) Foundation, which I helped found in 2006. This assistance could not have come too soon for these students who, prior to their involvement in the program, had been struggling with a C or lower in these courses.
There was much to celebrate. All 34 of these participants have improved their scores in math and science. The students cheered for each other as they came up to the front of the media center at Creekside High School to be recognized. It was exciting to see their support and encouragement for each other as well as the value they place on academic achievement.
The stories I heard during the event were inspiring. A teacher related how one student who initially sat in the tutoring session, book closed, not interested or involved – is now actively engaged in learning math. The teachers told stories of participating students who had been contemplating dropping out of school, but who are now determined to graduate. Several parents approached me at the end of the celebration and told me that the program had turned their child around.
It is thrilling to be involved in a program that provides students with the opportunity to realize their potential. About eight weeks into the program, one student told me, “I was failing.” The key word in the sentence is “was.” He is now passing math. He believes he can succeed and is excited about learning. In addition, he has saved money earned in the Learn and Earn program for his college fund. To see his face light up as he talks about his grades is a beautiful sight.
Some might ask, why Learn and Earn? My question is, what other ideas should we try? As a nation, we are falling behind other counties in math and science education. The 2001 Hart-Rudman Commission identified the nation’s failure in math and science education as the second-biggest threat to our national security.