APS_BBB0457

Unpacking Georgia Milestones Assessments for APS, Year Two

Whenever the time nears for the state to release major progress reports for schools – graduation rates, test results, the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) – my feelings jump from anticipation to eagerness to anxiety and back again. Such reports almost always come with positive news of hope and progress tempered with indicators for improvement and renewed focus.

APS_BBB0457

For 2015-2016 Georgia Milestones, APS went district-wide in administering the tests online.

Such was the case this morning when the Georgia Department of Education released the results of its second administration of the Georgia Milestones assessments based on the new Georgia Standards of Excellence. (I went into considerable detail last year in explaining what these tests mean for Atlanta Public Schools; I encourage you to click here if you need a primer to make sense of these tests and the differences from previous assessments.)

Last year’s Georgia Milestones marked the first-ever administration of the tests and provided schools and districts like APS with a baseline measure on which to compare future results against the same yardstick.

And so we have the second year of testing with new results … and they are mixed.

Good news: 40 of our schools showed improvements over last year’s assessments. Broken into the two main categories of assessment, that means that 33 of our schools in grades 3-8 showed overall improvements on the End-of-Grade (EOG) tests when we average the results across all subject areas. For the End-of-Course (EOC) tests administered at the high school level, seven of our schools achieved an overall gain in their scores. (See Tables 3 and 4 at the end of the blog for those schools!)

We can expand the scores even further as shown on the following tables. To understand the charts, note that Georgia Milestones Assessments measure student performance using four levels: Beginning Learner, Developing Learner, Proficient Learner, and Distinguished Learner.  Each level provides information based on student mastery of content standards.

On the EOG tests, the district percentages of students scoring Developing and Above ranged from 54.1% in Science to 62.5% in English Language Arts (ELA).

Table 1: APS 2015-2016 Milestones EOG Results, Average of Grades 3-8

Subject Beginning Learner Developing Learner Proficient Learner Distinguished Learner Developing and Above
ELA 37.4% 30.2% 24.6% 7.7% 62.5%
Mathematics 37.6% 34.8% 19.9% 7.8% 62.4%
Science 45.9% 27.6% 19.6% 6.9% 54.1%
Social Studies 39.0% 34.1% 16.9% 9.9% 60.9%

On the EOC tests, seven high schools achieved an overall gain in the percentage of students scoring at Developing and Above. American Literature & Composition had the highest overall achievement levels with 65.1%, followed by United States History at 64.2%.

Table 2: APS 2015-2016 Georgia Milestones EOC Results by Subject

 Subject Beginning Learner Developing Learner Proficient Learner Distinguished Learner Developing and Above
Algebra I 47.3% 29.5% 16.6% 6.7% 52.7%
American Literature & Composition 34.9% 34.2% 22.4% 8.6% 65.1%
Analytic Geometry 44.2% 32.2% 18.1% 5.5% 55.8%
Biology 47.6% 23.3% 22.3% 6.8% 52.4%
Economics/Business/Free Enterprise 43.0% 26.8% 25.1% 5.1% 57.0%
Ninth Grade Literature & Composition 36.6% 35.9% 23.0% 4.5% 63.4%
Physical Science 68.7% 25.4% 5.2% 0.6% 31.3%
United States History 35.8% 34.0% 23.4% 6.7% 64.2%

Here are some positive highlights among the numbers:

