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Family & Community Engagement in Support of Great Schools

Teamwork makes the dream work. 

 

It may sound cliche, but it’s a statement that highlights the impact created when people aiming to meet a common goal work together to accomplish it. We often share our beliefs with an oversimplified equation: active family & community engagement + the best & brightest teachers & school leaders = great schools.

 

Though other factors like equitable access to resources and freedom and flexibility for teachers and school leaders are also necessary to serve the unique needs of every student, we know the power of people working together will get us further faster. Since the reopening of public schools, after they shut down due to COVID-19, we learned that additional financial resources were needed to jumpstart and strengthen schools’ engagement with families and community members. 

 

Historically, we offered $1,000 grants to schools to support events or enhancements to efforts to engage families and communities. Through insights gathered from community listening with parents and caregivers, teachers and school leaders across the Atlanta Public Schools district, we decided to double down on the investment in schools’ engagement goals. This year, we dedicated $150,000 to offer Title I schools up to $15,000 to support their 2022-2023 academic year. More than 30 schools applied and we are excited to announce that we selected 16 schools to receive the inaugural Family and Community Engagement (FACE) grants, ranging from $4,000 to $15,000.

 

Congratulations to the recipients! 

 

 

Do you live near a school on the list? We encourage you to visit their website and stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to engage. Not sure which schools are in your neighborhood, enter your address here and consider attending their next GO Team or PTA meeting to get involved in supporting positive outcomes for children in your community.

 

References
Learn more about GO Teams here.

Learn more about Title 1 schools.

Georgia Milestones Results Shows Learning Loss from the Pandemic continues to impact Atlanta Public Schools students

Over the past months, we have looked at various student-level data. Last month, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) shared the statewide Georgia Milestones results for the 2021-2022 school year (SY). The state required Milestones for 2021-2022 testing after canceling the mandate for state assessment in response to COVID-19 in 2020.  Schools across Atlanta Public Schools (APS) saw significantly higher participation rates, enabling us to better understand the scale of pandemic learning loss. 

This month, the National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) released its biannual nationwide assessment of student academic achievement in public and private schools across the United States. Both sets of data highlighted a few similar themes: 

  • learning loss from the pandemic was significant, 
  • learning loss was steeper in math than in reading, and 
  • students that struggled before the pandemic were likely to have greater levels of learning loss.

National data from NAEP showed that scaled reading scores for 4th graders dropped by five points which represents the largest decline in reading scores recorded since 1990. Meanwhile, the 4th-grade math scale scores declined by seven points. This is the first time that NAEP results have shown a decline in math scaled scores. This aligns with what occurred in Georgia too. 

Upon reviewing Georgia Milestone results between 2019 and 2022, proficiency across the state in grades 3-8 fell by eight percent in math and five percent in English Language Arts (ELA). 

Another way to understand the data is that for every 100 students, eight did not meet the proficiency bar in math and five did not meet the proficiency bar in ELA.   

The larger drops in math both at the national and state level align with projections noted in our summer 2020 learning loss report, Quantifying the Impact of School Closures on Metro Atlanta Student Proficiency

Georgia Milestones 2022These learning loss trends were also prevalent across APS. In APS, grades 3-8 ELA proficiency fell by six percent. Likewise, math proficiency in grades 3-8 math scores fell by 10 percent.

Students that are not yet proficient have even more pronounced results. NAEP scaled scores fell the most for students that were furthest behind before the pandemic.

Georgia Milestones 2022This result was also consistent in APS with the Georgia Milestones results. Using developing and above Georgia Milestones scores, APS saw six percent declines in 3-8th grade reading and 12 percent declines in 3-8th grade math. When accounting for students in the developing and above category, the larger drops in math suggest there was greater learning loss with our students who entered the pandemic behind grade level.

Learning Loss Varied Even Among Similar Schools

NAEP has not yet released state or district-specific data, but the Georgia Milestones results include school-specific data. The state-level data shows that students and schools in under-resourced neighborhoods still need more support to recover from pandemic-era learning loss. However, the relationship is not the same in all cases. Using APS Insights data, we see that poverty matched up with Milestones performance. Still, schools with similar socioeconomics have as much as a 40-point difference in the percentage of students scoring developing and above on Milestones.

Georgia Milestones 2022The Milestones Math Proficiency graph shows that test score changes from 2019 to 2022 have wide variation by the school.

Although the test scores from 2019 and 2022 were under different circumstances, we believe it is important to see the changes to understand the extent of learning loss at each school.

A New User-Friendly Way for Community to Understand the data.

In the spring of 2022, we soft-launched our Atlanta Schools Data Project to collect feedback regarding what is most helpful for different users. We designed the tool to organize publicly available data and make it accessible for APS parents, caregivers and community members to understand.

The tool does not determine what makes a great school; there is no amount of data that can determine what a student’s experience will be at a school. However, with information at hand for all, we can drive impact for the over 50,000 students that rely on Atlanta Public Schools for their education, setting them up for a lifetime of success.

So what’s next at APS?

A press release from APS mentions the district’s Academic Recovery Plan and The APS 5, five measurable methods to guide their academic strategy, based on the district’s five-year strategic plan:  Data, Curriculum and Instruction, Whole-Child Intervention, Personalized Learning and Signature Programming.

  • In 2022-2023, the district will focus on effective implementation of and support for the academic strategy and monitor the plan’s progress through district and state data. 
  • In 2023-2024, the district will continue monitoring the plan’s progress, assessing, reviewing, and making adjustments based on the data.

