34 APS Schools Score Above 70 on State’s Redesigned CCRPI

State’s Redesigned CCRPI Scores

New Baseline for APS and GA

As some of you may be reading already, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) released the redesigned College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores today for all Georgia public schools. The average CCRPI score for the state is 76.6 out of 100, and APS earned an overall score of 73.4.

Before I delve into an analysis of this year’s results, I want to remind you that GaDOE completely redesigned CCRPI last year, making it simpler and more streamlined. That redesign included changes to the CCRPI components and indicators, and the weighting of those components. As a result, we can’t compare this year’s score — apples to apples — against previous scores.

That means with this year’s analysis, we won’t be discussing CCRPI point gains or schools showing improvements in their CCRPI scores because we don’t have anything with which to compare that data. This year’s results establish a new baseline for all schools across the state.


This year’s CCRPI scores provide a new baseline for us given the revisions GaDOE made to the rating system over the past year. We must continue to look holistically at multiple measures that show us how we are preparing our students to succeed and not look to any one indicator or any one number. We’re looking at all of it: Georgia Milestones, graduation rates, student growth percentiles, climate star ratings, and other indicators in order to get a full picture of our students’ overall academic experience. You may have heard that the Board has charged us to work in a more comprehensive and holistic performance framework, as part of our Creating a System of Excellent Schools strategy, which I believe will provide us with the opportunity to paint a more complete picture of school performance.

Tweet 6Here are some of the key highlights from this year’s CCRPI results. APS earned an overall score of 73.4 out of 100 on the redesigned CCRPI. The average CCRPI score for the state is 76.6. According to the results, 34 schools achieved a CCRPI score above 70 of which 14 schools achieved an overall CCRPI score at or above 80.

Five schools led by principals Audrey Sofianos, Jay Bland, Brent McBride, Sharyn Briscoe, and Terry Harness, Jr., achieved an overall score above 90: Morningside Elementary School (97.8), BrandoTweet 5n Elementary School (96.5), Jackson Elementary School (96.4), Mary Lin Elementary School (93.1), and Springdale Park Elementary School (92.4). Woohoo!

Nine schools led by principals Monishae O’Neill, Emily Boatright, Kevin Maxwell, Lara Zelski, Gregory Leaphart, Peter McKnight, Donald Mason, Deborah Satterfield, Gail Johnson, Betsy Bockman, and David White scored between 80 and 90: Charles R. Drew Charter School (89.8), Sarah Smith Elementary School (89.7), Inman Middle School (89.0), Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (88.6), Charles R. Drew Charter School JA/SA (86.9), Wesley International Academy (84.9), Sutton Middle School (82.8), Grady High School (81.7), and Burgess-Peterson Elementary School (80.7). Good job!

I also want to recognize Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan, the associate superintendents and the Academics team, Chief Accountability and Information Officer Bill Caritj, and Executive Director of our Data Information Group Michael LaMont and his team for providing us with a full analysis of these results and for helping us keep these results in perspective as we look holistically at all the academic experiences of our students. I also want to thank our Chief Engagement Officer, Angela King Smith, and  the Office of  Communications and Public Engagement for the comprehensive support for the rollout of these data.

The new CCRPI reporting system is comprised of five components: Content Mastery, Progress, Closing Gaps, Readiness, and Graduation Rate (high schools only). APS’ CCRPI scores for elementary, middle, and high school levels were lower than the state’s; however, the District outperformed the state in “Progress” at the elementary level and in “Closing Gaps” at both the elementary and middle school level.

In all, 27 schools scored higher than the state for their grade level, including 13 elementary schools, nine middle schools, and five high schools (see the charts below). Please note that schools that have students in multiple grade levels receive CCRPI scores for each level (elementary, middle, high school) and an overall score.

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2018 District and State Grade Level CCRPI Scores with Components

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The District’s elementary grade level earned an overall CCRPI score of 76.8, the middle grade level earned an overall score of 72.8 and the District’s high school level earned an overall score of 65.5.

We’re building a strong foundation at the elementary and middle school levels, but we know more work needs to be done to ensure all our students across all grade levels graduate ready for college and career.

For more information and analysis on all APS’ CCRPI scores, click here. To view detailed score reports for the state and every public school district in Georgia, visit the GADOE CCRPI page.

Update – October 31, 2018: Today the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) released the Turnaround Eligible Schools List.…here’s how APS did… The number of APS schools on the list decreased from 16 to 13. Congratulations to principals Robbins, Thornton, Earls, Hill, and Salley for having their  five schools (Barack and Michelle Obama, Carver Tech, F.L. Stanton ES, Long Middle School, and Kimberly ES) removed from the list. Two of our schools (Carver STEAM and Douglass HS) were added to the list, resulting in a net reduction of three schools.

Through our District’s Turnaround Strategy, we’ve been providing our lowest performing schools the additional resources they need to achieve academic gains. I’m encouraged to see that five APS schools that were previously on the state’s list have earned their way off that list, but we’ve still got a long way to go, and we remain committed to that work.

As we continue on this journey of transformation in APS, I personally remain optimistic and inspired by our families, children and our APS team!

2018 ACT and SAT Scores Are In!

Number of APS Students Taking the ACT and SAT Continues to Increase



2018 Graduates from Grady High School

We received the 2018 ACT and SAT results, showing that our 2018 graduating class had an average total SAT score of 997 and an average composite ACT score of 18.7. This year’s SAT scores are up five (5) points compared to the 2017 average score of 992, and the ACT results show a slight decrease of 0.3 points over last year.

