Colder temperatures and severe weather are approaching
Atlanta already. As I do every year around this time, I am reminding everyone
in the Atlanta Public Schools community to be safe in the coming weeks. I also
want to re-share the district’s action plans – how we go about our decision-making
process for weather-related school delays and closings and how we promote the
learning process even when our kids cannot make it to school.
Safety is always our top priority, but, as educators,
we know that students who miss multiple school days could suffer learning loss
in their subject areas. That’s why it’s so important in times when schools are
closed due to inclement weather that we not only protect our students and keep
them safe, but we must also find ways to protect the valuable instructional
time our students need to master the curriculum at hand.
In this age of technology and online access, a day
without school should not have to be a day without learning. That’s why we
launched APS WeatherWise, our new online learning platform that
helps prevent learning loss by supplementing missed classroom time. I wrote
about it extensively when we launched
that initiative in February, so please review that blog
I have also addressed our weather procedures on this
blog in the past, detailing the decision process about when we close school
operations should weather conditions impede a safe school day. You can review
that post here.
Although it was written in expectations of wintry weather, it applies all year
Finally, I encourage you to log in to the campus
portal for parents and update your preferences for emergency notifications,
which include robo-calls, text messages and e-mails at http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/CPP.
And follow me on Twitter @CarstarphenMJ.
True Tales from Our Journey of Transformation and the Quest for Excellence
Nearly 1,000 stakeholders from the Atlanta Public Schools community this morning gathered at Harper Archer Elementary. Following a ribbon-cutting launch of that school, we related an epic tale of an urban school district in Georgia, once beleaguered but re-emerging as if a Phoenix from the ashes. We told tales of transformation and of student and teacher exploration.
Experience or relive the journey.
Also enjoy our featured intro video with live accompanying music from North Atlanta symphony orchestra. More details and many photos are below!
Atlanta Public Schools: Where exist brave children – some 52,000 of them ever so deserving of the richness of knowledge and experience. As do intrepid educators and support team members – 6,000 strong – dedicated to a culture so caring and true thus to teach our young heroes so that they may have abundance of choices in life – whether collegiate-, service- or career-related – and beyond.
Our dear friends – students, educators, partners,
families alike – joined us on a voyage where we are no longer left adrift, a
voyage well at sea but far from completed – a journey of transformation … a
quest, if you will, for excellence … and choice-filled lives.
I have so much gratitude — as we related my Sixth State of the District — to have the opportunity to delve into this work. I love this city, I believe in the mission and vision and wake up every day ready to serve Atlanta’s students and families. I am thankful to the Atlanta community (especially our taxpayers) and Board of Education, and I believe so much in the APS fleets and crews – including our teachers, principals, bus drivers, partners, parents, and everyone else who helped get APS back on track.
As has become APS tradition, those narrated the State of the District were the ones who I love and admire most: our talented, beautiful and heroic students. Books were illustrated by Henry Gelber from Grady High, along with shadow puppeeters and the Jester debaters. We also had more debaters from across the district as part of the Harvard Diversity Project; dancers and singers from Beecher Hills Elementary and Mays High; Washington’s Bad to the Bone; JROTC units from BEST, Carver, CSK and Therrell; video technicians from Therrell High; slam poets from Jackson High; the reading trailblazers of Harper Archer; South Atlanta’s football players, cheerleaders and band… and even a Greek Chorus, a DJ, and live symphony orchestra from North Atlanta!
We heard field reports from our new Principal of the Year, Eulonda Washington of Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy; our Principal of the Year finalists, Robin Christian of Barack and Michelle Obama Academy and Audrey Sofianos of Morningside Elementary; and the 2019 APS Teacher of the Year as well as the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Tracey Pendley of Burgess Peterson Academy.
And thus, the State
of the District for Year Six:
we near the end of one strategic course to embark on another, a more stable,
valiant Atlanta Public Schools has emerged, experiencing progress with greater
proficiency and higher graduation rates. But the epic tale of the APS Journey
of Transformation continues as work remains on our quest for excellence to be a
Looking over the journey thus far, while the vision
stays true, the APS mission will now specifically include equity. We are,
indeed, at the end of our five-year strategic course with the four pillars of
Academic Programs, Talent Management, Systems and Resources and Culture, and,
thus, we have conditioned our fleet and warriors to chart the next stage of the
And our brilliant Grady Jesters and Harvard Diversity
Project debaters stoked the debate over equity.