  • On the EOG tests for grades 3 through 8, 33 APS schools (combining elementary and middle schools) showed improvements in the percentage of APS students scoring at Developing and Above. Westside Atlanta Charter (9.6 percentage points), Dobbs (7.4), Toomer (6.3), Garden Hills (6.2) and Cleveland Avenue (5.8) showed the greatest gains among elementary schools, while Centennial Academy (18.3 percentage points), Coretta Scott King (5.7), Hillside (4.1) and Wesley International (4.0) rose the most among middle schools.
  • On the EOC tests, seven high schools saw an overall gain in the percentage of students scoring at Developing and Above. South Atlanta High School of Computer Animation & Design (10.9 percentage points), KIPP Atlanta Collegiate (4.4) and Jackson High (4.0) posted the highest gains.
  • 15 elementary schools had at least 75% of students perform at or above the Developing Learner level averaged across all subjects. These schools are Warren T. Jackson (95.9%), Morris Brandon (95.3%), Morningside (94.8%), Springdale Park (93.5%), Mary Lin (93.4%), Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (89.9%), Charles R. Drew Charter (88.4%), Atlanta Classical Academy (86.7%), Sarah Smith (87.4%), KIPP STRIVE Primary (86.5%), Garden Hills (79.1%), E. Rivers (78.2%), Wesley International (77.6%), Burgess-Peterson (76.2%) and West Manor (75.5%).
  • Six middle schools had at least 75% of students perform at or above the Developing Learner level averaged across all subjects. They are Atlanta Classical Academy (85.9%), Inman (84.4%), KIPP WAYS Academy (83.2%), Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (81.1%), KIPP STRIVE (81.0%), Sutton Middle (78.1%) and Charles R. Drew Charter (76.7%).
  • Five high schools had at least 75% of students perform at or above the Developing Learner level in American Literature & Composition. They are Grady (87.2%), Charles R. Drew Charter (86.7%), North Atlanta (86.5%), Carver Early College (85.5%) and KIPP Collegiate (77.9%).
  • Six high schools had at least 75% of students perform at or above the Developing Learner level in Ninth Grade Literature & Composition. They are Atlanta Classical Academy (98%), Carver Early College (92.5%), Charles R. Drew Charter (84%) North Atlanta (82.6%), Grady (79.5%) and KIPP Atlanta Collegiate (76.5%).
  • Six high schools had at least 75% of students perform at or above the Developing Learner level in U.S. History. They are Carver Early College (90.8%), North Atlanta (84.6%), KIPP Atlanta Collegiate (79.2%), Charles R. Drew Charter (78.6%), Grady (78.5%) and Jackson High (76.7%).
  • The district achieved its highest EOC gains in Biology (6.5 percentage points) and U.S. History (3.2 percentage points) over 2014-2015 assessments.

I’m so proud of the schools above and the achievement levels they are meeting! Please see our press release, and visit www.atlantapublicschools.us/milestones for more information.

The 2015-2016 Georgia Milestones assessments marked the first time Atlanta Public Schools went district-wide in administering the tests online, a year behind most districts in Georgia. (In fact, in our first year testing the Milestones online we successfully administered more than 99,000 tests online, and APS was one of the few large districts in Georgia that did not have major outages and delays during online testing.) However, national research has shown districts can have declines when moving to an online testing process. Indeed, we saw declines in some scores and a larger gap in our scores compared to state averages. Our Data and Information Group continues to evaluate these scores so that we can fully understand the latest Georgia Milestones results.

Improving these scores over time is part of the work toward the transformation of Atlanta Public Schools, progress on the district’s School Turnaround Strategy and the effort to make a proposed state-takeover Opportunity School District irrelevant for APS. These Milestones results also inform the CCRPI scores, which will be released later this year.

A considerable lift is required for APS. Our children cannot wait; we must begin to achieve greater progress.

The state has asked our students to clear a higher bar. It is clear from the results that there is still much work to be done to meet these more rigorous and demanding standards. We will continue to support our teachers and invest in their development which is critical to delivering quality instruction and graduating students who are ready for college and career.

embassyblogphoto1

Call to Action for a Kinder, Braver, Safer World

embassyblogphoto1Dear President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education John King,

It started with the first rally cry:

Je suis Charlie.

And, sadly, then there were more.

Paris. San Bernardino. Brussels. Orlando. Istanbul. Bangladesh. Dallas.

As the United States is still reeling from weeks of tragic events, it came full circle for France last night.

Je suis Nice.

photo2jesuis

Among the 84 killed, two are Americans (from my beloved Austin, Texas) and 10 children. Ten children! #PrayForNice

My heart and condolences go out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this senseless attack on humanity. We should all be outraged at this random and irrational act of violence! I am a teacher at heart, and I believe there is a sober lesson for all of us to learn and internalize as a country: The terrorist in last night’s attack in the South of France was, according to media reports, from within his own community and described as a Frenchman who lived in Nice and was a resident in the city. He was a “depressed” and a “very weird loner” who was only 31 years old with a history of being “regularly in trouble with the law.”

