Saying Goodbye to Our Friend and Colleague, Alvah Hardy

It breaks my heart to share that our beloved friend and colleague, Alvah Hardy, passed away Friday, January 10, 2020. Alvah has been a pillar in the APS family for close to a decade, serving as our Executive Director of Facilities Services since joining APS in November 2010.

From 2010 to now, Alvah has had an impact on the lives of so many of us in his role in Facilities, making the sad news of his passing reverberate across the halls of every school and office building in our district.

In addition to working closely with staff in every school or building in APS, Alvah’s work kept him in close contact with people and organizations throughout the community. It was not uncommon for Alvah to be engaging with elected officials, neighborhood associations, community groups and everyday citizens who had questions about our schools and facilities. No question would go unanswered.

For those of you who may not have known him, Alvah spearheaded our most beautiful and recent renovations and construction through the SPLOST work in the district. I’m sure you’ve seen the new Walden Field, or the renovation of Howard and the new construction of Tuskegee Airman Global Academy, which just opened this school year.

He was also behind the renovations at Hollis and Gideons. Those projects were all led by Alvah, beginning as ideas on paper and evolving into gorgeous facilities that serve our students and staff. His hands helped guide those structures through to completion.

You can rest assured that everything Alvah touched, he touched with great care and attention to detail, from the repair of wobbly steps, wonky fences, and rickety handrails, to the large-scale school renovations and new construction. No project was too small or unimportant to him.

Alvah helped give APS the lift we needed as part of our transformational work in our schools and facilities.

From left – APS Chief Operations Officer, Larry Hoskins; and Executive Director of Facilities Services, Alvah Hardy, in front of Henry Grady High School

And, most recently, he played a major role in our facilities master plan process. This is our comprehensive five to 10-year look at population growth and school enrollment projections to help guide our decision making and spending around the need to expand existing schools or build new ones.

We are currently in the community engagement process of the facilities master plan of which Alvah was a key part.

I know that for many of us, Alvah was not just a colleague, but he truly was a member of our family. That makes his passing even more difficult to process.

We will never forget his determination, grit and his passion and commitment to APS. At the end of the day, everything he did was done with fidelity and grace. For that, we are all eternally grateful.

To Alvah’s beloved family, I offer my deepest condolences during this difficult time and I’m sorry for your loss. To Alvah’s APS family, especially our operations, schools and facilities teams who worked the closest with him and his direct reports Jere Smith, Director of Capital Improvements; Robert Palmer, Director of Maintenance and Operations; Herb Joseph, Director of Administration Management; and Tanya Cooper, Administrative Assistant; I offer my sincere condolences and my shoulder to lean on. We stand with you during this difficult time, and we will get through this together. Much love to all of you, and please take care of each other and your families.

Alvah, you will truly be missed, but we will hold on to the great memories in APS and we’ll never forget how you touched our buildings and our lives.

An APS Commitment to Help Human Traffick-Proof Atlanta and Georgia in 2020

As we move into 2020 – a new decade – it amazes me that we are 20 years into the new millennium and experiencing advances in technology and innovations involving the Internet, social media and smartphones that truly connect the world. And yet, we still see intense cruelty and degradation in society, such as child abuse and human trafficking.

The numbers are nothing less than shocking.

Research studies show that 25 percent of females and l6 percent of males experience sexual abuse as children, and an estimated 325,000 children are at risk for becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation each year.

Statistics show that traffickers are targeting minors more often and the entry age is getting younger. And, while we often think of sex trafficking happening to young girls, it’s happening to young boys as well.

Most startlingly to Atlanta is the fact that as home to the largest international airport in the country and host to multiple large sporting and entertainment events, Atlanta is a magnet – not just for tourism – but for human traffickers as well. These events often create opportunities for traffickers of commercial sex and human exploitation to take advantage of our vulnerable children and teens. The proximity of our school communities to these activities can put our students at greater risk of exploitation.

More numbers related to Atlanta:

  • Atlanta has been identified as one of the cities with the highest incidences of child sex trafficking (FBI, 2005; Urban Institute, 2014)
  • Between 200 – 400 adolescent girls are sold online per month (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
  • Approximately 65% of men who purchase sex with female children in Atlanta live in suburban areas outside the I-285 perimeter (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
  • Traffickers in Atlanta make an average of $33,000 per week (Urban Institute, 2014)
  • 7,200 men purchase sex from a minor every month in Georgia accounting for 8,700 sex acts (The Schapiro Group, 2010)
  • 91% of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking victims in Georgia were enrolled in school at the time of their exploitation (Georgia Cares, 2016)
Daryl Rice, our Coordinator of Health and Physical Education, who has led APS work in this area.