I continue to be encouraged by the academic gains our students are making across a number of academic performance measures, and we’re seeing a slight improvement on SAT scores since last year. Although there was a 0.3 point decline on the ACT, we’re still seeing gains across subgroups since 2014.

And, now for the shout outs!

I have to send a special shout out to our very own Grady High School, which topped all APS high schools in ACT and SAT results! I’m so proud of the progress Principal Bockman and the Grady Knights are making! Go Knights!

But, I would be remiss if I didn’t give some shine to Drew Charter and North Atlanta High School because they scored higher than the average total SAT score for Georgia and the Nation! Woohoo!

The average total SAT score for the nation is 1,049, and the average total score for Georgia is 1,054. Way to soar Principal McKnight and the Drew Eagles! In addition, way to go Principal Douglass and the NAHS Warriors!

Overall, I’m pleased that the number of APS graduates taking the ACT and SAT has been steadily increasing over the past four years. We had an additional 250 students take the SAT in 2018 for a total of 1,382 and an additional 52 graduates take the ACT for a total of 1,753 when compared to the number of test takers in 2017.

Here are a few highlights from the SAT data…

The five-point increase in the average total SAT score is split between gains on the evidence-based reading and writing (ERW) and math sections. African American students – the largest subgroup in APS – had an average total SAT score of 948 (up from 946 for 2017 graduates). This is higher than the national average of 935 but slightly below the state average of 961. In addition, African-American students had an average composite ACT score of 17.3, which is slightly below the state average of 18.0 but above the national average of 16.9.


Figure 1.  APS SAT Scores by Subject Area Over Time


Some 29% of APS SAT test takers met both the ERW and math benchmarks for college and career readiness (score of 480 or higher on the ERW section and 530 or higher on the math section).  In addition, 60% of students met the ERW benchmark and 31% met the math benchmark.  The percentage of students meeting the math benchmark increased slightly from 2017 (30%) to 2018, while the percentage of students meeting both benchmarks remained at 29%.


Figure 2. SAT Results for 2018 Graduates by School

One of our biggest accomplishments last year was the implementation of our first SAT Day, sponsored by Achieve Atlanta, which allowed all juniors to take the SAT exam at their home school, removing funding and transportation barriers for many students. Please note, juniors are NOT in these data. Maybe next year’s 2019 SAT data will include significantly more student taking the test who otherwise may not have sat for the exam previously. However, our 2019 SAT average scores are likely to decline because of this increase, but we know that something as simple as not taking the SAT in high school can be a barrier for kids who, down the road, decide that they want to attend college.

Now, on to the ACT…

The percentages of ACT test takers meeting the college readiness benchmark scores were higher in English (42%) and reading (30%) than in math (22%) and science (20%).  Some 14% of test takers met the benchmarks in all four subject areas and 21% of test takers met the benchmarks in at least three of four subject areas.  All of these percentages represent increases since 2014.


Figure 3.  APS ACT Scores by Subject Area Over Time

And, here’s a breakdown of our school scores on the ACT:


Figure 4. APS ACT Results for 2018 Graduates by School

Monitoring and continuing to improve the results on the SAT and ACT are essential for increasing rigor and addressing equity and access to achieve our mission of college readiness for all students.

Thank you to our Class of 2018, high school principals, teachers, counselors, and our key partners – Achieve Atlanta, College and Career Academy,  and One Goal – just to name a few, for all that you do!


APS ROCKS: Join Us for 2018 APS State of the District!

Are you ready to rock with us at the 2018 APS State of the District concert? This year,  I look forward to sharing APS’ “essentials playlist”, which includes our A-sides, featured hits, and B-sides (whomp whomp), along with chart-topping student performances from this year’s tour stop on our journey of transformation. APS students, graduates, staff, friends and family are all invited to join us for the 2018 State of the District concert, which will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., Friday, October 5th, at Walden Athletic Complex located at 320 Irwin St NE, Atlanta, GA 30312 . RSVP here. Special thank you to presenting sponsor Wells Fargo for supporting this very special address!

In addition to the #StateofAPS concert, we will also host a ribbon cutting ceremony for the NEW Walden Athletic Complex for the Grady cluster!

The Walden Athletics Complex is an important addition to our schools and community. It’s built on the site of the old Walden Middle School, and will be used primarily by Grady High School and schools in the Grady High School Cluster. It features a multi-purpose field for football🏈, soccer⚽️, lacrosse, etc., a baseball field⚾️, which is also convertible to softball, and a field house with restrooms, lockers, a concession stand, storage and more. How exciting! 😃

Before you find a seat for the show, please join us from 10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. to celebrate the opening of this ground breaking facility! We are grateful for the City of Atlanta’s support of this innovative complex made possible through E-SPLOST dollars! Thank you Atlanta!


Immediately following the ribbon cutting, guests are invited to take a self guided tour of the Walden Athletic Complex! Play ultimate frisbee, soccer, softball and lacrosse with the  Grady Knights, learn some moves from the Mays Raiderettes and Grady Royal Elegance and hit the gridiron with the Carver Panthers football team! North Atlanta lacrosse and South Atlanta softball teams, will also join in on the fun!

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If that’s not enough, you can even participate in a great debate with the APS Harvard Debate Council team members and enjoy science exploration with the Maynard Jackson environmental science students!

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I’m looking forward to Friday, October 5th and I hope to see you in the crowd! The show will begin promptly at 11:00 a.m., so try not to miss a beat by taking Uber using our discount code STATEOFAPS to receive 20% off your ride. For additional transportation options, street parking and the lot across from the King Center is available at 423 John Wesley Dobbs Ave., NE ( pedestrian entrance on Irwin and vehicle entrance on John Wesley Hobbs). If you can’t join us in person, please be sure to watch the concert live on our APS Livestream Channel: click here.