No matter where the debate turns, for the rest of the school year, we will continue to work the strategic and turnaround plans, set up APS to accelerate the dismantling of the achievement gap, protect the collectible tax digest, identify more areas to address inequities that will need to be resourced, engage the community in the Facilities Master Plan, including a fleshed-out proposal for a fine arts school.
Most of all, we must double down this year on our
literacy campaign. Literacy, after all, is the most important arrow in our
students’ quivers and the most critical part of their armor.
we sang to the song of “Glory” from Selma
performed by soloist Montez Sutton, rapper Camaal Strickland
and pianist Aaron Langston, all from Mays High School, and supported by
the North Atlanta High orchestra:
will be ours when literacy is won.
Today, we invited the entire APS community to become
immersed in the campaign. With a $60,000 grant from the Urban League and the
Hewlett Foundation, we will continue our Race 2 Read campaign, which
challenges our students and community to read together at least 20 minutes each
day. We have a district-wide goal to log more than 10 million minutes of
reading over the course of the year.
In the State of the District itself, we read to Harper Archer first and second graders from our Social Emotional Learning Book of the Month: Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. What a thrill to hear from more than 200 students reading along and several hundred caring adults reading along!
We concluded with our Jackson High School slam poets –
Epiphany, Asmara, Tyler and Elliott – recited:
is in the hands of those who put students and schools top of mind.
Those who come with THAT mission/ Have the right motivation
To create a situation / Of trust and collaboration
all of Atlanta’s children may have lives of hope and ambition
abundance of choices, college, career and service … say AYE!
a journey some describe as grand, monumental, majestic
copasetic, heroic, gigantic.
we prefer this perfect word for our mission, our journey, our quest, and that
singular, particular, spectacular word is …
I sent the APS community back out to continue this journey for our kids:
the 2019 State of the District is over, the program is done. Not so for our Journey
and our Quest until literacy is won!
when all students can read and see choices in life, will there be an end to the
cycles of violence, illiteracy and strife.
the truth, and I’m being prophetic, if we get this right for our kids, it will
on your paths for THEM. Don’t stray. Until we meet again, I bid you an EPIC
District posts growth in all grades and subjects
tested since 2015.
Just as every student gets a report card, so does
Atlanta Public Schools – directly from the U.S. Department of Education.
Officially, it’s called the 2019 National Assessment
of Educational Progress (NAEP), but it’s also known as the Nation’s Report
Card. Quick summary: NAEP is the largest nationally representative and
continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various
subject areas. Every two years, NAEP samples students in 4th and 8th grade and
assesses them in reading and mathematics. In 2019, NAEP selected approximately
2,500 representative APS students to participate in the assessment.
Now onto the news – and it’s good: APS continues to
make gains in all grades and subjects tested since 2015! (See our previous
report from Spring 2018 here.)
More specifically, APS continues to make incremental
gains. The percentage of students scoring proficient and above has increased in
all four tested grades/subjects since 2015; according to NAEP, gains are
statistically significant in 4th grade math and 8th grade
reading. See Figure 1.
Figure 1. APS NAEP
Percentage Proficient and Above, 2015 to 2019
Figure 2 shows the average scale score by
grade/subject for APS, Georgia, public schools in large cities nationwide and
all public schools. Nationwide, the average 8th grade reading score
decreased compared to 2017 (statistically significant). APS scores, however,
held steady. Additionally, in 4th grade reading, APS scored
similarly to other large city districts and narrowed the gap with other Georgia
districts since 2017 (not statistically significant). APS students also
narrowed the gap in 8th grade math with other students in large
cities and across Georgia, though these changes were not significant.
