Living the Mission: College Readiness and Access

APS pathway starts with early childhood education and includes such signposts as Georgia Milestones results, graduation rates and college entrance exam data

With a focus on graduating students for college and career readiness, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) has received quite a bit of positive news over recent weeks that indicates the district has not only been living, but actualizing, its mission: With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every students will graduate ready for college and career.

ReadinessBlogTasselWhen we look at getting our students ready for college, we consider three critical hurdles:

  1. Our students must register and take college entrance exams such as the SAT or ACT.
  2. They must secure the necessary financial resources for college, which might include determining their eligibility for student financial aid
  3. They must actually graduate from high school!

ReadinessBlogtweet.jpgBut it is a process that goes back much further and actually starts with our youngest learners, such as reading to our pre-kindergarten students. This week we are amid Georgia Pre-K Week when our stakeholders are encouraged to visit Pre-K classrooms and read to students. I cannot say enough about the value of early childhood learning and literacy in the future successes of our children.

We continue to track progress throughout the grades. This summer, we received the official results from the Georgia Milestones, and I wrote extensively about our results here.

To summarize:

  • Fifty‐seven (57) schools achieved gains when averaged across subject areas (17 more schools than those achieving gains last year).
  • The largest gain for students in grades 3‐8 was in mathematics, where students achieved a 2.8 percentage point gain
  • More than 2/3 of the students scored Developing and above in American Literature and Ninth Grade Literature
  • Fifteen of the 16 schools that received the deepest level of supports through our Turnaround Strategy achieved gains across all subject areas.

And this leads up to our college readiness and access data. Let me take you through each to show how we are making progress.

readinessachieveMuch of the progress is definitely due to Achieve Atlanta, our partner with a mission to provide college advisement and financial assistance for college-bound students. They have reported that more than 80% of Cohort 2017 seniors registered for SAT/ACT/ACCUPLACER, which is a 28% increase over last year. They found that 61% of APS seniors last year applied to three or more colleges, which is a 27% increase, and 61% of seniors completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), up 10 percentage points from the previous year.

These numbers are positive signs that major barriers prohibiting students from college access are being removed. But it’s not just about taking exams and completing forms. We have more students scoring at levels that indicate they are ready for college success.

Let’s look first at the SAT – one of the standardized tests widely used for college admissions, which has a point scale ranging from 400 to 1,600. The College Board, which administers the test, recently redesigned the test, so our latest scores will serve as a baseline for the future. But we found that 60 percent of our students achieved high enough scores to be deemed “college ready” in “evidence-based” reading and writing. Although our students performed lower than state averages, our students did better than the national mean in their sub-groups. African- American graduates from Cohort 2017 outperformed the national mean by 9 points, and Hispanic students outperformed the national mean by 17 points in reading and writing.

On the ACT – another standardized college readiness assessment, the number of students taking the ACT continued to rise. For APS, the average APS score increased across all subject areas when compared to last year as well as when looking at the five-year trend. APS students continue to underperform on the ACT when compared to the state, but progress is being made. The gap between APS and state performance at the composite level decreased from 3.1 points in 2013 to 2.4 points in 2017. Gaps persist across race/ethnicity groups within APS. While black, Hispanic, and white students have all achieved gains in mean composite scores over the past five years, the gap between white and black students increased from 7.5 in 2013 to 9.2 in 2017.

ReadinessBloggraph.jpg

And, of course, students can’t have access to college and career opportunities if they don’t graduate from high school.

With a 77. 0 percent graduation rate, Cohort 2017 achieved a new district high, as recently reported by the Georgia Department of Education. Additionally, the cohort reported the largest number of APS graduates in recent years with 2,356 students – an increase of 89 students from the year before – earning their high school diplomas last year.

GraduationRatesThe APS graduation rate represents an 18 percentage point gain in three years and the highest rate the district has received since the state aligned Georgia-wide graduation rates with the national standard in 2012.  For more information regarding individual school performance please refer to the APS graduation rates media release and the ATLSuper blog.

