APS Leads Metro Atlanta, Exceeds State with ‘Beat the Odds’ Schools

Thirty-six APS schools performed better than expected on College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) when compared with schools with similar characteristics across the state.

Hot off the press! Atlanta Public Schools, based on new analysis released today by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA), leads Metro Atlanta districts and exceeds the state in the percentage of “Beat the Odds” schools!

According to GOSA analysis, 36 APS schools, or 41 percent of our schools, “Beat the Odds!” Based on the calculations released by the state, APS has the highest percentage of schools that Beat the Odds when compared to other metro-area districts. In addition — wait for it — APS beat the overall state rate, which came in at 31 percent!

Beat the Odds Percentages for State and Metro-Area School Districts:

Atlanta Public Schools41%
Fulton County Schools36%
Gwinnett County Public Schools34%
DeKalb County Schools31%
State of Georgia31%
Cobb County School District31%
Clayton County Public Schools17%

As the APS community knows, I never hesitate to share our data – the good, the bad, the ugly. But I am ecstatic when I can share data such as this that reflect so positively on the hard work of our students, our teachers, our principals and other school leaders and staff.  Every day, we are striving toward excellence on our Journey of Transformation. Today’s news shows that we continue to make gains!

I want to highlight our 36 schools that Beat the Odds and give a special shout out to each school principal for a job well done!

APS School that Beat the OddsSchool Principal
Bolton AcademyAnita Lawrence
Brown Middle SchoolTiauna Crooms
Bunche Middle SchoolOctavius Harris
Burgess-Peterson Elementary SchoolDavid White
Centennial AcademyTequila Lamar
Charles R. Drew Charter SchoolKendrick Myers / Gregory Leaphart
Charles R. Drew Charter School Elementary AcademyMonishae O’Neill
Continental Colony Elementary SchoolKristen Vaughn
Early College High School at CarverMarcene Thornton
F. L. Stanton Elementary SchoolPhyllis Earls
Fickett Elementary SchoolBenita Grant
Forrest Hills AcademyZawadaski Robinson
Garden Hills Elementary SchoolStacey Abbott
Grady High SchoolBetsy Bockman
Hollis Innovation AcademyDiamond Jack
Humphries Elementary SchoolMelanie Mitchell
Hutchinson Elementary SchoolShuanta Broadway
Inman Middle SchoolKevin Maxwell
King Middle SchoolPaul Brown
KIPP STRIVE AcademyMicheal Bray
KIPP VISION PrimaryTerra Walker
KIPP WAYS PrimaryAudrianna Archibald
M. Agnes Jones Elementary SchoolMargul Woolfolk
Maynard H. Jackson High SchoolAdam Danser
North Atlanta High SchoolCurtis Douglass
Peyton Forest Elementary SchoolCynthia Gunner
E. Rivers Elementary SchoolJohn Waller
Springdale Park Elementary SchoolTerry Harness
Sutton Middle SchoolGail Johnson
Sylvan Hills Middle SchoolArtesza Portee
Towns Elementary SchoolDione Taylor
Tuskegee Airman Global AcademyYolanda Weems
Usher-Collier Elementary SchoolJerry Parker
West Manor Elementary SchoolReginald Lawrence
Westside Atlanta Charter SchoolDelana Reeves

I also want to recognize Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan and the entire Schools and Academics team, especially our Associate Superintendents Dr. Danielle Battle, Yolonda Brown, Dr. Emily Massey, Dr. Dan Sims, and Tommy Usher; our Chief Accountability and Information Officer Bill Caritj and his team, including Michael LaMont and the Data Information Group for providing us with a full analysis of these results.

As we work toward achieving improved results, it’s important that we look holistically at our schools’ overall academic performance. We can’t and don’t look at just one indicator or another to measure progress. We have to analyze all of it.  Today’s Beat the Odds analysis is one of the pieces of information we use to analyze school performance, and it serves as a complement to CCRPI.