Think about that.

This could be a person anywhere – including here in the United States.

Right now in one of America’s capital cities, Atlanta Public Schools is in the fight of its life, working to end the cycle of poverty, cycle of bigotry, cycle of ignorance and cycle of violence. We have our hands full just trying to fix our local injustices of the past, which were thrust upon unknowing and innocent black children in the aftermath of the nation’s largest cheating scandal in public education.

Our Turnaround Strategy is based on a straight forward child-centered agenda that is about whole child development where Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the district priority. At the same time, we are working tirelessly to provide additional mental health supports through expanded provider partnerships and school based health clinics. And, while I’m proud of what we are doing here in Atlanta – fighting with a team of people who are equally committed to this effort – I know that more needs to be done in order to bring about real lasting change.

Just this week, Mr. Secretary, in your interview with Politco, you asked America a genuine and legitimate question: “I worry each day…are we doing enough to make it better for young people in schools?”

My answer: No, we are not.

We definitely know that we aren’t doing enough for our children especially black, brown and poor children in our urban centers.

At the live nationwide “town hall” meeting broadcast last night, there were many people asking what could be done to combat hatred and senseless violence. Participants, including you, Mr. President, talked about the challenges of moving from words to action: “We expect police to solve a whole range of societal problems that we ourselves have neglected,” you said calling prominent incidents sometimes “the catalyst for all the other stuff that may not even have to do with policing coming out.”

I believe there must be a national agenda led and invested in by leaders of our country. I believe we have to get beyond the talk and get to action. I believe we need a plan to teach these foundational skills for the long-term academic and psycho-social success of all students while at the same time providing adequate mental health intervention for those students who need the additional support. It takes both!

It’s time we start addressing these problems starting at the youngest age both in our communities and in our schools. It’s time we start shifting from reaction to prevention which means a shift in the conversation and the strategy: If we can teach students to persevere, be empathetic, set goals, overcome obstacles and develop healthy relationships, what can our country do to support it? There are many good folks on the frontline who have helped shape my thinking and this proposed solution:

  1. Invest in a national agenda in at least 60 of the largest urban school systems for social emotional learning implementation and funding for early intervention in early childhood education and mental health supports.
  2. Launch and support key states with state policy agendas that support these efforts.
  3. Support more research, instructional framework development and assessment mechanisms so that every school system has a working design to get started in their school communities with quality guidance from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
  4. Replicate best practice school resource officer “triad model” for safe and supportive schools through National Institute of Justice.

To ramp this up quickly and with fidelity, I recommend that the U.S. Department of Education consider an SEL zone-type designation similar to a Promise Zone (HUD) or Promise Neighborhood (DOE) that highlights a community for additional direct and indirect benefits. This would be followed by an executive order from the president with a call for emergency federal funding to support the order.

We need an America and a world where people don’t have to live in fear that our public celebrations might turn into bloody massacres.

We need all citizens, especially our children, to live with the aspiration of random acts of kindness instead of the fear of random violence.

We need the leaders of our country to immediately accept this proposal as a significant part of the solution for our nation’s youth.

#StopTheViolence

#SELMatters

#SupportOurSchools

We need action and investment now for the hope of a kinder, braver, safer future for our children. Our country must do its part to make this world a better place for the generations to come.

loveisphoto3

 

Water_Test_Module

More Facts and Update on Water Testing Mid-Point Results

Water_Test_ModuleWith less than a month before we open the 2016-2017 school year, Atlanta Public Schools is quickly and methodically wrapping up its voluntary, proactive effort to test the district’s water sources to determine if there is any lead.

As I wrote in detail a couple of weeks ago, we took the initiative to test our water in the wake of national reports of lead in the water in public buildings. This decision to test came without preliminary reports or traces of lead in our own water, without edicts from the EPA and without prodding from other outside entities to conduct these tests.