Please use the hashtag, #StateofAPS on social media to join the conversation on October 5. I can’t wait to see what your experience looks like, as we rock the stage! See you there!


My fave steppers will be in the show!! I can’t wait for you to see how the Psi Phi Beta steppers will bring my presentation to life, as well as many other schools!!! 👀

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APS Rocks: APS’ 2018 Grad Rate is Highest Ever at 79.9% (Up 2.9 percentage points)!

We’ve Increased 20.8 Percentage Points Since 2014

(Drumroll, please!) I want to be the first to share with you that APS has achieved its highest graduation rate ever (WOO HOO!) at 79.9 percent (79.93 to be exact). While we missed our goal of 80 percent by one student, know that I’m really proud of the work of our cohort of 2018 students and our colleagues on the front lines!

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In addition, our graduation rate has increased by 20.8 percentage points since 2014 from 59.1 percent in 2014 to 79.9 percent in 2018. This year’s rate represents a 2.9 percentage point gain over last year.

APS’ graduation rate over the past five years.

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AND, we cut the gap with the state in half from 3.6 percentage points in 2017 to 1.7 percentage points this year (Yay!). The state’s 2018 graduation rate is 81.6 percent. The Georgia Department of Education released this data today.


APS cuts the gap with the State in half.

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Our number of on-time graduates hit a new high at 2,438, which is 82 more graduates than the previous year. Notable gains were achieved by students with disabilities, up 5.0 percentage points to 60.5 percent (Great job Executive Director Katika Lovett, Assistant Superintendent Tammie Workman and our special educators across the district!) AND, the graduation rate for our African-American students, our largest group, is up 3.7 percentage points to 78.2 percent. On a related note…for the first time in seven years, APS is no longer disproportionate for the over suspension of African-American students with disabilities. Woohoo!

The graduation rate for white students remains high at 95.4 percent, although there was a slight decline (-0.5) compared to last year, and the rate for Hispanic students is 73.0 percent a decrease of 4.6 percentage points from 2017. Keep in mind that the cohort 2018 Hispanic subgroup was 148 students; the change in graduation rate reflects six fewer graduates in 2018 than in 2017.

I am so excited about the academic achievements of our students, and it’s important that we celebrate these gains. Our grad rate is as much about the achievement of our students as it is about the commitment of so many APS leaders, teachers, staff and community partners who are working hard every single day to ensure our students graduate ready for college and career.

Now…for a little more perspective on the numbers…

The 20.8 percentage point increase since 2014 speaks to the positive effect of our district-wide transformation strategy, including improved data tracking, an audit of students’ transcripts, alternative approaches to earning and recovering credits, and alternative options for students to show mastery in courses.

But wait…there’s more!

 I would like to highlight the six schools that had graduation rates over 90 percent: Drew Secondary (98.7%), CSK (93.5%), North Atlanta (92.5%), Grady (92.0%), Carver Early College (91.8%), and KIPP Collegiate (90.2%).


And, I also want to call out the eight schools that increased their graduation rates compared to 2017: B.E.S.T. Academy (11.1 percentage points), Jackson (7.9), South Atlanta (6.9), Therrell (6.7), Washington (6.2), Grady (3.6), Douglass (0.8), and Mays (0.2).


 Percentage point change in graduation rate for all schools between 2017 & 2018.

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Congratulations to all teachers and staff at these schools and a big shout out to principals Betsy Bockman, Adam Danser, Curtis Douglass, Ellis Duncan, Patricia Ford, Richard Fowler, Timothy Jones, Peter McKnight, Chanika Perry, Shelly Powell, Marcene Thornton, Eulonda Washington, and Tasharah Wilson!

I also want to thank West End Academy principal Evelyn Mobley for addressing the needs of our at-risk and credit-deficient 11th and 12th grade students and helping them get back on the path to graduation.

We couldn’t make these gains without all of the hard working people at APS who believe in our students.

I want to thank our teachers, school leaders, graduation coaches and counselors and administration teams and support staff for everything they’ve done to help our students succeed. And, please help me thank and recognize Deputy Superintendent David Jernigan and Associate Superintendent Dan Sims, and his team in our Office of High Schools, Chief Accountability and Information Officer Bill Caritj, Executive Director Michael LaMont and his Data and Information Group for creating the dashboards and tracking tools we needed, especially Mary Hartigan (who is leaving her role as Director of Research and Evaluation here at APS on September 21 but not before she did the yeomen’s work of cleaning up the graduation data to ensure the accuracy and integrity that we strive for to rebuild trust with our community. We’re going to miss you, Mary!), and Elise Lenthe our High School Data Strategist.

We know that social and emotional learning (SEL) has a positive effect on student performance. That’s why we have been focused on creating a supportive school climate in every APS classroom and on improving learning environments through positive behavior supports. When our students feel safe, welcomed, respected and challenged by quality educators, they engage and get excited about learning.

We need every parent and every caregiver to continue to work with us to get our students to the finish line. EVERY student matters!

I’ll be reporting on these and other gains across the district at the upcoming 2018 State of the District on Friday, October 5 at 11 a.m. at the new Walden Sports Complex at 320 Irwin St NE. Our theme this year is APS Rocks, and I’d love to see you there! RSVP here.

For now, it’s on to increasing next year’s graduation rate! Let’s stay the course and remain focused on our mission to prepare EVERY student for college and career. Thank you Atlanta for your support! APS ROCKS!!!

For more information and charts on our 2018 graduation rate, click here.





Rolling Through the District for Day One

Welcome to SY18-19!