To give you a broader perspective on the Beat the Odds analysis, here’s a little more information:

  • The Beat the Odds calculation represents whether a school’s performance on the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) was higher than schools with similar characteristics across the state.
  • The calculation includes variables that are outside of a school’s control, such as school size, percent directly certified, percent English learners, percent of students with disabilities, percent of students in each race (excluding Native American), school churn rate, whether a school is defined as non-traditional and the school type.
Maynard H. Jackson High School

Also, prior to 2018, schools were designated as either “Beat the Odds” or “Did Not Beat the Odds. Beginning last year, “Did Not Beat the Odds” schools were split into “Within the Expected Range” and “Below the Expected Range.”  In addition to the 36 APS schools that Beat the Odds (down from 46 last year), 35 were classified as “Within the Expected Range” (up from 26 last year) and 16 were classified as “Below the Expected Range” (the same as last year). This means a total of 71 APS schools, or more than 80%, either Beat the Odds or performed Within the Expected Range; this is consistent with 2018 performance.

You can learn more about this year’s Beat the Odds analysis on the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement’s website at https://gosa.georgia.gov/beating-odds-analysis.

Tuskegee Global Airmen Academy

Thank you for being engaged in the work of APS and for supporting our efforts to prepare all of our students for the choice-filled lives they deserve!

The 2019 Winter Card Contest: The Season as Seen through Eyes of APS Students

As anyone following Atlanta Public Schools over the past few weeks knows, the district has found numerous ways to showcase the “EPIC” talent of our amazing students from the State of the District to the Anti-Defamation League’s Concert Against Hate to the many productions at our schools all over Atlanta.

And now we have our annual Winter Card Contest!

The student winners and their families were recognized at the Board of Education meeting on Monday at the Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL) at 130 Trinity Avenue SW. The winning designs along with dozens of other entries will remain on display in the lobby of CLL through the end of the calendar year.

More than 200 students from every corner of the district submitted winter card designs for this year’s competition. The Winter Card contest is open to all APS students and the entries are judged blindly, without knowledge of student names, student grade levels, teacher names, or schools. We evaluate the designs using multiple criteria, including overall concept, execution and integration of the APS brand.

I am always astonished at the breadth and depth of creativity. I cannot express the difficulty we have in selecting our winners especially when I find so much joy in looking at every card!

Every year, we identify first, second and third place winners, along with an honorable mention. This year, we added a few other awards because we felt these designs needed recognition as well!

Drum roll, please! Here are the winners of our 2019 Winter Card contest:

First place goes to Maria Lopez, a 12th grader at Mays High School for a winter scene of an APS bus outside of her school.

Second place goes to Danielle Dollar, a 10th grader at North Atlanta High School for this stunning image of a Labrador Retriever in the snow.

Third place goes to Scarlett Wills, also a 10th grader at North Atlanta, for a fireside scene with an APS constellation.

Rozaria Johnson, a fifth grader at Humphries Elementary School, earned an honorable mention for this snowman and winter clothes hanging on a line.

The most exciting part of this contest is that we’ve printed a number of the winning winter cards to share with you — our families, staff and community members — in celebration of our students’ talents. Because we’re not able to send a printed copy of these cards to everyone, I’m sharing them here with you, on my blog, for everyone to enjoy.

I also want to share with you a series of other cards that inspire us, amused us or captured an indescribable something in their work. So we have some special and fun “shout-out” awards:

Most Delicious – “Cookie Tray” by the Mary Lin Elementary Art Club (fourth and fifth grade)

Most Potential – “Holiday Woods” by Jennifer Choi, 8th grade at Sutton Middle School

Most Enigmatic – “Happy Holidays” by Carter Martin, 9th grade at North Atlanta High

Best Brand Integration – “Winter A” by Oliver Loring, 4th grade at Mary Lin Elementary

I want to thank all of our talented students who participated in this year’s contest, and I also want to thank all of our art teachers throughout the district, especially the art teachers of the students who won — Arshaad Norwood of Mays, Allison Shepard of North Atlanta and Shaena O’Kelley of Humphries.

A special thank you to Bill Goodman, our Director of Multimedia Design; Charlotte Napper, our Graphic Designer; and Dr. Sara Womack, our Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator, for spearheading this annual contest with me and for their guidance throughout the selection process.

Finally, for your additional amusement … a special extra winter card gift for you. I especially loved this one, which earned our Most Characteristic Today’s Student Award. Congrats to Berkeley Harrel, a 9th grader at North Atlanta High for “APS Snowman,” which included a note inside (scratched out by her teacher, but I thought it was hilariously typical of our kids today)!

Congratulations to all of our 2019 Winter Card contest winners on a job well done!

GOSA, Georgia Department of Education Release Lists of Schools Eligible for Turnaround, Comprehensive Support

For third consecutive year, APS sees decrease of schools identified by Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) for potential state intervention, while seven APS Title I schools earn “Reward” designation from GaDOE.