That’s why we recognize today, Jan. 10, as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, to raise more awareness across our District about the seriousness of this issue. But it goes throughout the month of January as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Our middle and high school counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses and health teachers are hosting sessions across the District to raise the issue, cover risks, and alert students to the potential indicators of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Our students are also taking an active role in stopping human trafficking by designing Public Service Announcement posters using the hashtag #stophumantraffickingAPS. We are also showing solidarity against trafficking by wearing blue and supporting the Blue Campaign, which was launched in 2010 by the Department of Homeland Security, as a unified initiative to raise public awareness about human trafficking, combat human trafficking, and help protect victims.

Standing with Deborah Richardson of the International Human Trafficking Institute

As a part of our professional development offerings, we have online courses for staff. All of our counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses have received training on sexual abuse and exploitation. The executive director of the Atlanta-based International Human Trafficking Institute, Deborah Richardson, spoke to our central office staff during a lunch session today and has trained all of our health teachers, school police officers and bus drivers. For 2020, we are working in closer partnership with Richardson and the Institute to further educate our students, teachers, staff and community.

At the state level, I am proud to serve as a member of the GRACE Commission, created to combat the threat of human trafficking in Georgia. First Lady Marty Kemp launched GRACE (which stands for Georgians for Refuge, Action, Compassion and Education) last year after learning that the FBI had named Atlanta as one of the Top 14 cities with abnormally high rates of human trafficking. The commission meets on Monday, Jan. 13, at the State Capitol building. We will hear from representatives from Gigi’s House, the House of Hope Refuge of Love and Wellspring Living. We also expect to be making some important announcements about the work in advance of the next state legislative session.

So as we move into a new decade, let’s all do our part to eradicate this modern form of slavery. Let’s make a commitment as a school district and as a city to traffick-proof Atlanta for the 2020s. Educate yourself and become aware. Learn more at https://www.ihtinstitute.org/.

Signs Student May Be Trafficked

  • Unexplained school absences
  • Abrupt change in attire, behavior, or relationships
  • The presence of an older “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
  • Travel with an older male who is not a guardian
  • Sudden presence of expensive material possessions
  • Chronic running away
  • Homelessness
  • Signs of psychological coercion, such as depression, anxiety, and/or an overly submissive attitude
  • Lack of control over his/her schedule, money, and/or proof of identification
  • Signs of physical trauma, including bruises, cuts, burns, and/or scars
  • Tattoos or other branding marks
  • Poor health, as evidenced by sexually transmitted diseases, malnutrition, and/or serious dental problems
  • Substance abuse or addictions, or selling drugs
  • Coached/rehearsed responses to questions
  • Uncharacteristically promiscuous behavior and/or references to sexual situations or terminology that are beyond age-specific norms

Proud of the Latest Class of APS Posse Scholars!

[UPDATE: January 13, 2019: And then there were eight! Two more APS students have been added to the latest class of Posse Scholars. Congratulations to Payton Gunner (Brandeis University) and Connor Mason (College of Wooster), both from Drew Charter!]

It’s great when we can start a new year – and a new decade – with an announcement that illustrates a wonderful example of preparing our students for college and career. I am so proud of our eight seniors who were awarded four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships by the Posse Foundation.

The Posse Foundation is a college access and youth leadership development program that identifies, recruits and selects leaders from public high schools. These student leaders are then placed in supportive multicultural teams called “Posses” to attend partnering colleges and universities.

I cannot say enough great things about this program, but here are a few:

  • Posse Scholars graduate from college at a rate of 90 percent.
  • Since 1989, Posse’s partner colleges have awarded $1.4 billion in scholarships to Scholars. The Atlanta branch, established in 2007 with a grant from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, has awarded nearly $100 million of that.
  • The Posse network of scholars and alumni stands at 9,200 strong, so that’s a lot of support!

This year, 60 students from Metro Atlanta will be awarded $12 million in full-tuition scholarships to six institutions of higher education – Bard College, Boston University, Brandeis University, The College of Wooster, George Washington University and Texas A&M University. Posse Atlanta celebrated these students during a special program last night at the Fox Theatre’s Egyptian Ballroom.