Finally, I should note that the Achieve Atlanta investment in APS graduates in its first two years has reached $22 million. Overall, the APS Cohort 2017 earned more than $141 million dollars for college, up from about $118 million the cohort before.

We are super proud of our students and the people who support them in these accomplishments. It gives us hope and assurance that we are doing more and more to ensure that students have more access and opportunities for college and career.

#LIVINGtheMISSION

 

Celebrate! APS Cohort 2017 Reaches Graduation Rate High of 77.0%

District graduates 2,356 students – 89 more than last year – for a 5.9 percentage point gain, closing the gap by 4.7 percentage points with the state graduation rate

As superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, several events and parts of the year make me anxious enough that I am actually kept awake at night or left constantly checking emails – Day One, inclement weather like the recent Hurricane Irma and graduation week and data releases!

Drumroll, Please!GradTweet1

Atlanta Public School has reached a new high with its graduation rate: 77.0 percent!

Today is the official release of the official Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) report on graduation rates. I guess I’m not so much anxious as I am eager. That’s because for APS – with its stated mission to graduate ALL students ready for college and career – this is the main benchmark measure that truly defines progress in our district.

So for me, it’s the time of year when I sit and wait for news from the GaDOE the most.

Although I have already given the news away on Twitter (and in the headline to this blog), I still want to say …

GraduationRatesIt’s official. APS graduated 2,356 students for Cohort 2017, which is 89 more than last year, for a 5.9 percentage point gain. What’s more, APS has narrowed the gap with the state graduation rate by 4.7 percentage points. The state graduation rate rose by 1.2 percentage points to 80.6 percent in 2017.

I am excited about this boost even more than in 2015 when we saw a 12 percentage point increase and last year when we maintained the gain. I am excited because it shows that we can actually build on recent success. Plus, it shows that the improvements are real. They are significant. And with three years of graduating more students (18 percentage points more!), it’s sustainable!

With the Board and our community, the district developed a mission to graduate more and more students prepared for college and career, and we are really starting to deliver. The past year saw us fully implement our new charter operating model with signature programming that directs more resources to our schools and provide targeted intervention to our lowest-performing schools. As we continue to provide those supports as well as address deficiencies in core subjects such as literacy and math, I believe we will continue seeing this wonderful upward trend.

Let’s look at the numbers. We have so many bright spots with this latest data release.

Of 17 schools’ graduating cohorts, 13 saw gains and Charles R. Drew Charter School, which graduated its inaugural class in 2017, reported a 100 percent graduation rate. Other APS schools with high graduation rates include:

  • Carver Early College, 98.8 percent
  • North Atlanta High, 94.9 percent
  • Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, 94.3 percent
  • KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, 91.4 percent
  • Grady High, 88.4 percent

GradTweetCarverSchools achieving significant increases in their graduation rates include: Carver School of Technology, which achieved a 16.7 percentage point gain to reach a 79.7 percent graduation rate; followed by Therrell High School with a 12.8 percentage point gain and a 79.6 percent rate; Carver High School with a 7.4 percentage point gain and a 73.9 percent rate; and North Atlanta with a 6.6 percentage point gain and a 94.9 percent rate.

Graduation data for all of the schools is provided in this graph:

GraduationRates2

In efforts to graduate more students, we’ve adopted a series of measures to improve graduation factors for the senior class. Our Office of High Schools has created transcript audits, tracker modules and data dashboards to identify issues that might inhibit students from graduating on time. For example, the district and high schools provided students with ongoing recovery options based on their needs and encourage them to take advantage of opportunities to obtain credits. We work with every school to clearly identify all students who only needed an extended summer opportunity to graduate in 2017 and strongly encouraged them to do so.