[UPDATE (December 19, 2019): The Georgia Department of Education informed APS today that three additional schools — Hutchinson Elementary, KIPP WAYS Primary and M. Agnes Jones Elementary — have been added to its Reward Schools list. The blog has been updated to reflect this news.]

Nearly a month after our EPIC State of the District program, Atlanta Public Schools has some more updates from both the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) and the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) that detail the current state of APS.

GOSA – Turnaround Eligible Schools List

This morning, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) released its updated list of Turnaround Eligible Schools. This marks the third consecutive year in which the district has seen a decrease in the number of schools identified for potential state intervention.

Table 1 below shows the 12 APS schools on the 2019 Turnaround Eligible list. In 2018, APS had 13 schools on the Turnaround Eligible list. With the current list, 10 schools remained on the list, three of our schools (Gideons, Hollis and Finch) exited the list and two (Cascade and Slater) moved on to the 2019 list.

Table 1.  2019 APS Turnaround Eligible schools

Schools with three-year average CCRPI scores in the bottom five percent of the state are identified as turnaround eligible (excluding non-traditional and state special schools). This year, the list includes schools with a three-year (2017, 2018, 2019) average CCRPI score that is at or below 57.0. Schools on the list are eligible for state-issued interventions through the state’s Chief Turnaround Officer and Department of Education.

Since January 2017, the number of APS schools identified for potential state intervention has decreased from 23 schools to 12 schools.

  • 23 APS schools were placed on GOSA’s Chronically Failing Schools list in January 2017 before the list was replaced by the Turnaround Eligible List with the passage of House Bill 338 in spring 2017.
  • In 2017, 16 schools in APS were on the first actual Turnaround Eligible list and formed the initial cohort of the ongoing APS Turnaround Strategy.
  • Five of those schools exited the list after one year; in 2018 (last year), 13 APS schools were on the Turnaround Eligible list.
  • The 2019 Turnaround Eligible list includes 12 schools; of these, eight are part of the initial turnaround cohort and four have been added since 2017 (Douglass and Carver STEAM in 2018; Cascade and Slater this year). Since the implementation of the APS Turnaround Strategy, half of the 16 schools originally identified for potential state intervention have exited the Turnaround Eligible list.

GaDOE – CSI, CSI Promise, TSI and Additional TSI

Last week, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) released its own lists of schools identified for additional supports:  Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), CSI Promise, Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Additional TSI (ATSI). The criteria for these identifications were outlined last year as part of the state’s federally-approved plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

A school can appear on the CSI list for two reasons: 

  1. The school is a Title I school with a three-year CCRPI average in the lowest 5% of all Georgia Title I schools, or
  2. The school is a high school with a four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate of 67% or lower.

A Title I school with a three-year CCRPI average in the lowest 6-10% of all Title I schools in the state is identified as CSI Promise. Schools are identified for TSI if any subgroup within the school is performing in the lowest 5% of all schools in at least 50% of CCRPI components, and schools are identified for ATSI if any subgroup within the school is performing in the lowest 5% of all schools in all CCRPI components. Schools identified on these lists will receive state support, including but not limited to additional funding, professional learning and targeted technical assistance. CSI schools receive the most supports, followed by TSI, ATSI and CSI Promise.

Table 2 below shows the 13 APS schools on the 2019 CSI list. Ten of these schools were also on the CSI list for 2018, and three were on the Promise list. No APS schools exited the CSI list from 2018 to 2019. While Finch was not in the lowest 5% of Title I schools in the state based on its 2019 CCRPI score, it did not meet the exit criteria and thus remains on the CSI list. The lists are created using 2019 CCRPI scores; for schools that have closed / merged, APS will decide how to allocate the funding and support.

Table 2.  2019 APS CSI schools and 2018 status

For 2019, APS had five schools on the CSI Promise list (Cascade, Gideons, Mays, Slater and Toomer) and four schools on the TSI list (Continental Colony, Hollis Innovation, Kindezi Old Fourth Ward and Washington High.

Seven of our schools – Bolton Academy, Garden Hills Elementary, Hutchinson Elementary, KIPP Vision, KIPP Vision Primary, KIPP WAYS Primary and M. Agnes Jones Elementary – were all named Reward Schools by the Georgia Department of Education. Reward Schools are among the greatest-improving 5% of Title I Schoolwide schools and Title I Targeted Assistance schools. Reward Schools also have to maintain the performance of their economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and English learners to be recognized.