Figure 2. NAEP Average Scale
Score, 2015 to 2019
Figure 3 shows the APS average scale scores by race/ethnicity. Gaps persist between black/Hispanic and white
Figure 3. APS NAEP Average
Scale Score by Race / Ethnicity, 2019
NAEP achievement levels provide a breakdown of scale
score by below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. These achievement levels
do not represent proficiency as defined by the Georgia Milestones Assessments
and are not intended to reflect Georgia’s grade-level standards.
APS voluntarily participates in the NAEP assessment as
a TUDA district (Trial Urban District Assessment), which is a special
assessment group of 27 school districts in large metropolitan areas. By
participating in NAEP as the only TUDA district in Georgia, APS is able to
receive district-level aggregated scores which are comparable to other TUDA
districts, Georgia, and public schools in large cities nation-wide. Note that
NAEP results are never reported for individual students or schools.
We’re encouraged to see the transformation strategies
and related investments contributing to significant gains, including APS narrowing
the gap with our large urban peers in reading. However, there is still work to
be done. We must ensure that our students are more competitive with students
from across Georgia and the nation in order to prepare them for college and
career and to provide them the opportunity for choice-filled lives.
a month after the College Board
released SAT data,
the other leading college entrance exam has released its own data. According to
figures released today by ACT, Atlanta Public Schools’ (APS) 2019 graduates
achieved an average composite ACT score of 19.1, a slight increase of 0.4
points from the 2018 average of 18.7 and the highest in recent history.
the percentage of 2019 APS graduates taking the ACT decreased compared to 2018,
from 72% to 52%. ACT participation among 2019 graduates also declined at the
state and national levels, and the average composite scores were stable (see
Figure 1. Average ACT score and participation – APS,
Georgia, and nation
we saw a decline in ACT participation, we have actually seen a dramatic
increase in the total number of students taking college entrance exams. As I wrote earlier this
the district engaged in a simple and targeted initiative with SAT School Day
last year, which allowed all juniors to take the SAT exam at their home school
during a normal school day, removing funding and transportation barriers for
APS class of 2019 was the first cohort to participate in SAT School Day: Students
had the opportunity to take the SAT in their own schools, on a school day, at
no cost to them. As a result of this initiative, 90% of 2019 APS graduates took
the SAT – nearly 900 students more than the class of 2018. As expected
with such a dramatic increase in participation, the average total SAT score for
the class of 2019 decreased 53 points compared to 2018, from 997 to 944. For the first time since the redesigned SAT in 2016, more graduates
took the SAT than the ACT.
really want to stress the importance of this as I did in my previous blog post.
Without taking a gateway exam, like the SAT or ACT, college is not an option.
But so many of our students in the past did not have the opportunity because of
funding or transportation issues. This is a perfect example of APS removing
barriers of the past, creating equity and increased rigor … in all, living the
mission of college and career readiness.
will continue to do more.
to the test results themselves, three APS schools exceeded the average ACT
score for the nation (20.7): Grady High
School (23.1); North Atlanta High School (22.2); and Drew Charter (21.1); Grady
and North Atlanta also exceeded the state average ACT score (21.4). See Table 1.
Atlanta Public Schools teachers,
administrators and staff tonight took a much deserved break to celebrate those
among us who best demonstrate the efforts to prepare our beautiful children for
college, career and choice-filled lives. I’m talking about the annual APyeS
Awards, which were held at the Delta Flight Museum!
Many thanks to Delta
Airlines for providing us such a beautiful venue for our event. Also much
appreciation to all of our partners, who made tonight’s event possible: Family
First Credit Union, Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inspire Brands, Four
Seasons Hotel – Atlanta, the Atlanta Falcons, Ray Entertainment Design Services
and Atlanta United.
Without further ado, here
are our winners! Congratulations!
Excellence in Teaching Award:
Davis, Orchestra Director, Grady High School – Krissi
Davis, our High School Teacher of the Year, has served as the Orchestra
Director at Grady High School since Fall 2017 and has taught for 15 years.
Before teaching at Grady, Davis taught at Sutton Middle School and served as
the Lead Middle School Orchestra Teacher for APS. Under her direction, the
Sutton Middle School Sinfonia Orchestra performed in the National Band and
Orchestra Festival in Carnegie Hall in New York in Spring 2016.
