Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen gave her annual “State of the District” address Friday. The event took place at a brand-new Walden Athletic Complex on Irwin Street.
Students performed songs, dances and even step shows while Carstarphen updated the audience on the status of the school system. The basic message: Atlanta Public Schools has made progress, but not enough.
“Our graduation rate is 79.93 percent to be exact,” Carstarphen said. “That means that Atlanta’s graduation rate has increased by 20.8 percentage points since 2014.”
APS has also improved its graduation rates for African-American, Latino and special needs students. Scores on the Georgia Milestones assessment have improved overall. In music terms, Carstarphen said, the district is “moving up the charts.” However, Carstarphen acknowledged APS still trails the state average in those areas.
“We’ve slowly, slightly narrowed the performance gap with the state in elementary and middle school grades by only about 1 percent,” she said. “Blech! It’s not enough. We need to eliminate [the gap]!”
Her plan to keep moving the needle includes investing in programs like early education. Certified pre-kindergarten teachers are paid on the APS teacher salary schedule. That’s not always the case for pre-K teachers.
The district will also continue to invest in a “turnaround” plan that provides interventions for some schools. Those resources include health care, counseling and, in some cases, legal services.
APS has also raised $61 million through private partners to help fund wrap-around services and other programs.