‘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 …


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!

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