Principal of the Year:
Eulonda Washington, Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy – Eulonda Washington, an educator for more than 28 years, has been a guiding force at Coretta Scott King for the last three years.
Under Washington’s leadership, Coretta Scott King has many areas to celebrate including an increasing the graduation rate from 89.7 to 100%, becoming a state Beating the Odds school and earning a National AdvancEd certification in STEM, the first all-girls school to achieve that in Georgia.
Students at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy were the center of attention and recipients of several surprises when Good Morning America featured the school for its first-ever “GMA” Yearbook.
Assistant Principal of the Year:
Joy Antone, Inman Middle School – An accomplished instructional leader with more than
25 year, she has a track record of increasing student achievement through the use of strategic planning
improvement cycles and supporting a positive change in school climate. In her
paper, Using Student
Ambassadors to Create and Maintain a Positive Climate,
has been presented at educational conferences!
Students First winner:
Family and Community Engagement Specialist at Dunbar
Elementary School – Birdsong-Walker has extensive experience developing parent empowerment
and community outreach programs. As a result of her
dedication, Dunbar Elementary has established an active PTA, a food and
clothing bank and wrap-around services for families facing homelessness. She also
serves as coach for the soccer team, bike club and Dancing Dolls dance team.
Schools First winner:
Womack, Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator – In her third
year as the fine and performing arts coordinator, Dr. Womack has worked toward
making APS an arts-rich district with arts-rich schools by providing opportunities
for student engagement, building the capacity of teachers, and partnering with
community organizations to ensure that all students have access to a
high-quality, sequential arts education.
GO Teams – Excellence in
Leadership winner: Dr. John Waller, Principal of E. Rivers Elementary
Outstanding GO Team: Hollis Innovation Academy, led by Principal Dr.
Diamond Jack- Ford.
Excellence in Family Engagement Parent
Award: Alicia DeCriscio
Excellence in Family Engagement Community
Award: HTI CATALYSTS, Led by Dr.
Excellence in Family Engagement
School-Based Award: Hollis
Innovation Academy Family Engagement Leadership team, led by Principal Dr.
Diamond Jack- Ford.
Partner of the Year: Atlanta
Volunteers Lawyer Foundation, has tackled one of our district’s biggest
barriers—transiency—through their efforts to provide stable, safe and healthy
housing. Through their Standing with Our Neighbors program, the foundation embeds
legal program staff inside seven APS schools to stop housing instability and
work as a first responder so they can stabilize families, schools and the
community. As a result, their work has dramatically decreased the mobility rate
in their schools by double digits!
Partner Award Winners:
Cluster – OneCoast
OneCoast has provided monthly
donations of food to stock the pantries at Finch and Perkerson elementary
Douglass Cluster – Buckhead Church
Buckhead Church has a
longstanding history of service in the Douglass Cluster and continues to
provide volunteers, mentors and monetary support for wraparound services at
KIPP Woodson Park.
Wheat Street Baptist Church
Wheat Street Baptist has
adopted the 4th grade classes at Hope Hill Elementary. Members serve as tutors
and mentors and make regular monetary donations to support initiatives, such as
the school’s game room.
Jackson Cluster – Wellspring Living
Wellspring Living has
impacted the lives of over 120 students at Phoenix Academy by providing
therapeutic services and sponsoring an amazing onsite clothing boutique for
personal and professional needs.
have provided service, such as volunteers and career experts, at Young Middle
School and also donated $10,000 for needed uniforms and supplies.
Station 16 has supported
Bolton Academy with its branding campaigns focused on IB so that students,
parents and the community stay engaged and informed about school goals.
Atlanta Cluster – Witherite
Amy Witherite and her
team have made a long-term commitment to students at South Atlanta High School,
including providing 10 renewable scholarships to the Class of 2019.
Cluster – The
Speak Life Foundation
The Speak Life
Foundation has been providing life skills development opportunities at Therrell
High since 2007 to include offering over 20 tours of college campuses for
L.E.A.D. uses the sport
of baseball to support Black males to overcome barriers to academic
achievement. To date, L.E.A.D. has served over 3500 APS youth in grades
6th-12th including many at Washington High School.