GradTweet5.pngIn addition to keeping high school students on track to graduate with their peers, APS also stresses attendance, strong school climate and social emotional learning or SEL at the high school level and across all schools in the district.

With our efforts to improve attendance and learning environments while also providing positive behavior supports, we are making schools more conducive places for learning. When students feel safe, welcomed, respected and challenged by quality educators and programming, they are more likely to learn and stay on a path to graduate on time and ready for college and career.

For details, visit APSInsight, our great new public facing data site.  To experience graduation of Cohort 2017 again, go to my graduation blog.

GradTweetThanksNone of this progress would have been would have been possible without the hard work of a lot of people, in addition to outstanding teachers and students. At each school, we have our graduation coaches, counselors, registrars and administration teams. For the district, we have our Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) team and our associate superintendents, including Dr. Dan Sims, our associate superintendent of high schools, providing leadership, guidance and support. We have our data and research experts, who created the dashboards and tracking tools to ensure our students remained on the pathway. We have great partnerships such as Achieve Atlanta and Communities in School, who provided advisement and tutoring and other college preparatory assistance for our students.

#APSGrad17

We couldn’t have made these gains without any of them. They worked hard last year, and they already diving into the work so that Cohort 2018 can graduate even more and more students.

#APSGrad18

Keeping APS Safe in Irma Aftermath

District focused on safe return of students & staff to school

UPDATE (6:30 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 14): We are open for business today!

Atlanta Public Schools will follow a normal operating schedule now that our operations team has completed a full review of our facilities, buses, technology, and nutrition services in the wake of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irma. Power has been restored to all APS school campuses, including M. Agnes Jones Elementary School where power was restored overnight.

Because many buildings were without power, an alternate menu may be provided for students for breakfast and lunch for the next several days. Also, students may experience delays in bus routes due to driver staffing shortages.

We appreciate the patience our families have shown as we have worked to ensure a safe environment for all of our students and staff. We look forward to welcoming everyone back today!

***

UPDATE (7:45 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 13): Three words … We Are Back!

Thanks to the hard work of our Atlanta Public Schools Operations team and crews from Georgia Power, our schools are back on-line. Additionally, now that our school buildings are safe and many of the hazards in our neighborhoods – downed power lines, hanging tree branches, obstructed streets and sidewalks, and inoperable traffic signals – have been addressed, I believe it is time for us to get our kids, teachers and administrators back in their classrooms and offices.

Dr. C Hugs Student

 I am happy to report that APS will be back open for business, bright and early Thursday morning! This includes after-school programs and extracurricular activities as well. We realize that there may be a number of school-based employees, including teachers, who may not be able to report for duty. So, as has been the case throughout this week, we are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach. Central office administrators and support staff will be ready to fill in for school-based employees when necessary.

 Currently, power has been restored to nearly all APS school campuses. There are four remaining schools without power that we expect to have back online tonight. APS operations staff are monitoring the power situation at these locations and will inform parents if school is in session starting at 5 am tomorrow.

 Because many buildings were without power, an alternate menu may be provided for students for breakfast and lunch for the next several days. Also, students may experience delays in bus routes due to driver staffing shortages.

 We appreciate the patience our families have shown as we have worked to ensure a safe environment for all of our students and staff. We look forward to welcoming everyone back tomorrow!

See you in the morning!

***

 UPDATE (9 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 12): As superintendent, I spent most of today assessing the safety conditions for our students and staff, having personally canvassed every cluster in Atlanta Public Schools. I am concerned with the number of downed power lines, hanging tree branches, obstructed sidewalks and inoperable traffic signals. While the threat of severe weather has subsided, many of our schools remain without power, and concerns about more power outages continue.

I cannot put it any more simple than this: It’s not safe!

Our APS operations team continues to work closely with power crews to bring affected schools back on-line; however, many of our employees are reporting their own power has yet to be restored, making it difficult to report to work from various counties within the region.

