Operation Rochambeau: The #StateofAPS, a District in Transformation

Excellence in everything we do, come along/
We’re changing the focus from what’s wrong to what’s strong/
Equity – we gotta remedy the past/
Remove barriers so our new future comes fast/
Ethics – our integrity is rebuilding/
From the top down for the sake of our children/
Engagement, connecting with our community/
To build trust with everybody & create unity/

image1This morning, hundreds of us gathered in the amphitheater at King Middle School for what was indeed an extravaganza of student excellence — a State of the District that highlighted the talents of more than 100 students from more than a dozen schools across our district.

Inspired by the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, our hour-long program of videos, raps, and dances was indeed a significant evolution from years past. The focus, as it should be, was squarely on our beautiful students as they showcased their amazing talents. We presented the State of the District using the same hip-hop stylings of the play and the innovative learning method of “Flocabulary” as a way to demonstrate how learning can be more relevant and engaging for our kids … and willing adults!image2

The event was also an opportunity for me to provide an update to our community on the State of Our District:

“After two years of analysis, triage, planning and a lot of hard work phasing in components of our strategic plan, we are now in full-scale implementation of our transformational framework. While the organization is stronger structurally, academic performance is mixed. The Atlanta community must do more if we are going to fully transform of Atlanta Public Schools.”

As I look back at the year since our last State of the District, I am struck by just how much we’ve undertaken as a system: Full conversion to our new charter system operating model and the creation of GO Teams at every school; embracing signature programming as a way to instructionally align all schools in a given cluster; beginning the implementation of our Turnaround Strategy, rolling out social-emotional learning across the district, the renewal of E-SPLOST last May, and the creation of our new APS Police Department this summer.

These bold and ambitious initiatives are beginning to show real results. Earlier this year, we reported the average ACT scores for APS students increased in every subject area while our students also saw a 37-point increase in average SAT scores.

But that’s not all:

Now let’s talk graduation rates/
Last year, APS had a cause to celebrate/
With a recent high of 71.5/
Percent of students who threw their graduation cap in the sky/
There’s more work to be done, we all know that/
But compared to the state’s rate – we’re closing the gap/

Now about a partnership that we’re proud to have made/
‘Achieve Atlanta’ has us making the grade!/
The goal is to get more kids in college with/
The help of funds in the form of a scholarship/
From our friends at the Whitehead Foundation/
It’s thanks to them that we can make this profound statement/
725 APS kids/
Are eligible for the help from their scholarships/

Those accomplishments should be celebrated— but we also have to acknowledge that when 40 percent of our students are considered “beginning” learners on our Georgia Milestones, much work remains to be done. That’s why I was excited about the opportunity to talk with our community about our new Request for Information (RFI) that is open right now.

We are inviting everyone— educational service providers, current and potential partners, professional learning organizations, foundations, current staff members and you – to submit ideas on how we can accelerate transformation in critical areas like early childhood education, literacy, whole-child development, wraparound services, summer learning loss, career readiness, and more.

As I reflect on this morning, I believe so deeply that APS has a true shot at transformation. My optimism is rooted in the improvements we’ve seen and the work that our staff and families do each and every day. But the Atlanta community must do more if we are going to fully transform our district. We need your support, we need you to join the transformation, and we need you to rise up!

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound/
Of Atlanta Schools making a turnaround/
But we’ve still got a lot of work to do/
And we can’t go anywhere without YOU/

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