District narrows gaps with state with its elementary and high school scores and surpasses state in middle school grades.
the course of the year, a number of state agencies, testing boards and national
assessment programs deliver a wide range of data to school districts around the
nation. For Georgia schools, this includes Georgia Milestones, the National
Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the SATs and ACTs, among others.
have made it a steadfast practice to make that information readily available to
everyone in the Atlanta Public Schools community through our website, social
media, my ATLSuper.com blog and
especially through our innovative data portal at www.APSInsights.org.
the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) released results for the 2019
College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). And as always, in the
spirit of trust and collaboration, no one rolls out their data like Atlanta
Atlanta Public Schools achieved an overall score of
74.1 on the 2019 CCRPI, an increase of 0.7 from 2018. The overall 2019 CCRPI
score for the state is 75.9, down 0.7 from 2018, according to data released
today by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE). APS’ 2019 overall score
narrowed the gap with the state by 1.4 points to 1.8.
At the high school level, both district and state scores increased from last year. APS outpaced the state with a gain of 4.9 to a score of 70.4, narrowing the gap 3.2 points with the state compared to 2018. At the middle school level, while the state declined 4.1 points, APS only declined by 0.6 to a 2019 score of 72.2. As a result, APS surpassed the state score of 72.1. Similarly, despite a slight decrease at the elementary level for APS to a 2019 score of 77.1, the gap between APS and the state decreased to just 0.5 points (compared to 1 point in 2018). See Figure 1.
Figure 1. APS & State CCRPI Scores by Grade Band
Additionally, 19 APS elementary schools beat
the state average of 77.1, six more than last year; 13 middle schools beat the
state average of 72.1, nine more than last year; and five high schools beat the
state average of 77.0, the same as last year. See Tables 1-3.
Table 1. APS Elementary School CCRPI Scores
Above the State
Table 2. APS Middle School CCRPI Scores Above
Table 3. APS High School CCRPI Scores Above
Six APS schools – led by Audrey Sofianos, Terry Harness, Monishae Mosley-O’Neill, Jay Bland, Brent McBride and Emily Boatright – achieved scores above 90. Another 13 scored between 80 and 90! Congratulations to John Waller, Betsy Bockman, Sharyn Briscoe, Kevin Maxwell, Curtis Douglass, Anita Lawrence, Gail Johnson, Lara Zelski, Chris Knowles, Stacey Abbott, Estee Kelly, Gregory Leaphart and Michael Bray as well!
I also want to recognize Deputy Superintendent
David Jernigan, the associate superintendents and the Academics team, Chief
Accountability and Information Officer Bill Caritj, and Executive Director of
our Data Information Group Michael LaMont and his team for providing us with a
full analysis of these results and for helping us keep these results in
perspective as we look holistically at all the academic experiences of our
students. For a complete list of APS CCRPI scores by school, see Tables 4-7
What we’re seeing with the CCRPI scores largely reflects the performance trends we saw in our Georgia Milestones results. We can see the foundational work started in 2014 beginning to take effect across the District as we narrow gaps with the state. But the scores for all schools must increase so we are continuing the hard work to provide our students with a rigorous academic experience.
According to the latest results, 48 of 87 APS
schools saw increases in their CCRPI scores compared to 2018. Schools achieving
double-digit gains include: KIPP Vision Primary (+24.7), KIPP WAYS Primary
(+21.6), M.A. Jones ES (+19.1), Bolton Academy (+17.5), Hutchinson ES (+15.7),
KIPP Vision (+15.7), Thomasville Heights ES (+15.5), Forrest Hill (+14.9),
Towns ES (+14.1), E. Rivers ES (+13.2), Humphries ES (+12.6), Carver STEAM
(+11.4), Jackson HS (+11.3), Garden Hills ES (+10.2) and Coretta Scott King
Young Women’s Leadership Academy (+10.1).