This morning, like thousands of students within Atlanta Public Schools, my team and I boarded one of our school buses (shout out to our driver, Mr. Rapley!) with excitement and anticipation for a long but wonderful day ahead! It’s Day One of the 2018-2019 school year!

As part of our DAY ONE tradition, we will visit students, teachers, administrators, support staff and the community to report on Back-to-School happenings across the district. Throughout Day One, we will share our journey in real time on this blog and on twitter (@CarstarphenMJ and @APSUpdate). Follow along with the #APSFIRSTDAY hashtag.

4:40 p.m. – Mays High School Football Practice (Mays Cluster)

This fall, hundreds of our student athletes will finish their school day at practice. So what better way to end our DAY ONE tour than with one of our amazing sports teams!

The #aMAYSing football players of Mays High School let me spend a little time with them as they prepared for a grueling season to bring home the W — their seniors want to secure a THIRD consecutive region championship for the school and beloved coaches, especially Coach Resty Beadles!

The Raiders are getting ready for a big season! They are the first APS team EVER to compete in the famous Corky Kell Classic. They’ll compete against Norcross High School on Saturday, August 18 at 8:45 pm at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. BE THERE! They’ll also compete in the first annual Cam Newton C1N Georgia vs. Alabama Showcase against Phenix City on Saturday, August 25 at 8:00 pm at Lakewood Stadium.

Last year, 22 seniors from the class of 2018 earned college football scholarships. I can’t wait to see what happens this season on and off of the field!

It’s been a long day, but one full of excitement and hopefulness that the DAY ONE joy for learning that I witnessed from students and educators will continue throughout the  school year.

In the words of Robert Frost, “We have promises to keep, and miles to go before we sleep.”

Thank you APS for a fantastic Day One! #APSFIRSTDAY

3:45 p.m. – Bunche Middle School (Therrell Cluster)


As we neared the end of the day, I made a quick stop at Bunche Middle School to say hello to its new principal, Octavius Harris. Mr. Harris is a longtime member of the Charger family, having taught mathematics at Bunche from 2006 to 2012.

 For the past four academic years, Mr. Harris served as assistant principal at APS’ D.M. Therrell High School, where he decreased freshman cohort suspensions by 11 percent, developed a mathematics program to increase student enrollment in accelerated mathematics, and created an after-school program to engage Athletes in Technology and Mathematics (ATM).

I made it just in time to say a quick hello before school let out…and get a few hugs from my favorite autism teachers on site!

I look forward to seeing the implementation of his vision at Bunche Middle!


2:50 p.m. – Crawford W. Long Middle School (South Atlanta Cluster)

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is the signature program in the South Atlanta Cluster, and Long Middle School was the perfect place to see STEM curriculum in action! We visited the school’s science lab, and we stopped by the new 21st Century Media Center, where we saw STEM interactive kits.DjiiDqcU0AAMtgL

However, technology isn’t reserved for the classroom.  At Long Middle School, technology is also used to collect data to create effective action plans for the betterment of our students.

In a first for Atlanta Public Schools, the American School Counselor Association recognized Long Middle School for delivering a comprehensive, data-driven school counseling program in an exemplary educational environment. It was my honor to take a selfie with the award-winning counselors of Long Middle School.

Principal Lisa Hill, a proud product of APS, has her building pumped for the new year!


2:00 p.m. – Perkerson Elementary School (Carver Cluster) 

1Our eighth stop of the day is a school where all the educators are  superheroes: Perkerson Elementary School. Together, students and parents, are going to put Perkerson on the map!

According to the recent Georgia Milestones results, 4th grade ELA is up 10 percentage points in proficient and above since last year.

As we toured the school with Principal Tony Ford,  I was able to see so many wonderful changes! The media center has gone from terrible to terrific! Now it’s more bright and spacious! A great place to read and learn especially on the new “oodle” stools! The cafeteria has been redone as well! It even has curtains with cute little bows made by the recently retired Ms. Huey, a former teacher of the year in APS! She woke up early this morning to come back to Perkerson to volunteer and help with Day One! Now that’s Perkerson Pride!

After walking through the renovation sites, we spent time with Ms. Burchfield’s 5th grade class where I saw one of my favorite students, Ralphie Long! His cool classmates are the top cats of the school – Jaguars! These wildcats are smart and focused! I can tell that they’re going to have a great year!

I’m so excited about what’s happening at Perkerson!



1:00 p.m. – Benteen Elementary School (Jackson Cluster)

We were greeted at Benteen by the Dazzling Divas cheerleading squad! Even on a rainy day they had big time Benteen spirit! Such a fun way to start the visit!

After getting energized with the cheerleaders, we dropped in on the school’s first dual immersion class. This year, Principal Andrew Lovett and the Benteen team are launching the Dual Language Immersion program, where students will spend half of their day learning in Spanish. APS has the distinction of being the only school district in Georgia to offer world language opportunities in ALL schools. The kindergartners I met today will be fluent readers and writers in Spanish in 5 years! How cool is that?!DjiEXt0VAAAFV5a.jpg

I was happy to see bilingualism displayed throughout the building, as we made our rounds to the various DAY ONE selfie stations.

According to the recent Georgia Milestones results, 5th grade science is up 8 percentage points in proficient and above since last year. ELA achievement across grades 3-5 increased over 6 percentage points in proficient and above since last year.

Dr. Andrew Lovett is an absolute gem, and his school, staff and students are reflections of that!

The Bulldogs are ready for the year ahead!


