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I am Atlanta Public Schools…Choosing to Move Forward… I’m in…Are You?

We are all responsible and accountable for the education of our children. Their education must be pervasive to all of our thinking. We should accept praise when it is due but also shoulder responsibility when things do not work as we had expected.

We are all responsible and accountable for the education of our children and their education must be at the foerfront of all of our thinking.

We should accept praise when it is due but also shoulder responsibility when things do not work as we had expected. 

Contributing to a child’s academic success requires commitment, honesty, openness and an environment which fosters mutual respect and teamwork. 

Solid support systems must be in place in order for urban youth to succeed. Research consistently shows the importance of parents being actively involved in their child’s education. 

When parents are involved, they will understand what a child is expected to learn, the degree in which they are learning the expected subject matter and when additional help or support may be needed. 

When the parents are involved, they gain a sense of confidence that they are empowering their child and contributing to their future success.

Today, I challenge each of you to read this article and accept that we all bear some responsibility for the situation that Atlanta Public Schools (APS) finds itself in today. We must all recommit ourselves to our children and improving APS so that what has happened can never reoccur. 

The objective of the article is to create a dialog of what roles are essential in providing the best education possible for Atlanta’s
children.

What Happened?

The Atlanta Public Schools system—which includes the Board—lost sight of its primary goal. As a result of losing its focus policies, practices and procedures designed to ensure children receive a world class education were not followed. 

For example, teaching national and research based standards were traded to teaching to the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT). 

Based on test results, this method of teaching has not produced the desired results. According to the 2010 CRCT results Atlanta Public Schools students in grade 3, 5 and 8 scored substantially lower than the state average in all content areas. 

In addition, the 2011 Georgia High School Graduation Test (GHSGT), given in order to receive a diploma, demonstrated that Atlanta Public School juniors produced the lowest passing rate (58%) in the Atlanta metro area. 

As a school system with highly qualified administrators and teachers and supportive business and community partners, one would expect better outcomes. 

It becomes clear that teaching to the test has failed and is not providing students with knowledge to compete with their counter-parts. 

I personally believe that researched based practices that have proven to be successful with urban youth be implemented. Whether a student goes to college, vocational school or enters the workforce, the 21stcentury learner must have these capabilities: higher-level critical thinking and problem-solving skills; effective oral and written communication skills; the ability to analyze information; and curiosity and imagination.

Accountability

It is the responsibility of a good leader—whether at the district level or school level—to utilize a curriculum that ensures success for students.  This curriculum must be evaluated regularly so that we know that we are getting the desired results. 

All resources must be available to appropriately implement the curriculum. This includes focused and honest teacher and administrator evaluations. Even though interim superintendent Mr. Erroll J. Davis, Jr. has not had time to address the learning issues in the district, he seems to exhibit the qualities of what an accountable leader looks like. 

I believe, given time, he and his staff will implement a district-wide curriculum that will serve our children well so that we will see consistent improvement on state and national assessments. We must demand that we have rigor in all of our classrooms.

Solutions: Student-focused

Every student enrolled in APS must immediately be assessed
in order to ascertain their strengths and weaknesses relative to their grade level. An individualized plan of remediation must be afforded for students who are not performing at grade level. 

We cannot afford to wait to implement a curriculum that is rigorous and challenging but at the same time, supports in place to assist students when needed. 

This means that parents, educators, politicians, and the business community all have a role and can become positive contributors to the success of our students. These student-focused solutions are critical considering changes in new academic requirements to attain the HOPE scholarship, and the elimination of remedial programs which had previously been offered at all two-year transfer community colleges
and most four-year colleges. 

Students who are unable to make a passing score on a brand new  assessment tool which will measure their readiness for college level work will be required to enroll in one of the technical colleges. Only a few programs offered in technical colleges are transferrable to four-year colleges in Georgia and some other states.

Parents are paramount to this future success. Parents must have high expectations for their children, monitor their progress, create a learning environment at home and work in a positive manner with school staff. 

The National Education Association (NEA) reports that parental involvement results in fewer absences, improved behavior and increased educational success. 

This is true regardless of the parents’ income, education level or cultural background. Caring and supportive parents coupled with caring yet demanding teachers implementing a researched based curriculum is a good formula for success. Title I funding is designed to assist low achieving children in high poverty schools.

This should provide extra academic support and learning opportunities for students struggling to meet academic targets. Title I provides tutoring, special teachers in reading and/or math, pre-school programs, extended day/year programs, learning laboratories, professional development for teachers and parents, and home-school liaisons. 

The home-school liaison will also work with parents to raise their own capabilities in assisting their child.  Parents can contact their child’s principal to find out who the parent home school liaison is in their child’s school.