Due to changes GaDOE made to the CCRPI
components and indicators and the weighting of those components, this marks the
first year that one-to-one comparisons can be made to the previous year of
While the state CCRPI scores decreased
overall, we are proud that more than half of our schools achieved increases in
2019. We continue to look at multiple measures, including Georgia Milestones,
graduation rates, student growth percentiles, climate star ratings and other
indicators in order to get a full picture of our students’ overall academic
Following the reauthorization of the Federal
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, GaDOE redesigned CCRPI for the
2017-2018 school year. Every school and district in Georgia receive a CCRPI
score on a scale from 0 to 100. The CCRPI reporting system includes four
components for elementary and middle schools and five components for high
Content Mastery – The achievement of students in English language arts, math, science, and social studies.
Progress – A measure of growth in English language arts and math students have made relative to academically-similar students across Georgia and a measure of the progress English learners are making towards English-language proficiency.
Closing Gaps – The extent to which all students and all student subgroups are meeting annual achievement improvement targets.
Readiness – A measure of literacy, student attendance, and enrichment beyond core academic subjects in middle and elementary schools, while additionally including accelerated enrollment, pathway completion, and a demonstration of college and career readiness for high schools.
The overall CCRPI
score is reported on a 0‐100 scale. Each CCRPI indicator and component is also
reported on a 0‐100 scale. Components are weighted and combined according to
the weights defined in the table below to determine the overall CCRPI score.
more information and analysis on all APS’ CCRPI scores, click here. To view detailed score reports for the
state and every public school district in Georgia, visit the
GADOE CCRPI page.
always, we remain focused on the academic success of every child in APS. The
APS Journey has been ongoing, and it’s going to take a steadfast commitment to
the course to reach the end where ALL students graduate ready for college and
Table 4. APS Elementary School CCRPI Scores
(A-H) and Change from 2018
Table 5. APS Elementary School CCRPI Scores
(J-Z) and Change from 2018
Table 6. APS Middle School CCRPI Scores and
Change from 2018
Table 7. APS High School CCRPI Scores and
Change from 2018
honors our beloved transportation team – bus drivers, monitors, mechanics and
support squad – all charged with safely transporting our precious students to
school, field trips, athletic events and co-curricular activities
Honk if you love our bus drivers today!
Every school day, nearly 400 buses Atlanta Public
Schools take to the streets to transport more than 30,000 students over 21,000
miles to school. At the helm are our bus drivers and monitors. After a child’s parents or care givers, they
are often the very first adults our students see at the start of each school
day … and sometimes the last as they return home.
Their interaction with our
students can often set the tone for the day and whether they are truly ready to
learn. They are more than transportation professionals … they are our Teachers
on Wheels! And I cannot thank them enough for keeping Students and Safety First
and doing their part in our mission to graduate every child ready for college
Today is Georgia Bus Driver
Appreciation Day, which also kicks off National School Bus Safety Week. But I
love our transportation team – bus drivers, monitors, mechanics and support
squad – so much that I consider every day as Bus Driver Appreciation Day!
Safety is so essential that every week MUST be School Bus Safety Week.
Research studies from the Brookings Institute and
others tell us that there are great benefits associated with students riding
the bus – including the following:
Students who ride the bus have fewer absences.
Students are 50 times more likely to arrive at school safely on a school bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends.
Students who ride the bus are more confident and have higher self-esteem and social skills.
Students who take the bus are contributing to cleaner air by doing their part to reduce pollution.
And students who take the bus are benefiting the community! Fewer cars means less Atlanta traffic, lower emissions, and safer roads!
Who makes this possible for APS students each day?
Teachers on wheels! Our bus operators and monitors, mechanics and
transportation support personnel!
That’s why we support them with specialized training,
including social emotional learning techniques that focus on the ability to set
goals, overcome obstacles and develop healthy relationships. Earlier this
summer, we celebrated our APS Elite Bus Drivers – drivers who have perfect
attendance and remain accident-free. Check out this amazing video!
If you are not able to thank a bus driver, monitor or
anyone else from our transportation department today or this week, there is one
thing everyone can do to show their appreciation: Drive safely. Drive slower
and safer, especially around the vehicles carrying our most precious cargo.