Noon – Mary Lin Elementary School (Grady Cluster)

We headed over to Mary Lin Elementary School for our midday DAY ONE visit, and we were captivated by the school’s new outdoor murals.  That play space has come a looooooong way since my first-year post renovation. We laughed (but I really wanted to cry) recalling all the trauma and drama getting school open that year and all the work that still needed to be done. BUT, TODAY you would never know how far the school facility has come! IT’S GORGEOUS and just keeps getting more beautiful as more finishing touches are added.

6For example, acclaimed Atlanta-based muralist Kyle Brooks created the colorful display of rockets, birds, a crooked smiling tree, a janky-legged cat and giant chicken totems in just 7 short days during the summer. He said he wanted to paint characters that would inspire Mary Lin students to create funny names and stories. I think Mr. Brooks would be pleased to see just how creative and brilliant our Mary Lin students are. According to recent Georgia Milestones results, 56% of 5th graders scored distinguished (THE highest achievement level) in math.

I also enjoyed the space mural in the hall courtesy of Hands on Atlanta! It’s sooooooo beautiful!!

Principal Sharyn Briscoe took us on her annual post-lunch snack tour to distribute goodies to teachers. This also involved me trying to explain my job, our district, and how it all works with various grade levels. I even got in a few selfies with students and staff, saw familiar faces (Hey! Coach Hicks!) and met 41 year old Cecil, a turtle, in Mrs. Guthrie’s 1st grade class. Cecil was a gift to Mrs. Guthrie from her dad (a former science teacher) when she was 10! So cool!

Under the leadership of Principal Briscoe, Mary Lin will be taking off to the stars again this year!



10:40 a.m. – E. Rivers Elementary School (North Atlanta Cluster)

When you visit the Georgia Department of Education Healthy Schools Award recipient, E. Rivers Elementary School, be prepared to exercise your body and mind!

Outside the school, the scuttle centered around new STEM lab but that had to wait so we could meet the newbies! Pre-K was lining up for lunch so we kicked off the visit by giving Day One stickers to the adorable pre-K babies and checking in on how they were feeling. First day of school for them can have a few tears but not today…all smiles from these new students!

Next, we went to the media center to check out the adorable layout of the library and the LEGO Wall. It’s super cool! Media Specialist Ms. Paula Boston surprised us with a LEGO #APSFIRSTDAY in honor of us trending on Twitter!

We continued to Ms. Arango’s 1st grade dual immersion class, and brushed up on our Spanish! Muchas Gracias, Sra. Arango’s class!

Principal John Waller is very excited about the new STEM LAB. The learning continued as Ms. Sanders explained how students will cycle through and learn more about the scientific process in the lab. I got a crash course learning about the scientific method, the inquiry process, and variables. They’re definitely going to learn a lot and have fun doing so!

Several students across the campus were putting their brains to action via Tab2Read – an  APS initiative where first and second graders receive tablets loaded with literary learning-based apps and e-books . Although, I didn’t get the chance to actually join in on the fun, I know the students will enjoy brushing up on their sight words using the tablets.

According to recent Georgia Milestones results, over half (51%) of  the 5th graders scored proficient and above in social studies last year, which is up over 17 percentage points since last year. ROAR!

I’m amped to see what’s ahead for the Lions this year!

We refueled with a hot, nutritious meal. On the elementary menu today: Back-2-School BBQ! I joined some of my  new 5th grade BFFs to eat baked beans, corn on the cob, broccoli cheese casserole, BBQ chicken, apple slices and chocolate milk. My lunch companions from Mr. Hulsing’s 5th were great conversationalists!

I met a student, Isaiah Inyang, in the lunch line. He read 27 books over the summer and each book had over 100 pages. Now that makes THIS superintendent very happy! Just one example of the amazing students at E. Rivers.

Shout out to principal Dr. John Waller and new business manager Kimberly Bowser (she’s been promoted) and their team for being such gracious hosts!



9:35 a.m. – Booker T. Washington High School (Washington Cluster)

Can’t go to Booker T. Washington High School without getting a picture of the iconic statue  of the school’s namesake out front!MC photo.jpg

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” – Booker T. Washington

Rich in history, under the leadership of Principal Dr. Tasharah Wilson, Washington High School has an equally rich legacy of outstanding graduates such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lena Horne. Alumni who go above and beyond for their communities and inspire those following behind them including our own school board member, Byron Amos. Today’s students are also proud to be Bulldogs. Proud to call a school with 94 years of history their own.

DjhWKyQUwAAtpsyThese new student faces grace the halls. For instance, the new ESOL students met with their teacher to go over supports and schedules for the new school year. There’s also a new dedicated 9th grade hall to help with bridging from middle school to high school.

As we visited the Fine Arts department,  we saw a gorgeous mural created for the National Black Arts Festival by students and visual art instructor, Sachi Richardson. So talented!

Next we visited Sean Freeman’s dance class. He had students doing a creative ice breaker to help teach communication, concentration,  and focus…of which I apparently have none because I messed up every time! LOL!

I’m proud of the the Bulldogs for the achievements made over the last four school years. According to recent Georgia Milestones results, for example, American Literature increased 14 percentage points in proficient and above. I’m excited to see what’s ahead.

The Bulldogs are already off to a great start! They showed up and showed out!


8:45 a.m. – Boyd Elementary School (Douglass Cluster)

Joi Kilpatrick, a second year principal, welcomed us with open arms and pump up music with help from V103’s DJ and star Greg Street at our second school stop for DAY ONE – Boyd Elementary School – located in the Douglass Cluster.

The Boyd Bobcats are clearly ready to start the year right!

IMG_2755.JPGWe got a firsthand look at Boyd’s new STEM garden and renovated facility. I am excited about the new STEM program launching this year!

We also stopped by the Parent Orientation to greet families and saw V103’s Greg Street,  help Boyd get the year started right!