Enhanced Engagement Plans

Parents – at least twice a month, attend parent-focused activities – PTA meetings, Title I seminars/workshops and parent-teachers conferences; serve as a family engagement leader

Teachers – must develop top quality lesson plans and follow them each day making them available on teacher websites, hard copy and in local libraries

Parents/Community member – volunteer five hours a month in local schools

Local businesses and churches – invest in local schools by becoming sponsors in schools events with in-kind donations or cash contributions

Parents/Students – create a two-way communications system to ensure all school correspondence comes home and is reviewed, completed and returned to school

School administrators – enforce all school polices particularly bullying, dress and discipline codes with a clear uniform system-wide message that failure to comply with these guidelines will have consequences; create a parental involvement policy which will be managed and monitored and results-driven; incorporate parent home-school liaisons in outreach plans; fund three communications officer positions for high school, middle school and elementary schools; intentionally seek out leaders who have diverse backgrounds and have implemented best practices

Board members – work cooperatively with the superintendent and seek outside resources for the school district; visit schools monthly and host quarterly community meetings in their respective districts; be accessible, approachable and value the opinions of parents and the community

Websites You May Find Useful

National Education Association - www.nea.org
National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education -www.ncpie.org

Atlanta Public Schools - www.atlantapublicschools.us

National Fatherhood Initiative – www.fatherhood.org
Georgia Department of Education - www.doe.k12.ga.us

National PTA - www.pta.org

Parent Information Resource Centers - www.nationalpirc.org 

National Coalition of Title I/Chapter 1 Parents - www.nctic1p.org

I am SW Atlanta … I’m in, Are You?

I am an APS parent, employee, product of APS, native of Atlanta and a community and business leader dedicated to teaching my child and her peers spiritual and life principles.

 I hope to equip them with tools needed to succeed as life-long learners whether it is in school, college, work and life. I strive to demonstrate the true meaning of a positive role model imparting wisdom and resources that can make our young scholars goals in life a reality. 

I believe in engaging all those who are open, unselfish and willing to do whatever it takes to touch as many children as possible. I will continue to seek out and work with people who advocate for the success of our children. 

Looking ahead, I have decided to focus on improving educational outcomes for children focusing on enhanced parent and community involvement engagement.

Sources: Georgia Department of Education, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Atlanta School Guide – Summer/Fall 2011,
21st Century Schools, and the U.S. Department of Education

Jennifer Freeman July 23, 2011 at 11:37 AM
Yolande, It's going to take everyone. Sharing informaiton in my opnion is a gift. Believe it or not, there are people who don't like sharing information; imagine that. Jocking for position or what I call "God complex symdrome". Sharing relevent information in a timely manner is one key, but this requires advanced planning and proactive steps to develop programming and activities. Right now, quite honestly I'm tired of meetings. I'm really to have hands-on training, classes focusing on the arts, culture and fitness and tutoring with students, parents, and the community. I have dedicated my life to making a positive difference in everything and one I touch. If it's not positive and getting affective results, I won't be involved. So for me the involvement piece is about going full throttle. As time goes by, I'm learning more and more that having a FEW dedicated, unselfish and humble people on a team with a collective goal is better than A LOT of undedicated, selfish and prideful people on a team going no where. There are some great organziaitns doing some great things. Some of which need help with reevaluating their purpose, mission and outreach strategies. The PTA has so many resources and systems in place to reach not only parents, but educators and community partners.
Jennifer Freeman July 23, 2011 at 11:41 AM
Who are you?
Sean July 23, 2011 at 01:15 PM
Sorry APS...I can't help you. You need a change in demographics. Until Sw residents care about their community, all of this is just talk, the same talk I hear at community association meetings, the same reason I don't attend them anymore. Residents have to start educating their children at home first, it's pointless. SW Atlanta has been setback 15 years by this scandal. It will take 10 years to "forget" and 5 to get back to where we were. I actually regret buying property over here. Who wants to move their children to an area with failing schools? Had this happened 3 years ago I would have moved to east Atlanta or dekalb.
Yolande M. Minor July 23, 2011 at 06:03 PM
Great article, Jennifer !!!
W Calvin Anderson, M.Ed September 04, 2011 at 12:34 PM
This is an extraordinary commentary. Parents and community stakeholders must step up to the plate beyond the "do process" of the academic fraud case and be trained to understand Comprehensive School Improvement Plans (CSIP) on the classroom level and statewide testing scores. And we need to understand who every compassionate and qualified vendor and their "best practices" are too. Everything...demographically around the culture of education is measured since NCLB was federally ratified and data driven from the statistics of parent involvement to the efficacy of whether we are comfortable sending more kids to prison than to college 50 plus years after Brown v. Board of Ed of Topeka. W. Calvin Anderson, M.Ed

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