While I know any mention of lead combined with a lot of sensationalizing of our efforts raised concerns especially among parents, I still believe it was the right decision to take this effort now for the safety of our students and staff. ThaWaterTweett way we could not only complete the full battery of tests before the start of school but also take the necessary corrective action to ensure safe drinking water well before any child steps back into our buildings on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

At just past the mid-point of receiving our results, most of our water sources pass federal standards. But in the rare instance where they haven’t, we are immediately taking corrective actions. We aren’t finished with testing yet, but I wanted to provide a mid-point check-in.

It’s important to frame these tests in two big buckets. The first involves presenting the test results for water sources across the district, in all of its buildings including schools. The second drills down to the individual school level.

Bucket One: We have completed initial testing on 2,817 water sources at 113 district buildings and have received initial results for 67 of those buildings, including 60 school sites. The tests showed elevated levels of lead in 45 of 1,667 water sources such as sinks and water fountains. That means that of these initial results, 97.3% of the water sources thus far passed with 42 of our school sites passing EPA standards on all tested water sources.

Bucket Two: Of the 25 schools showing elevated levels of lead on the first test, seven passed after a re-test. The remaining 18 are awaiting retesting results or facility upgrades such as replacing of faucets or other plumbing fixtures. These 18 school sites include:

  • Boyd at Archer (four sinks)
  • Connally (one fountain)
  • Crim High (two fountains, one sink)
  • Garden Hills (staff dining sink)
  • Grove Park (two sinks, two fountains)
  • Inman Middle (three sinks, one fountain)
  • Jackson Elementary (one water fountain)
  • Kimberly at Parks Middle (two bathroom sinks)
  • King Middle at Coan (one bathroom sink)
  • Mary Lin (one classroom sink)
  • Morningside (two sinks)
  • Adult Education building at Peterson (media center sink)
  • Springdale Park (one sink)
  • Sutton Middle (one fountain)
  • Sutton Sixth Grade Academy (gym sink)
  • Towns (one sink)
  • Young Middle (two sinks)
  • West End Academy (one sink)

To ensure our stakeholders have information in real time, I will continue to provide as much of the results as I can as we receive them. Of course, we will make all of the results and data available upon completion of the testing process, which we expect to have wrapped up in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we are sending letters to the families and staff of the impacted schools to update them further about our efforts.

You can learn more about water quality tests here or contact Yvonne Douglas, Project Manager, APS Energy and Environmental Services at 404-802-3720 or ydouglas@atlantapublicschools.us.

image4

How We Can Move From Heaviness to Hope

image4Listening again to helicopters hovering overhead downtown last night after watching media coverage of the ensuing protests across the country, I couldn’t sleep. I kept playing over and over in my head the conversations I’ve been having with two APS graduates who are black males.

image3“I am one bullet away from becoming a #hashtag.” A heartbreaking tweet from Qwantayvious, my beloved mentee from BEST Academy, now attending the University of Michigan, and one of the most level-headed and focused young men I know.

As he explained his tweet to me, I was overcome with emotions. “You are not them; that’s not your life now or ever,” I rebutted.

He’s unrelenting.

“It’s true. You don’t believe me? No matter where I go, when a cop sees me they always think I’m up to no good just because of how I look, so I always have to watch what I do and what I say, but that’s not enough. Simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time can get me killed.”

He goes silent. I’m left speechless.

How could a college-bound high school valedictorian growing up in America in 2016 live with such fear always in the back of his mind?

As I was working through the anger and sadness this tweet conjured up for me, I received a call from my other beloved mentee, Amadou, another former BEST Academy valedictorian who recently completed his freshman year at Stanford.  I was troubled as I watched Amadou struggle with what he saw in videos on the Internet. I could see his face was clearly distraught even on my grainy iPhone screen on FaceTime. My stomach dropped when he said he feels safer in a developing country in West Africa (where he is working in a children’s hospital this summer) than he would be in this moment in America.

image2The heaviness that came over me following those two conversations was not unlike the emotions I felt on June 12 when I awoke to the news that a gunman ended the lives of 49 victims and injured dozens of others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Said simply, this is not the America our children deserve. And it’s not the way our police want to be perceived. While it is overwhelming to think about the magnitude of the problems and the history of injustice upon which our country was built, I have always been someone who believed America was capable of much better. And I still believe that, which is why I maintain a sense of hope and optimism even when it seems as if we are facing some of our darkest moments as a nation.