Therefore, we have decided to close school campuses and administrative offices for Wednesday, Sept. 13, to keep our families and employees safe. This decision extends to all afterschool programs and extracurricular activities.

This decision was the result of a huge APS team effort, tons of analysis and brutal but thorough discussions!

***

With high sustained winds, gusts and heavy rains, Irma left its impact on Atlanta Public Schools, including knocking out power in 31 of our schools, damaging some perishable food supplies and limiting our ability to safely transport students to and from school.

Rainy_UmbrellaWorking in coordination with city, weather and other government officials amid an abundance of adverse conditions, we decided to close APS schools for a second day. Our biggest concern was having sufficient power/electricity and resources for our schools in the immediate aftermath of Irma. Additionally, we had to make a decision in a timely fashion to get our message out to about 50,000 households. At the time we and many other school districts decided to close schools, weather forecasts continued to predict exceptionally high winds and other extreme weather which would limit our outreach ability.

(Please see my previous blog here for the rationale and research about closing schools amid such weather.)

Even in the wake of a storm, we have to be cognizant of remaining dangers of returning to school too quickly. Debris and continued bad weather create dangerous conditions for safe bus travel and for children walking to and from school. Emergency crews and weather service teams continue to work at capacity, with their resources stretched and strained even now.

Safety ALWAYS comes first.

During the storm, 31 of our schools – more than a third of APS campuses – were without power.

While the storm may not be around us right now, we are dealing with the aftermath. Even at mid-morning on Tuesday, our own teams for school safety, operations, facilities, nutrition and transportation continued to assess the full impact of Irma upon the school district. Our schools are not safe when we do not know the full status of school conditions. I cannot thank Larry Hoskins, our Chief Operations Officer, and his teams enough for being so responsive before, during and after the storm.

As we continue to assess damages and other issues, we know that at least a dozen of our schools still did not have power as of this morning. Many do not have Internet access. With the power being out for so long, we are worried about food safety such as frozen food staying frozen and milk and other perishables staying fresh.

We have to make sure all of our emergency resources are available and that we can maintain proper school protocols.

We still have a lot of challenges. But my colleagues and I are working around the clock – restoring power and Internet, replenishing food supplies, clearing debris and repairing damages – so our beautiful children and wonderful educators and staff can return to safe and clean schools.

Keep following me on Twitter @CarstarphenMJ and our web site at www.atlantapublicschools.us for updates.

In the meantime – Keep safe!

#SafetyFirst

#Irma2017

 

APS Closes Schools for Monday, Sept. 11, & Tuesday, Sept. 12

Sustained winds & gusts from #Irma = unsafe for kids and community

Due to the anticipated inclement weather and dangerous high winds caused by Hurricane Irma, all Atlanta Public Schools campuses and district offices are closed on Monday, September 11, and Tuesday, September 12.

Our team has been closely monitoring the weather conditions in collaboration with the National Weather Service and city and state officials. Although the storm has been downgraded as it makes its way through Florida, we made our decision with an abundance of caution.

WeatherGustsImageI want to take a moment to highlight an area of the weather that needs deeper attention for children and their safety: WIND! The latest reports indicate that the Atlanta area is expected to experience sustained high winds between 35-40 mph with wind gusts between 45-55 mph by 8 a.m. Monday, according to the most recent Weather.gov briefings. These high wind conditions will be paired with rainfall and thunderstorms.

In addition to all the other potential hazards, the wind will also make this weather particularly dangerous for children to be outside. We didn’t want them waiting for school buses (physical bus limits are maxed at about 40 mph for sustained wind and gusts at about 54-66 mph) or walking to school. In short, we also don’t want them outside when school is closed if these weather projections prove true tomorrow! Read more below on why…

From our careful monitoring and research, we have learned that the storm has been upgraded to a tropical storm for most of Georgia.  We will see these strong winds beginning as early as 4 a.m.  Forecasts predict high winds all day tomorrow with Central and North Georgia at risk for inclement weather.  The National Weather Service continuously updates its briefings at www.weather.gov/atlanta/briefings.