Then we visited Ms. Cohen’s third grade class. She’s a ballet dancer and the school’s teacher of the year! Almost all students said that they were always happy…that’s gotta be a blessing for her!DjhKIefV4AEKYVO.jpg

Mrs. Forte’s and Mr. McKinney’s combined 4th grade class was learning about routines and expectations for behavior. She teaches ELA and he covers science and math.  Their students taught us how to proudly read the Bobcat Pledge. This school year will be about being your “Boyd Best” — Be Brilliant, Be Exceptional, Be Studious, Be Timely! I think they’re ready!

Way to go Boyd!


7:30 a.m. – Peyton Forest Elementary School (Mays Cluster)

What a way to start the school year! Celebrating 50 years of educating elementary students in southwest Atlanta, Peyton Forest Elementary School showed us why they are the “Greatest School on Earth!”

Principal Cynthia Gunner sent a personal invitation to the Peyton Forest school community, and they came through big time in The Big Top! Alumni returned to the school to help us greet students as they exited buses and cars and entered their circus-themed school building – complete with the ringmaster, magician, lion tamer, carnival games and clowns on stilts and more!  Djg1iMjU8AAtWtq

However, the Peyton Forest Tigers have reasons to roar on their first day. According to the recent Georgia Milestones results, their ELA achievement across grades 3-5 is up 5.8 percentage points in proficient and above since last year, and their 4th grade ELA is up over 15 percentage points in proficient and above in the past two years.

In addition to student achievement, Principal Gunner is also elated that her daughter, Payton Gunner, is a member of the winning high school team that participated in the Harvard Debate Competition this summer.

As we entered the school through bubbles, music and a circus tent, we could feel the energy parading throughout the building. Every class was thrilled to start their school year off.


(I had a yummy breakfast of chicken nuggets and waffles with chocolate milk and new Kindergarten friends! All other students had breakfast in the classroom — chicken sandwiches and bananas with juice or milk! The highlight of my morning meal was the freshly popped popcorn from a real concession stand machine!)

Peyton Forest will be a tough “act” to follow! Wow! Happy 50th Anniversary!





5:30 a.m. – APS Metropolitan Bus Depot


Welcome back to school!

We started Day One at the Metropolitan Bus Depot to meet members of our transportation team. Our transportation department, lead by Mr. John Franklin, is the “venous” system of our district, carrying our students through a network of roads, streets, and interstates of veins to deliver them back and forth to the APS heart – our schools and teachers!

Our bus operators, a.k.a. our “transportation educators,” are often the first adults to greet students as they begin each school day. So, it seemed quite fitting to start our day by greeting them.

Over 400 school buses will depart from here, Lakewood Stadium and North Atlanta High School, and will travel 21,215 miles across the city to safely transport 28,000 of our beautiful students. When you think about it, that’s an amazing feat our transportation team accomplishes every single day!

Research studies from the Brookins Institute and others tell us that there are great benefits associated with students riding the bus – including the following:

  • Students who ride the bus have fewer absences. 
  • Students are 50 times more likely to arrive at school safely on a school bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends.
  • Students who ride the bus are more confident and have higher self-esteem and social skills.
  • Students who take the bus are contributing to cleaner air by doing their part to reduce pollution.
  • And students who take the bus are benefiting the community! Fewer cars means less Atlanta traffic, lower emissions, and safer roads! 

And who makes this possible for APS students  each day? 

Our safe drivin’, school supportin’, rule followin’, kid lovin’ school bus drivers!!! 

Drivers like those celebrated yesterday for being among the APS Elite Bus Drivers – drivers who have perfect attendance and remain accident free. Whether it’s 1 of the 7 drivers with over twenty years of experience or a rising star just beginning their career, we are so thankful for the work they do each day.

As a small token of appreciation, we sent them off with good wishes, healthy snacks, and Chick-Fil-A biscuits.

Now, we’re ready to visit our first school of the day! Let’s keep rollin’!

#YellowTogether #APSFIRSTDAY


Powering Down Power Up!

A Summary of our New Sizzling Summer School Programs

As we prepare for Day One tomorrow, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on summer 2018.  In summers past, our summer school model primarily focused on remediation for students needing additional supports. Meaning, if students weren’t going to school during the summer to receive academic intervention, then there were not many places for them to go within the district to further their education.

However, this summer we launched, Power Up!, the district’s redesign of the traditional summer school model to move towards a more dynamic, engaging, and enriching opportunity for all our students.

Atlanta Public Schools’ Power Up! summer program allowed students of all levels, from elementary to high school, to take their creativity and learning abilities above and beyond.

 For instance, the Xanadu summer program doubled in size, and included a variety of differentiated summer enrichment programs for gifted students in grades K-12 from across the district. We also worked with the Flying Classroom, STE(A)M Truck, Emmaus House Freedom School, Teach for America, and many others. Furthermore, we scaled up key summer partnerships – such as Odyssey and Horizons.  screen-shot-2018-06-13-at-3-25-29-pm-1

We also saw a plethora of engaging lessons, that included coding, wood workshop, theater, art and music classes, at sites across the district. This summer, our schools had autonomy to use their allotment in accordance with their school’s remediation and enrichment needs as opposed to only being provided the option of sending their students to the traditional APS summer school — as done in previous years.

As the Power Up! program concluded, surveys were given to students, parents, staff, and site administrators to assess their perception of the new model. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with majority of respondents indicating they would like for the program to continue.

Here’s an overview of those survey results:

  • 99% of parents would consider sending their students to a Power Up! program again
  • 78% of students said their program and the activities they did were either “Really good” or “Fantastic”
  • 75% of Site Administrators were either “Very Satisfied” or “Extremely Satisfied” with the program overall.
  • 86% of staff enjoyed the design of Power Up!