Much of what gives me hope is that I have the privilege of working with children – 50,000 of them, many of whom are so inspiring like Qwantayvious and Amadou! And I have come to believe that the transformational cultural shifts we must have in our country must begin in the schoolhouse where young, impressionable minds gather each day with their hearts and minds open to receiving new knowledge and open to having their ideas challenged. Indeed, the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 forced children to grapple with issues of race and inequality in classrooms across our nation, and I am convinced that it was the children of that generation who paved the way for the progress we have seen in race relations over the last several decades.

image1While I am deeply saddened by the tragic events of the last few weeks, I am holding onto hope because I know that school is about to start back in a few weeks, and I believe the students of Atlanta Public Schools can truly be at the epicenter of much-needed change in our community.

But it means we must teach them these skills.

As we prepare to welcome our students back at such a pivotal moment in time, I know that work is already underway in APS to position our students to be the caring people we need them to be for our country. For some, I know this may be hard to believe, but there are deliberate and specific efforts we are undergoing to make these changes.

For example, over the last two years, we have worked in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League in rolling out a “No Place for Hate” program across all of our schools. The initiative is designed to rally the entire school around the goal of creating a welcoming community committed to stopping all forms of bias and bullying.  While there is much work to be done in this area, we are starting to see progress as we work aggressively to address and prevent bullying, cyberbullying, sexting and other digital abuse, as well as educate against homophobia, racism and hatred.

At the same time, we have made the teaching of social and emotional skills a district priority. These skills are critical for the long-term academic and psycho-social success of our students. If students can persevere, set goals, overcome obstacles and develop healthy relationships, including with those in law enforcement, we know they will have a fighting chance. I have written extensively about this social emotional learning (SEL) initiative – most recently here. We began rolling out the program last year with a partnership with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning or CASEL, and it will move to a total of 65 APS campuses this fall with full district-wide implementation planned by the fall of 2017.

On one hand, I know that alone APS will never be able to solve feelings of mistrust and fear that some of our students have of law enforcement. On the other, I have heard and experienced many stories of our city’s police officers supporting and inspiring our kids to the point of even turning around the student’s life. And we want more of that because both students and officers should feel welcome, safe and respected in our school community. Building more bridges between our students, especially our African-American students, and those in law enforcement is part of the restructured plan for our safety and security department.

The new APS Police Department – which launched with a beautiful swearing-in ceremony last month – will be just as groundbreaking and innovative as our SEL efforts because our 67 new APS police officers are expected to be in alignment with new TRIAD-model research for Pre-K through 12 learning environments. They will also be teachers, counselors and mentors for our students as their crucial training and skills in police work and emergency management have been adapted to work in a variety of educational environments.

As a district transforming into a strong, child-centered system that helps our students to become more self-aware, accepting and respectful of one another, we will have officers who have been specifically selected for a new type of policing in our schools and who have been trained in SEL, positive behavior supports and restorative justice.

While our “No Place for Hate” initiative, our SEL work and our new APS police department give me incredible hope, perhaps what is most inspiring is the “other” work that I know is happening in schools across our city each and every day – the work that is not formalized and will never get measured on standardized tests. It’s the work that naturally happens when you have caring adults making authentic connections with students. I know that we have many educators who are teaching our students about their history and helping them recognize their self-worth. I know that others are mentoring students who may feel disenfranchised and giving them the skills to manage through turbulent adolescent years.

With the very worst of American fear rearing its ugly face over the last few weeks, I have faith in the educators of Atlanta Public Schools who are committed to addressing bigotry when they see it and who are working daily to empower our students with the social-emotional skills they need to thrive and to have hope in a world that can seem so daunting. I also have hope because I believe the research and have seen in practice that the skills of empathy and caring can be taught, and I believe in our children and their capacity to be a part of the solution our country is so desperately seeking. I hope you can believe in that too.