Congratulations to those schools!

We anticipate receiving GOSA’s Beating the Odds analysis within 6 to 8 weeks, and I will share that with the APS community as soon as it is available.

Why Am I #APSthankful? Let me Count(down) the Ways

As we near the big school breaks, we often spend time counting the days, then the hours and then the minutes until we can have extended time with our loved ones and friends. Our APS team and students have worked hard so far this semester, and they all need this much-deserved break. After all, it’s been 16 weeks with no break so folks are reeeeaaadddyyyyy for some chill time.

But for a moment, I encourage all of us to count our blessings and the many reasons we should be thankful to be a part of Atlanta Public Schools. For me, here’s a count(down)!

10. I am thankful that my life and career brought me to Atlanta nearly six years ago. I often quote Aristotle – “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation” – when I consider this blessing, which has been both the most challenging and most rewarding part of my career.

9. I am thankful for the spirit of Atlanta – the birthplace of a King, the crucible of the Civil Rights Movement, the International Gateway to the Southeastern United States and the City Too Busy to Hate. This is a city that inspires, innovates and influences, and it’s a blessing to be here.

8. I am thankful to our school board members and all of my APS colleagues for doing the work in support of our families and students especially as we continue the difficult lifting required to create the kind of transformation that is so desperately needed in Atlanta Public Schools.

7. I am thankful for our many partners – more than 300 of them! – who have found their way back to APS through donations, expertise or sweat equity and joined us for an EPIC State of the District at Harper-Archer Elementary School.

6. I am thankful for the voters in Atlanta, who overwhelmingly reinvested in Atlanta’s kids with the renewal of the E-SPLOST, a penny sales tax that goes toward much-needed renovations of our schools, technology, buses, athletic facilities and school security enhancements.  Without raising the millage, we have constructed new buildings or completed major renovations or substantial additions to 17 schools, which is about 20% of our infrastructure, with more coming online next year.

5. I am thankful for our district priority of social emotional learning, where all students can be taught skills like self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making, to reach their hopes and dreams. And I am thankful that Atlanta Public Schools is at the forefront of this national movement.

4.  I am thankful for Delta Airlines and TutorMate for working with hundreds of our students on the essential skill of literacy. And I am thankful that the Urban League of Greater Atlanta has joined us in full force for our new literacy campaign. With a grant from the Urban League and the Hewlett Foundation, we will continue our Race 2 Read campaign, which challenges our students and community to pleasure 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.

3. I am thankful for our parents, our caregivers, our grandparents, our families and friends who do everything they can to get our children to school each day ready to learn. I am thankful for them trying to find teachable moments in every day.

2. I am thankful for our school-based team members, who serve at the frontlines of our schools. They have spent many days (and nights and, often, weekends) in service to our students. We have a specific mission to graduate every student ready for college and career, and they are dedicated to giving them the smarts … and the hearts … to be better people than we could ever be.

1. Most of all … I am thankful for our beautiful, glorious, talented students, who never stop amazing me from our APyeS! Awards to the State of the District to the Anti-Defamation League’s Concert Against Hate. We must never lose faith in them or ever stop being thankful that they give us reasons to show up for work every day. They are first in our mission, first in our vision and first in our core values. Our children are my True North!

Again, I am #APSthankful and thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Time to Take Arts in APS to ‘EPIC’ Level

Two weeks after our EPIC State of the District, I remain in absolute awe of not only the vast numbers of Atlanta Public Schools students who helped narrate our tales of transformation but the variety and sheer expertise of their performances. (If you haven’t viewed it yet, check my EPIC blog for videos and photos!)

The dancing, the singing, the music, the set designs, camera work and even shadow puppets – all APS students … even North Atlanta orchestra’s meticulous versions of the themes of Game of Thrones, Pirates of the Caribbean and “Glory” from Selma!

Inspired by our students and the educators who teach them, I am recommitting to explore the viability and concepts of a performing and fine arts school in APS and vet some scenarios, budgets and facility and program concepts during this school year.

The research is extensive and clear. An arts education benefits students by reducing disciplinary infractions, increasing compassion for others, and improving academic achievement. Arts and culture improve school engagement and college aspirations, as well as safety, health, and general well-being. See detailed studies here and here. For an overview of arts and education research, see the wealth of information at ArtsEdSearch.