 

Based on that information and given anticipated wind gusts potentially topping 65 mph by 8 p.m. on Monday, it’s just too dangerous for buses and students to safely travel to and from school. To further illustrate the danger, research on wind speed effects on school buses and the human body shows that at

  • 11 mph – onset of discomfort for walking
  • 20 mph – significantly affects walking performance
  • 34 to 44 mph – walking difficult and dangerous
  • 40 mph – production of significant debris, causing road obstructions

So, for the first time in a long time, your superintendent is saying: Don’t play outside (especially tomorrow if wind speeds are not safe)!

Following our inclement weather protocol, parents, guardians and employees will be updated via the following communication channels: Infinite Campus, robo-calls, APS Mobile App (sign up for push notifications), emails and/or text messages as well as on the APS website (www.atlantapublicschools.us ), Facebook and Twitter, and through local media outlets (WSB, CBS46, WXIA/11 Alive and Fox5).  School operation decisions for Tuesday, Sept. 12, will be made on Monday evening after a review of the most recent weather conditions.  Parents and guardians will be contacted as soon as any decisions are made through all available communication channels. APS charter school parents and guardians are encouraged to contact their schools directly for scheduling information.

I love you all and look forward to seeing you back in school soon! Be safe and take care of each other!

#Irma2017

When Inclement Weather Threatens APS

As reports continue about Hurricane Irma and concerns that the storms could threaten cities as far inland as Atlanta, I wanted to assure our school communities that we are closely monitoring the weather and tracking the storm’s development in collaboration with the National Weather Service (NWS).

Based on the information we have received, it is predicted that heavy rainfall and strong winds may impact travel to and from school and work next week.

Our team will continue to monitor the weather throughout the weekend to stay abreast of the impact of the storm. Based on the latest weather information available at that time we will determine the impact to school operations for Monday.  If a decision to cancel classes is made, parents/caregivers will be notified Sunday evening by robo-call and text message. We will also post the information on our website and convey the information to the media for broadcast.

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.

I have 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.

As always: Our No. 1 concern is the safety of our students and our staff. So we want to make sure our families are informed as we prepare for heavy rains and strong wind gusts resulting from the storm that is expected to strike in the Bahamas and the southern Florida this weekend.

WeatherBlogImage

Some weather reports predict a Hurricane Irma path that could threaten Atlanta.

The greatest impact we see right now is an influx of motorist (evacuees) from the Florida area which is causing the rerouting of traffic on I-16, I-95 which has a direct impact on traffic on local interstates 285, and 75/85. We can expect to see a greater increase of traffic over the next two to three days, which means you can anticipate longer travel times around the city this weekend and early next week.

Here are some other suggestions you can do to prepare for Hurricane Irma:

  • Check on family members in the anticipated storm paths and urge them to seek safety outside of the Hurricane track.
  • Monitor your local television stations to keep up with the latest updates on the weather over the next 3 to 6 days.
  • In the event of heavy rainfall, stay home and off the road if possible.
  • Make sure you and your family have plenty of food and water in the event conditions are too bad to travel.
  • While there is a low risk of tornados in the present forecast, remember there is always a possibility a tornado can suddenly erupt; therefore, be prepared to quickly relocate to a safe-zone or sheltering location away from windows and doors.
  • Power outages are always a possibility during storms so make sure you have a weather radio, flashlights and other essentials in case of an outage in your area.
  • Charge cell phones in advance. Extra batteries are a plus.
  • Your local county Emergency Management Agency, Red Cross and Georgia Emergency Management Agency are great resources in the event you need assistance over the weekend – shelters, food, etc.
  • Finally, think through your emergency preparedness plan “now” to ensure you have a plan that protects you and your love ones.