APS Tests for Lead to Ensure Safe Water in Schools

When reports began circulating several months ago about the discovery of lead in the water in public buildings in Flint, Mich., and other major cities, we in Atlanta Public Schools felt we had to do something immediately to ensure that the water in our buildings remained safe for consumption.

We immediately decided to test our water in 113 district buildings. At the time, we had not received any reports of lead in our water.

Importantly, we did not wait until someone else demanded that we do these tests. We took proactive steps on our own to ensure the safety of students and staff.

WaterTesting

Professional from Morley Environmental tests an APS water fountain.

We purposely conducted the tests in transparent fashion, sending notices to schools, letters to parents and caregivers and posting details on the APS website. We also openly expressed our plan to report the results – again, in a similarly transparent fashion – so that everyone in the APS community would get the results of the tests and understand the steps we are taking to ensure that the water in APS schools is safe to drink and use.

Unfortunately, some reporters have triggered their own reports prematurely before investigators from Morley Environmental have the chance to finish the work. Testing was completed at all APS-owned buildings today, but all results will not be immediately available.

But we are getting data back every day that further informs us about the actual state of our water. Here’s clarification of what has actually been found so far:

Of the 750 water sources (such as sinks and water fountains) sampled thus far, 23 showed elevated levels of lead. None of them will be in service again until after a retest clears the source or corrective actions have been implemented to address the elevated levels.

The good news is that after retesting, six of the initial 23 sources showing elevated levels have already been cleared. The remaining 17 are awaiting retesting results or facility upgrades such as replacing of faucets or other plumbing fixtures.

In many cases, a test may have revealed lead, but once the source was flushed with water, the test revealed it clear of lead. For example, one school had an unused sink in a book room that initially showed an elevated presence of lead. Once flushed, the sink tested cleared.

Again, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not require these tests, but we were insistent that our tests would be conducted to the agency’s strict standards. Therefore, Morley began federal standards testing for lead. We plan to finish our investigation by late July and employ a safe water plan for schools, where necessary, before the new school year.

I want to ensure our students, families, staff and community that wherever and whenever elevated levels of lead are found in our buildings, APS will implement a plan to provide safe water for students and employees and to address immediately any contamination.

We will also keep you informed as further results of the testing develop.

You can learn more about water quality investigations at www.atlantapublicschools.us/Page/49677 or contact Yvonne Douglas, Project Manager, APS Energy and Environmental Services at 404-802-3720 or ydouglas@atlantapublicschools.us.

A New Day for Safety and Security in APS

APS_OfficerSwearing_CCC9235Tonight marked the beginning of a new era for Atlanta Public Schools – the official start of the APS Police Department. This is a day that has been more than a year in the making.

The new police force will not only have the crucial training and skills in police work and emergency management, but also adapt those abilities in an educational environment. These officers needed to go above and beyond providing safety and security but also serve as role models, mentors and caregivers as they worked their shift. As a district transforming into a strong, child-centered system that helps our students to become more self-aware, accepting and respectful of one another, we now have officers who have been specifically educated in how to work in school environments.

Tonight, we swore in 67 new APS police officers, who are real-life police officers, trained and sworn just like any full-fledged officer in the State of Georgia. The difference will be that they are assigned to APS middle and high schools to serve as School Resource Officers to support students, staff and parents, and to secure our campuses.

These officers, known as SROs, will be trained in a national TRIAD model of public safety that involves law enforcement officers serving as informal counselors and educators in schools. We have partnered with the National Association of School Resource Officers for training, and these men and women will be trained in positive behavior support interventions and other student-centered services such as social emotional learning and conflict resolution consistency.

This effort is also supported in part by a $7.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Justice, which we earned in partnership with WestEd and Georgia State University and more than a dozen other supporting agencies. With this additional support and guidance, we can do more work on the frontlines in our schools to improve safety and security measures and practices for our students.