The 2020 APS Posse Foundation Scholars are:

NameHigh School NamePosse Finalist University
Shania BarkerNorth Atlanta High SchoolBard College
Jelani SpainMaynard H. Jackson High SchoolTexas A&M University
Gabriela OliverosNorth Atlanta High SchoolGeorge Washington University
Payton GunnerDrew CharterBrandeis University
Connor MasonDrew CharterCollege of Wooster
Hasina Chimeka-TisdaleNorth Atlanta High SchoolGeorge Washington University
Jack PalaianHenry W. Grady High SchoolGeorge Washington University
Maria Nino SuasteguiNorth Atlanta High SchoolBoston University

APS School Counseling Coordinator Maria Grovner coordinated the multi-step Posse Scholars nomination process with students, which includes educating them about the application process and encouraging them to apply, maintaining the required GPA and coaching them on their scholarship interviews. Thank you so much!

Congratulations to these students and families who are living the APS mission!

Posse Scholars for Atlanta Public Schools this year include (from left) Shania Baker, Jack Palaian, Jelani Spain, Hasina Chimeka-Tisdale, Gabriela Oliveros and Maria Nino Suastegui.

‘The 12 Days of APS’

In time for semester break, my true love gave to me …

Here we are: The end of the first semester of the 2019-2020. Hard to believe the New Year is nearly here! Not only is this time of year for celebration, it’s time for everyone in the Atlanta Public Schools community to rest, reflect and rejuvenate. I hope everyone enjoys time with friends and family.

But don’t forget! Students return on Monday, January 6, 2020!

Reflections of 2019

With 2019 coming to a close, I continue to count the ways I am #APSthankful and for how grateful and inspired I am to be working with such an amazing team of professionals all focused on one important goal: Preparing every one of our students to graduate ready for college and career. Special hugs and thanks to all of our 6,000 APS employees, who are so committed to our EPIC educational mission and are working hard every day to achieve it.

To kick off the start of our winter break, please enjoy this video medley featuring the winners of the 2019 Superintendent’s Winter Card Contest!

In reflecting upon the year so far, I cannot help but remember the “12 Days of APS!”

On the First Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

 “Day One. Be There.” Campaign

We kicked off the year strong on August 12, 2019, with our perennial “Day One. Be There.” campaign. Like thousands of our students, my team and I boarded one of our school buses that morning with excitement and anticipation for a long but wonderful day ahead! As part of our Day One tradition, we visited students, teachers, administrators, support staff and the community from around the District to report on Back-to-School happenings. We could not have done it without each of you. Thank you for a fantastic Day One!

On the Second Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

Data Rollouts: Graduation Rates, CCRPI, SAT and others

Data rollouts have also become a mainstay of APS activity. No one rolls out their data – the good, the bad and the ugly – like Atlanta Public Schools. By being transparent with our data, we can cheer our progress and put our shoulders into the areas that need the most and immediate work!

On the Third Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

Graduation Rates

In September, the Georgia Department of Education released official graduation rates, which always comes with a mix of great news for some of our high schools and room for improvement on our overall district rate. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) reported a 77.9 percent graduation rate for the 2019 cohort. The rate represents an 18.8 percentage point increase over 2014, although 2.0 percentage points less than the district’s all-time high graduation rate of 79.9 percent posted in 2018.

But more students – 2,506 of them – graduated on-time from APS in 2019 than any other year since 2012, when the state adopted the cohort graduation rate as required by federal law. This is an increase of 68 students from 2018. The 2019 cohort included 3,215 students, an increase of 165 compared to 2018 and the largest cohort since 2014.

The 2019 results also show that the APS rate lags behind the state graduation rate of 82.0% by 4.1 percentage points.

On the Fourth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …  

College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI)

For the 2019 CCRPI, APS achieved an overall score of 74.1, an increase from 2018. The district narrowed the gap with the state down to 1.8 points. The district narrowed the gap in both elementary and high school and surpassed the state at the middle school level. In total, 48 of 87 APS schools saw increases in their CCRPI scores compared to 2018.

On the Fifth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …  

Georgia Milestones

Our school system achieved its highest gains to-date in the percentage of students who scored proficient and above on all subjects on the 2018 Georgia Milestones End-of-Grade assessments, and the District narrowed the performance gap with the State on all four End-of-Grade subjects. Additionally,

  • APS achieved year-over-year gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on 21 of 24 (88%) End-of-Grade and End-of-Course assessments. The district saw gains on 75% of tests in 2018 and 52% in 2017.
  • 80% of APS schools achieved increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on End-of-Grade assessments.
  • 76% of APS schools achieved increases in the percentage of grade 9-12 students scoring proficient and above on End-of-Course assessments.
  • All 17 APS schools that received targeted or partnership support as part of the initial cohort of the APS Turnaround Strategy have improved their Milestones proficiency rates since 2016.