Be safe and don’t forget to review your home emergency preparedness plan as soon as possible – just in case you need it. We will be in contact with you if there are any changes or updates.

Have a safe weekend!

Rainy_Umbrella

‘Labor of Love’: APS Strategies to Prevent Spread of Hate

BurgessPeterson1

As I reflect upon the contributions of our teachers and staff as we head into Labor Day weekend, I wanted to celebrate those who work with children and contribute to their well-being. But I cannot help but be reminded – because of recent events in Charlottesville, Va., and elsewhere around the world – that we, as a nation and as global citizens, still face images, symbols and words of hate.

It is essential that those who “labor” for children implement strategies that help them set goals, overcome obstacles and develop healthy relationships especially in a diverse world that needs more inclusion. Parents and teachers also want to do everything we can to keep our precious children from the types of repulsive behavior we’ve experienced recently.

Unfortunately, we cannot always shield our children from the realities of the world … not even in Atlanta, the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. We were disheartened when we learned that one of our fifth grade classrooms found a swastika lightly drawn with pencil on a flower pot. Or when a small group of demonstrators felt it was acceptable to use bullhorns to shout at students, families, teachers and staff at one of our high schools during dismissal.

It raises concerns about those very qualities we celebrate during Labor Day – strength, prosperity and good fortune – when tensions are heightened around race, belief systems and identity, especially around those who labor for children.

Being a part of a vibrant growing city, like Atlanta, has many advantages. There are economic, social and educational opportunities for our students that are not available elsewhere, and our growing diversity is a source of great joy. It can also be said that the city is home to a part of U.S. history that brings both pride and pain, which has an unspoken existence in the culture of our city and schools.

Atlanta Public Schools has the responsibility, and the privilege, to develop students who are knowledgeable of our past struggles with race and class as they prepare for a brighter future. Again, we cannot fully shield our children from hate; thus, we must give them the tools to combat such adversities on their own.SEL_Twitter

The district’s commitment to Social Emotional Learning or SEL is a major component of that preparation. In simplified terms, SEL is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Working with the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (www.casel.org) and other partners, we began implementing SEL in our schools by focusing on developing relationships and building a strong sense of community.

As part of the SEL initiative, students from PreK through 12th grade are learning much needed skills such as active listening, empathy, conflict resolution, problem solving steps, perspective taking and self-advocacy.

In support of the lessons taught by the teachers, our elementary counselors also implement the Bully Prevention Unit in all classrooms from kindergarten through 5th grade. This curriculum is a preventative measure to stop potential bullying through education and awareness. Our students are learning how to recognize and respond effectively to bullying as victims and bystanders.

Our work includes adults as well. The SEL team provides training sessions for adults that address topics such as identity, relationship skills and implicit bias.  These trainings are available to all schools at the request of their principals.

From an academic standpoint, our teachers are also equipped to teach historical events such as the Holocaust, as they appear in the curriculum, with resources from the Georgia Commission on Holocaust and Teaching Tolerance and other groups.

Our collaboration widens to include experts in our surrounding community as well. The King Center is currently a partner in developing a youth program that allows kids to discuss solutions to poverty, racism, and economic instability. Our ongoing partnership with the Anti-Defamation League provides ongoing support to schools as they embark upon critical conversations with students and staff around race, class, culture and sexual orientation.  We are proud to be a 100% No Place for Hate district for the second year in a row.

C2dfJeRXUAEtyVB

Chief Ron Applin reads to students from Deerwood Academy.

Finally, our Office of Safety and Security partnered with the Annie Casey Foundation to train our School Resources Officers on Cultural Competency and Racial Equity. We are providing officers with a quarterly structure for effective dialogues about race and creating a culture in which all practices and policies are developed through a racially conscious lens.

All in all, Atlanta Public Schools strives to help our beautiful students become better people than we could ever be, but there is still more work to do.  As a district, we don’t and we won’t shy away from the tough conversations and the sometimes difficult but morally correct choices.  We are always open to furthering our efforts and diving deeper into these important topics with students, teachers, parents and the community.