APS_OfficerSwearing_CCC9103

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and Board Chair Courtney English complete the pinning ceremony for Police Chief Ronald Applin

I want to thank Dr. Marquenta Sands Hall, who as Executive Director of the new Office of Safety and Security is charged with refreshing the new school safety operations that now includes a Police Department, an Emergency Management Department and a Security Operations Department. And I appreciate new Police Chief, Ronald Applin, for accepting this new call of duty after retiring six years ago as a captain with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department. We are fortunate to have his leadership as well.

I really want to thank all of the men and women who accepted the call of duty to become a part of the inaugural squad for the Atlanta Police Department. These talented, highly skilled men and women had their choice of dozens of departments around the state, but they chose to put their expertise and skills to the service of students and to those who educate them.

They have completed the standard education and training that is required to become a police officer in the State of Georgia. They have taken the standard oath of duty as any police officer in the State of Georgia. They have the usual, standard-issued equipment of a police officer but also training in positive behavior supports, restorative justice and social emotional learning that will not only keep our students, educators and staff safe and secure, but contribute to the overall transformation in Atlanta Public Schools.

By enlisting these new officers in our schools, on our athletic fields and at our academic functions, we have taken that extra critical step toward the APS mission to create a culture of trust and collaboration where every student graduates ready for college and career.

 

Addressing Allegations, Building Trust in APS

As part of our mission to ensure every student graduates ready for college and career, we are doing the work to create a “culture of trust” in the ways we remedy the past and remove barriers for the future. Take issues such as CRCT remediation and enrichment or pay parity. These are problems we didn’t create, but they’re problems we’re solving.

When I hear about a problem, I acknowledge it. I take the time to research and understand it and, if necessary, to investigate it. I develop a plan. And then I do what I say I am going to do. That builds trust.

Because of the quagmire that is the past of Atlanta Public Schools, we have to take even the most general tip seriously. That is our reality for APS at this time.

So when an anonymous tip came into the APS ethics hotline on June 14 claiming that someone had heard from another source that 30 firearms had been stolen from a district vehicle, we immediately began an investigation. With such a serious claim, we needed to take time to do a quality job of investigating this, even though we had media queries soon after the tip.

When I arrived, I inherited a process for APS investigations that often took weeks and months and, in some cases, over a year. We have worked hard to reduce investigation time. So when erroneous and incomplete information began circulating in the media this week, we were able to step out and hold a press conference today with facts within a few days of having received the original tip.

Here’s the official statement we released about the allegations of missing guns:

On June 14, 2016, an anonymous tip was called into the school system’s ethics hotline alleging that he/she had heard from another source that 30 firearms were stolen from the trunk of a district vehicle.  The Office of Employee Relations investigated the claims and as of today has found no evidence that district property has been stolen. 

As the district is in the process of launching its own police force, it has recently purchased 90 firearms.  We can confirm that all of those guns have been accounted for and were never missing from the district inventory.  APS investigators have also researched previously purchased firearms, and we can confirm that 18 guns are in the district’s inventory from prior year purchases.  Investigators are continuing to examine the district’s historic accounting records to determine if any additional guns were ever purchased.

While we have uncovered no evidence to suggest that these allegations are true, given the serious nature of these claims, the district has contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigations to seek their support in following up on these claims.

If there are any truths to these allegations, the school system stands ready to hold the appropriate individuals accountable. 

As we get more facts in this case, we will make them available. But we must make it clear to students, their families, our educators, our staff and our community that APS has learned from its past and will strive every day to do a better job in the future.

In fact, we encourage employees to speak up if they have a concern about unethical, illegal or unsafe activity. If they prefer to remain anonymous, they can access our ethics hotline at 1-877-801-7754 or online at www.tnwinc.com/AtlantaPublicSchools.TIPLinephoto

While we will take every claim seriously, I need time to do a proper investigation.

As part of changing the culture of APS and correcting mistakes of the past, we will continue to strive for transparency and adhere to our commitment to get to the truth as we proceed not only with this investigation but also with any other that may occur in the future.