On the Sixth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

SATs and ACTs

When SAT scores for APS arrived from the College Board in October, the most eye-popping statistic was this: 90% of the graduates from the Class of 2019 took the test, that’s a dramatic 33 percentage points higher than the 57% from the Class of 2018.

The reason: The APS class of 2019 was the first cohort to participate in SAT School Day, in which students had the opportunity to take the SAT in their own schools, on a school day, at no cost to them! As anticipated, due to this massive increase – nearly 900 more students took the test than the year before – the average total SAT score dropped from 997 to 944. State and national trends showed slight declines.

About a month later, the other leading college entrance exam has released its own data. According to figures released by ACT, 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.

On the Seventh Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

Other Rollouts

Other data rollouts included the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which is known as the National Report Card (which I wrote about here), the Turnaround Eligible List from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and the Georgia Department of Education’s list of comprehensive support schools (which I wrote about here) and the Beat the Odds School, which I wrote about yesterday.

We are also happy to report that for the third consecutive year, it has been determined that we remain non-disproportionate for the over-suspension of African-American students with disabilities. Furthermore, the district has NOT been found to be significantly disproportionate in either placement or identification for any racial/ethnic subgroup!

On the Eighth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

APyeS! Awards

In October, we celebrated the best of the best at our annual APyeS! Awards program held at the Delta Flight Museum. These awards recognize and honor the excellence in our teachers, education leaders and partners who are driving change through our transformation and making it possible for our students to succeed. Congrats, again, to all our winners!

District-wide Excellence in Teaching Award: Krissi Davis, Orchestra Director, Grady High School

Principal of the Year: Eulonda Washington, Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy

Assistant Principal of the Year: Joy Antone, Inman Middle

Students First winner: Michelle Birdsong-Walker,Family and Community Engagement Specialist at Dunbar Elementary School

Schools First winner: Sara Womack, Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator

On the Ninth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

District Honors

Over the course of the semester, the District earned a series of great awards and honors.

In October, the Charter System Foundation recognized APS for its leadership for developing our new operating model. The foundation also gave the District a $10,000 check to do more,. Each district, which included many Georgia school districts from the smallest rural district to larger districts like APS, sought flexibility under state mandates with a commitment to meet higher performance goals. APS was also up for Charter System of the Year but lost to Dublin City Schools.

Dedicated the award to “The Merchant of Hope” herself – Dr. Evelyn Mobley, principal of Phoenix Academy

Wellspring Living, one of APS’ beautiful partners, presented APS and me with its 2019 HOPE award for our work combatting sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Wellspring Living’s vision is to see a world where every victim of sexual exploitation has access to transformative care. The organization provides specialized recovery services through three residential programs and two community-based programs. The programs provide transformative care through therapeutic services, education, life skills, and personal and professional development.

The partnership with our schools represents more than 300 impacted lives.

Finally, after years of taking the coveted Golden Radish award from the Georgia Department of Education, our Nutrition Department snagged the even more prestigious PLATINUM Radish Award for its farm-to-school efforts.

On the Tenth Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

Partnerships

I cannot reference the spirit of giving without acknowledging that over the past five years the District has reconnected or established relationships with more than 350 partners and raised more than $72 million in special revenue.

In addition, DonorsChoose.org enlisted APS as one of 10 inaugural members of its District Partnership Program, so our teachers and principals can tap deeper into the organization’s network of 3.5 million donors. Additionally, the District gets a more streamlined process to align the donations with the APS strategy and operations.

On the Eleventh Day of APS, my true love gave to me …

State of the District

On November 7, nearly 1,000 stakeholders from the Atlanta Public Schools community gathered at Harper Archer Elementary for the State of the District. 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.

And we re-launched our campaign for literacy! 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.

“Glory will be ours when literacy is won!”

Experience or relive the journey.

And on the Twelfth Day of APS, my true love gave to me … OUR TALENTED STUDENTS!!!

As the State of the District displayed so well, Atlanta Public Schools has placed a renewed emphasis on the arts as we seek to take that part of a well-rounded education to an “EPIC” level!

As anyone following us over the semester knows, the district found numerous ways to showcase the talent of our amazing students which also included the Anti-Defamation League’s Concert Against Hate to the many productions at our schools all over Atlanta to the annual Winter Card Contest!

I cannot wait to see what the next semester will reveal from the talents of our students!

What a great first half of the school year! I will certainly miss all of our wonderful students, teachers, and staff over the semester break, but I’ll be back tweeting and blogging again in the New Year on Monday, January 6, 2020.

Thank you for continuing to work with integrity and grit so that every single child in Atlanta Public Schools graduates with choices in college, career and life. I can think of no greater gift for this or any other season of the year!

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 VISIONEstee Kelly
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.