It’s all a part of APS’ multi-tiered strategy of love to prevent the spread of hate.

And so I hope that over the Labor Day weekend, we can take a moment to truly reflect upon what it means to celebrate the day and especially honor those who labor for children. Children, after all, are the true source for the continued strength, growth and prosperity for our city, state and nation.

#LoveIs #LaborDay

LoveIs

Athletics in APS #UnitedWePlayTour Returns!

MJC at Maynard Jackson

Nothing signifies the beginning of the school year – particularly in the Deep South and especially in Georgia – like football season! The sounds (bands and cheerleaders!), the smells (grilled hot dogs, popcorn at Grady and Lakewood Stadium, dirty gym socks – yes, please!), the colors (students, parents and fans all dressed in their school gear!) and, of course, the GAMES! I love it!!!MJC with Washington Team

Once again, whenever my schedule permits, you will see me on Friday nights and Saturday evenings at Grady and Lakewood (sometimes both in one night!) cheering on our teams. And just like last year, I’m getting a full-fledged education on what it takes to compete on the football field by practicing with our teams!MJC at Douglass

After three years of practice and having so much fun, I’m back at it and STILL terrible! I started the season with Washington (Thanks, Coach Avery!) and South Atlanta (Thanks, Coach Stephens!), then I worked out with Maynard Jackson (Thank, Coach Williams!), Douglass (Thanks, Coach Cofield!), and Therrell (Thanks, Coach Sullivan!), and most recently I got it in with Mays (Thanks, Coach Battle) and B.E.S.T. Academy (Thanks, Coach Moore). I hope to work out with all 11 of our teams by season’s end.MJC at BEST

It’s sooo hard! It’s hot, and all the running and drills and exercises are a killer (especially those six-inch leg lifts and tire-flipping drills!). And I even had my first football injury – a miserable muscle tear in my left calf (Waaaaaa!). But I love being out there with our students and coaches, and I can’t thank them enough for welcoming me and letting me participate like a true member of the team. Case in point: I had to do 25 pushups for fumbling the ball at South Atlanta … just like a Hornet!Dr. C at SATL (8-2-17 Senior selfie)

Also, I plan to work out with some of the other fall sports. I’ve already worked out with our district-wide APS Knights water polo team (Thanks, Coach Stu!), just as I did last year when I joined the cheerleaders at Carver (Ladies, those five-minute wall sits are brutal! Geezums!) and the softball team at Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy. I wish I could take some credit for their record-setting season, coming in second in their region and advancing to the state playoffs – but it was all them!MJC at APS Knights

And, there’s more to come in the  fall – cross country and volleyball – to extend my #UnitedWePlayTour and the APS United We Play initiative (see how that first developed here) to the winter and spring sports, too! It’s a way for me to stay connected to our students and staff, our coaches, athletic directors and principals, and hear their concerns. On top of that, it’s a great way for me to stay in shape!

MJC with Therrell Team

It also gives me an opportunity to reinforce the importance of co-curricular activities in Atlanta Public Schools. (Please note that I refer to them as “co-curricular” and not “extra-curricular,” because these activities do more than just enhance the educational experience in our schools.) They are an essential part of school, which goes for our many clubs and organizations as well.MJC with Mays Team

So let me hear from you! If you want me to suit up, sit up or jump up with your squad, hit me up on Twitter, or call or email Seth Coleman in our Office of Communications and Public Engagement at 404-802-2891 or seth.coleman@atlanta.k12.ga.us.

Last year, the fall sports teams set the tone for what turned out to be an awesome year for APS, on the field and in the classroom (check out the gains we made on the Georgia Milestones!).

Let’s #HuddleUpAndHaveABall !

#UnitedWePlayTour
#APSUnitedWePlay