Newly-appointed Atlanta Public Schools administrators discussed their plans to make improvements throughout the district during the monthly SNAPPSgeneral body meeting Monday night at Peyton Forest Elementary School.
Parents in attendance were particularly concerned about the direction the district is taking after a cheating scandal and recent news that less than half of APS schools in southwest Atlanta made adequate yearly progress (AYP).
The curriculum will receive immediate attention, said Karen Waldon, Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.
“I've come here as a support for you all," Waldon said, "to uncover, to discover, to have quality discussions about the work that needs to go on in this district."
APS is currently developing a five-year strategic plan to improve teaching and learning and, ultimately, student performance. Since assuming her position almost two months ago, Waldon has had several meetings to gather information to assist with the completion of the five-year plan.
Curriculum is a broad area that encompasses several arenas, including athletics, professional learning, federal programs, discipline, and student support services.
Special Education Director Constance Goodson shared plans to improve the education experience for students with disabilities, the vast majority of whom do not graduate from high school.
According to Goodson, special needs students must have increased access to technology such as Ipads and special software programs. Vocational opportunities outside the classroom are also critical to their success, she said. Under the new plan as well, Goodson said, every school in the district will implement inclusive practices on some level to integrate special needs students into general education classrooms.
APS is also reforming the gifted and talented screening process to to expose more students to the program. Already, APS has implemented automatic referrals based on standardized test scores.
“We want to produce critical thinkers [and] creative thinkers who are ready for the 21st century,” said Gyimah Whitaker, Talented and Gifted Program Coordinator.
Whitaker's office will soon begin hosting monthly parent forums to address emotional needs of gifted students. The office also plans to expand the high school gifted program.
Still, Reginald Crossley, the Youth Commission Program Coordinator for Fulton County's Housing and Human Services Department, and a former conflict resolution counselor who has worked at Miles, F. L. Stanton, and Peyton Forest elementary schools, urged administrators to adopt a more aggressive plan to address social needs students face as well.
Crossley often receives calls from APS teachers of students whose parents are drug abusers or simply unable to help with homework assignments. Therefore, education, he insists, must “beyond textbook teaching.”
Waldon anticipates the five year plan will be completed by January 2012.
In the meantime, she reminded the audience to monitor the progression of their children's schools.
“You all cut us no slack," Waldon said. "Hold us accountable.”
For information about SNAPPS (Southwest and Northwest Atlanta Parents and Partners for Schools) meetings or to join the organization visit the SNAPPS website.