APS_Spring2018_EEE1043-X3Although I am elated that students were able to stay engaged during the summer months, I know that there is room for growth with our revamped summer model. For instance, we want to recruit more for enrollment. We could’ve served twice as many students that showed up each day.

With the program design in place and many of the kinks worked out, the district will be in a much better position to start planning for the summer of 2019, allowing schools to enroll students in the early spring before families make other commitments. We’ll also encourage our schools to have a more streamlined schedule to avoid confusion among parents and guardians.

Furthermore, to alleviate running into the same concerns in the years to come, the team has committed to implementing earlier planning, marketing, and enrollment strategies that will both boost attendance and prevent stress on school-based staff.

I wholeheartedly believe that summer should be an opportunity to accelerate and learn in a fun-filled way, and I want more students to benefit from summer enrichment.

I am appreciative of the work that was done to launch this initiative for our students this summer, and I look forward to expanding our Power Up! program next year.

I look forward to what’s ahead and cannot wait to kick off the first day of school (tomorrow)!

2018 #GaMilestones Results Are Blossoming! Gains on All End-of-Grade Subjects Take Root

APS Trims the Gap with State in Elementary and Middle Grades

It’s the end of summer and APS is still blooming! 2018 Milestones Results show our roots are stronger and we are still growing. As our summer season transitions into fall, it seems like it was just yesterday when we were celebrating our 2018 graduating class at our commencement ceremonies back in May. Now, it’s the end of July, signaling the end of our Power Up summer enrichment program, the launch of our 4th Annual Back to School Bash, and our Districtwide preparation for Day One on August 1.

Blog Photo

It’s data harvesting time and out first “milestone” (no pun intended) is the release of the 2018 Georgia Milestones results! The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) released those results earlier this morning.


The long and short of it is that our students’ performance on End-of-Grade (EOG) Assessments is encouraging and that really matters because long-term progress can’t be achieved without building the foundation at the elementary and middle school levels. We’re proud of this progress, however, as our End-of-Course (EOC) results show, there is still a lot of work ahead for us in ensuring that all of our students are prepared to succeed in and beyond high school.

Here are my key takeaways on the 2018 Georgia Milestones:

–APS achieved its highest gains to-date in the percentage of students who scored proficient and above across all subjects on the 2018 EOG Assessments.

–In addition, compared to the State, we made progress in narrowing the performance gap in all four EOG subjects, and we achieved year-over-year gains in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on 18 of 24 (or 75%) EOG and End-of-Course (EOC) assessments (compared to gains in just over half, 52%, in the previous year).


–At the school-level, 64 of our schools saw gains overall in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above. All 17 of the District’s Turnaround schools receiving targeted or partnership support  – that is, those schools among the lowest performing – have improved since the implementation of the initiative two years ago.

I’m proud of the hard work of our APS school community, especially our teachers and school leaders who have embraced our mission and worked hard to improve our performance on Milestones.It speaks to our continued movement forward on our Journey of Transformation.

 Elementary School End-of-Grade Level Results (Grades 3-5)

I’m excited to share that at the elementary school level, APS has achieved its highest proficiency rates since the tests were implemented by the State in 2015. The biggest year-over-year increases were in social studies (+3.6) and math (+3.4). See Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: APS Milestones End-of-Grade Results: Elementary Grades, Proficient and Above

Figure 1

Middle School End-of-Grade Level Results (Grades 6-8)

At the middle school level, the District also achieved its highest proficiency rates since the tests were implemented by the State in 2015. The biggest year-over-year increases were in science (+4.5) and social studies (+3.4).  See Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: APS Milestones End-of-Grade Results: Middle Grades, Proficient and Above


Turnaround Schools

Seventeen of the District’s lowest performing schools receive resources for implementing academic and nonacademic supports that can include additional reading and math specialists, high-impact tutoring, and additional wraparound supports designed to improve academic performance. In addition to District-run schools, as part of the Turnaround strategy, APS has launched four Partnership schools to date; their daily operations and instructional programs are currently overseen by the nonprofit organizations Purpose Built and Kindezi.

When the Turnaround Strategy was fully implemented in 2016, the majority of our students at the 17 schools were performing at the beginning learner level. Over the two years of this initiative, all targeted and partnership schools (17 of 17) have seen a decrease in the percentage of students performing at this lowest level. Six of these schools saw a double-digit decrease!

Table 1 shows the change in the percentage of beginning learners using spring 2016 (the year prior to implementation) as the baseline. School year 2017-18 was the first year of partnerships for Gideons ES, Price MS, and Slater ES.

Table 1: APS Milestones End-of-Grade Results:  Turnaround Schools, Beginning Learners in All Subject Areas and Change

School Beginning Learners
Beginning Learners
Beginning Learners
(2016 to 2018)
Targeted Supports Barack and Michelle Obama Academy 68.4% 56.6% 52.6% -15.8
Boyd 74.3% 65.7% 57.9% -16.3
F.L. Stanton 59.8% 60.0% 50.7% -9.1
Fain 72.0% 73.6% 68.6% -3.4
Finch 63.2% 62.1% 56.8% -6.4
Hollis Innovation Academy (K-6) 69.8% 62.2% 56.2% -13.6
Kimberly 59.2% 53.1% 51.2% -8.0
Perkerson 57.1% 62.5% 53.1% -4.1
Scott 60.3% 53.8% 53.1% -7.2
Towns 64.4% 50.5% 53.1% -11.3
Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy 52.8% 50.0% 45.3% -7.6
Usher-Collier Heights 51.6% 47.3% 46.7% -4.9
Woodson Park Academy 60.4% 63.5% 57.4% -3.0
Partnership Model Gideons 64.7% 59.3% 53.2% -11.5
Price 63.6% 70.3% 63.5% -0.1
Slater 57.5% 50.9% 53.7% -3.9
Thomasville Heights 77.5% 66.6% 67.0% -10.5