Under the leadership of Sara Womack, the district’s fine and performing arts coordinator (and reigning winner of the APyeS Schools First Award!), we have taken a full assessment of the arts within Atlanta Public Schools. From this audit, we found that APS has more music programs than many other comparable school districts. We learned that every APS school, except one, provides a visual art program during the school day, and all but one provides music instruction during the school day.

We currently employ 71 art teachers, 17 dance teachers, 95 music teachers and 11 theater teachers.

We still have areas of growth in the arts, such as increasing rigor and student recruitment in arts-related content areas, improve the quality of such programming and providing equitable performance facilities and resources across the district.

We’ve had a few starts, including discussion around the district’s five-year arts plan, which proposed an arts high school as a possible project, with the Board in 2018.

Here’s how the concept is evolving: An APS fine and performing arts high school would develop diverse artists, scholars, and arts advocates through professional arts training supported by a college preparatory academic education, unlike any other school in the region. Also, students with artistic talent may be motivated to graduate early or with more focus for college or career with the engagement of a fine and performing arts high school.

The arts curriculum could be developed and taught by arts educators and professional artists in a conservatory-based approach with a goal of authentic arts-making experiences. If modeled after the most successful arts professional preparatory schools around the nation, the school would be structured as a public/non-profit partnership model under the governance of a non-profit board. Quality teachers would deliver academics, and our arts educators would work hand-in-hand with the professional arts community to deliver the highest quality arts program. 

This approach, if adopted, would provide expertise and real-life experiences in order to prepare students for success in college or career. Students would choose a focused arts discipline, such as dance, music, theatre, or visual arts, and will be challenged to demonstrate, collaboration, leadership, curiosity, quality, and commitment. Programming will likely include a heavy schedule of performances and showings, as well as significant connections with community arts organizations.
And I think that we have more momentum than ever, especially with some of our most generous partners. The Cultural Experience Project with the City of Atlanta and the Multi-Visit Program with the Woodruff Arts Center has been growing stronger and stronger over the past several years, giving all our students rich experiences with arts- and cultural-related field trips. Research conducted with our students, who received multiple field trips to the Woodruff Arts Center, experienced significantly greater gains on their standardized test scores after the first year than did the control students, which translated to roughly 87 additional days of learning. For more details see the study with Jay Greene at the University of Arkansas here and here.

One partnership that has blossomed over the last year is one with the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation to provide band and orchestra instruments to our students. It started with the foundation’s assessment of schools in need and detailing recommendations and areas of success. (One happy highlight of their report: APS’ percentage of music programs in our schools is more than in other districts studied by the foundation to date!)

To date, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation has awarded more than $310,000 in instrument grants:

  • Mays High School – $15,374
  • Washington High School – $46,622
  • Therrell High School – $39,695
  • Jackson High School – $122,231
  • Hope-Hill Elementary – $44,461
  • Hollis Innovation Academy – $42,225

That’s music to my ears! And there’s more to come from the foundation, including an instrument drive in March, Music in Our Schools Month … and from the district … with the arts.

In the upcoming months, we will engage the community in the district’s Facilities Master Plan, which may include a detailed proposal for performing and fine arts school. The goals of the FMP are to create flexible, equitable, innovative and long-lasting environments; strengthen communities equitably through quality schools that align facility and academic objectives and provide an equitable distribution of instructional space among all facilities.

I think this concept is looking well-aligned so we may have “struck the right note!” I’ll keep you posted once we have “composed” some of the big ideas!

When Inclement Weather Threatens APS

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 again.

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 long.

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.

We are ready for Winter 2019! Are you?


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 narrating 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:

As 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 high-performing district.

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 journey.

We certainly relayed much of the district’s data, including College and Career Readiness Performance Index, Georgia Milestones, SAT and ACT and NAEP.

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.

As 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:

Glory 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:

Destiny 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

So all of Atlanta’s children may have lives of hope and ambition

An abundance of choices, college, career and service … say AYE!

Such a journey some describe as grand, monumental, majestic

Perhaps copasetic, heroic, gigantic.

But 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:

Thus, the 2019 State of the District is over, the program is done. Not so for our Journey and our Quest until literacy is won!

For only when all students can read and see choices in life, will there be an end to the cycles of violence, illiteracy and strife.

That’s the truth, and I’m being prophetic, if we get this right for our kids, it will be EPIC!

Go forth on your paths for THEM. Don’t stray. Until we meet again, I bid you an EPIC way!