End-of-Course Assessments

When it comes to our EOC assessments, the picture is not so rosy. On the eight EOC assessments tested in 2018, U.S. History shows the highest gain when compared to 2017 with a 2.5 percentage point increase in students scoring proficient and above. Algebra I (+1.8) and Biology (+1.7) also showed gains. Compared to the previous year’s results, the District saw a decline in proficiency in five of the eight EOC assessments. Geometry saw the largest decline (-2.5).  The 2018 data show that we must continue to focus on our high school performance.


Although this year’s EOC results are mixed, I am encouraged by the longitudinal data we’re seeing coming out of our high schools. We’ve seen an 18 percentage point increase in graduation rates, a 10 percentage point gain in college enrollment and gains in the six EOC subjects we have administered since the 2015 baseline year. There is still a lot of work ahead for us and we remain committed to that work.

 Here are a number of school highlights from our 2018 Milestones Assessments:

  • Nine schools had at least 50 percent of students perform at or above proficient learner when averaged across all subjects in elementary grades. These schools are W. T. Jackson (83.9%), Mary Lin (80.6%), Morris Brandon (78.9%), Morningside (78.2%), Springdale Park (77.1%), Drew Charter (K-5) (65.1%), Sarah Smith (64.1%), Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (K-5) (59.5%), and Wesley International Academy (K-5) (54.6%).
  • Five schools had at least 50 percent of students perform at or above proficient learner level when averaged across all subjects in middle school grades. They are Inman (65.2%), Atlanta Classical Academy (6-8) (57.9%), Drew Charter JR/SR (53.3%), Sutton (53.3%), and Atlanta Neighborhood Charter (6-8) (50.0%).
  • Four schools had at least 50 percent of tested students score proficient and above in Ninth Grade Literature. They are Atlanta Classical Academy (70.5%), Drew Charter JR/SR (68.0%), Grady (67.0%), and North Atlanta (60.6%).
  • Three schools had at least 50 percent of tested students score proficient and above in Biology. They are Drew Charter JR/SR (72.2%), Grady (61.2%), and North Atlanta (51.6%).
  • The five schools with the largest increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above on the EOG assessments when averaged across all grades and subjects compared to 2017 are Hope-Hill (+13.0), Wesley International Academy (K-8) (+11.8), B.E.S.T. Academy (6-12) (+9.8), KIPP STRIVE Primary (K-4) (+7.9), and Drew Charter JR/SR (+7.3).
  • The five schools with the largest increases in the percentage of 9-12th graders scoring proficient and above on the EOC assessments when averaged across all subjects compared to 2017 are Drew Charter JR/SR (+11.8), Carver Tech (+7.7), Grady (+4.5), South Atlanta (+3.3), and Therrell (+1.4).
  • The six Turnaround schools with double digit decreases in beginning learners across all subject areas are Boyd (-16.3), Barack and Michelle Obama Academy (-15.8), Hollis Innovation Academy (-13.6), Gideons (-11.5), Towns (-11.3), Thomasville Heights (-10.5).

Over the last four years, we have worked strategically to address academic challenges across the District. In addition to targeted strategies in the classroom, we have prioritized our resources based on student needs and have aligned school leadership and school culture, wraparound supports, and other programs and initiatives to focus on increasing student achievement in all schools. In addition, APS continues to work to ensure that a larger share of our expenditures go directly to classroom instruction. In fact, from 2014 to 2017, the per-pupil investment in classroom instruction increased by an additional $894.19.


Keep in mind that GaDOE assesses student learning along four levels of performance: beginning learner, developing learner, proficient learner, and distinguished learner, and that this is the fourth year of administration.

Also, EOG Milestones are administered in grades 3 through 8. ELA and Math exams are given in each of those grades. Beginning in 2016-2017, only grades 5 and 8 take the Science and Social Studies assessments. This is in contrast to previous Milestones administrations in which grades 3 through 8 tested in all four subjects. EOC Milestones are administered to high school students at the end of eight courses designated by the State Board of Education.

We previously reported results using the percentage of students scoring developing and above. This year, in alignment with the state, APS is focusing on the two highest levels of performance: proficient and distinguished.

We will need you to help us till the soil and dig in! With your nourishment and loving care, we can cultivate together students to succeed in and beyond high school.  I remain hopeful for Atlanta Public Schools and am looking forward to more sprouting and flourishing growth from our blossoming students in our cornucopia of data: AP, SAT/ACT, graduation rate, College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), and college enrollment. These combined with the Milestones results will give us a more complete crop of our student performance last year.

If you hold a seed, and make a wish, and plant it in the ground
Something magical can happen.
And if there is some sun, and some ran, it will begin to sprout.
And if you wait and wait you will see some little buds and some tender leaves.
When summer comes there might be a bee or perhaps a butterfly and they will spread some magic.
But when autumn comes all its leaves will fall and then you will have to wait through all the winter days until spring.
The tree will grow with buds of gold and green.

Birds will come to perch and perhaps to sing.
The tree will soak in the summer sun and dream,
And then when autumn comes again it will lean into the wind.
And if you wait and wait…season by season…and year by year…that tree will grow so large it will hold you.
If you wait some more one day your wish will come true.

If You Hold A Seed by Elly Mackay