Now more than ever, we are committed to working alongside and supporting APS to realize their vision: 

“a high-performing district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system.” 

Forward, together.

We know public school systems exist to drive positive student outcomes and improve them when necessary. However, for generations, inequity in Atlanta’s public schools continues to disproportionately impact Black and Brown students and students living in under-resourced communities.

With the lingering impact of COVID-19 on students’ proficiency, we must all move with urgency to support students, encourage bold and innovative ways to accelerate learning and close the opportunity gap. We believe now is the time to reimagine public education. We can develop a new delivery system for Black and Brown students and students from under-resourced communities to give every student opportunities, a sense of well-being and self-determination.

 Visit our Back-to-School campaign page to learn more about K-12 public education. Share the resources with your networks and get involved in supporting education for every student in every community!

Citation: The math comparisons include 2019 eighth-grade end-of-course results to create a more accurate comparison to 2022, when all eighth-grade students were required to take the eighth-grade EOG math exam

Quantifying the Impact of School Closures on Metro Atlanta Student Proficiency

redefinED atlanta and Learn4Life (L4L) today announced the release of a new study, “Quantifying the Impact of School Closures on Metro Atlanta Student Proficiency.” The report estimates today about 21,000 fewer students in ELA and 29,000 fewer in math are now on track for grade-level proficiency than prior to COVID-19.

In 2019-20, metro Atlanta students lost nine weeks of regular instruction due to the COVID-mandated quick transition to distance learning in mid-March. Based on local and national data, if students had taken the Milestone assessments in spring 2020, the percentage of students demonstrating proficiency would be expected to drop 3.6 points in English language arts and 4.9 points in math as compared to last year. Two specific proficiency measures tracked by Learn4Life which are highly correlated to student long term success, 3rd-grade reading and 8th-grade math, show an expected decline of 3.5% and 4.8% respectively.  

 Achievement projections are more concerning for Black, Latinx, and economically disadvantaged students in the metro Atlanta region. The study projects that only three out of ten historically underserved students will now be on track to grade-level proficiency, which reverses recent gains.

“As districts prepare for cuts to already limited budgets, it’s imperative that district leaders take an equity-minded approach to resource allocation,” said Ed Chang, executive director of redefinED atlanta. “This is also an opportunity to take bold action and put forth radical changes because we cannot afford to regress.” 

Metro Atlanta school districts made steady progress in student achievement over the last few years.  Unfortunately, school closures caused by the pandemic may have largely eliminated those gains for thousands of underserved students. Now is the time to learn from our partners across the region and to redouble our efforts as a community to get students back on track,” said Dr. Kenneth Zeff, executive director of Learn4Life.

The report findings drew from national research on student learning loss during the summer months as well as natural disasters such as hurricanes Katrina and Harvey. This data was then compared to Atlanta-area data reflecting how schoolwide student attendance impacts growth and achievement on the Georgia Milestones. This approach is based on the more conservative assumption that the steady improvement in proficiency over proceeding years remains at 2019 levels. If the study assumed continued steady improvement, even more students may have been impacted by the lack of in-person instruction.

The report commissioned by redefinED atlanta and Learn4Life includes several possible solutions for education policymakers, including:

  • Assess all students to secure a baseline to determine the actual learning loss when students return to school.
  • Lengthen the school year and/or school day by five percent for the next two years.
  • Prioritize math instruction as well as reading during any future remote learning.

On March 26th, Governor Kemp ordered all schools closed in Georgia as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption to the final months of the 2019-20 school year, metro Atlanta school leaders and staff rapidly worked to provide students with technology such as iPads, Chromebooks and internet hotspots to help teachers and students connect in an effort to continue their learnings and finish the school year. Even with the best efforts provided by districts, schools and teachers, families reported lack of technology and other resources that prohibited some students from participating in distance learning; districts have reported that student attendance after launching virtual instruction was low. 

August 2022 newsletter

Celebrate Back-to-School and read our August newsletter!

It’s back-to-school time in Atlanta and across the country. We’re excited to start this school year with new passionate public education advocates who have taken our ARISE Pledge and so many of you that are continuing your support of students and schools!

Another awaited arrival during this period is the Georgia Milestones test results. Milestones data is the resource that informs elected officials and the broader community of how students are performing academically in every school.

This year, we aim to support parents, caregivers, community advocates and supporters in growing their understanding of K-12 public education. We believe that with an informed community of passionate individuals, we can work together to transform Atlanta into a place where every student in every community has opportunity, well-being and self-determination.

We’re ready to do our part in encouraging more people to find their role in supporting K-12 public schools. 

Click the link and read more in our August newsletter!

July 2022 Newsletter

July 2022 Newsletter

We’re investing up to $150,000 to launch the Family and Community Engagement Grant. This Fund will support schools in being able to establish, build, and strengthen their family and community engagement efforts throughout the 22-23 school year.

Eligible APS Title 1 schools and Title 1 schools serving APS students are eligible to apply for funding up to $15,000 to support their broader family engagement plans for the entire 22-23 school year. 

We believe supporting your school’s broader family engagement strategy will lead to a more lasting impact on your family engagement efforts and thereby support your efforts to support student outcomes. Applications close July 15.

Click the link to learn more about the grant and read the full newsletter!

redefinED atlanta Announces Emily Castillo Leon as its New Senior Director of Schools

redefinED atlanta Announces Emily Castillo Leon as its New Senior Director of SchoolsredefinED atlanta, a nonprofit that engages communities, advocates for equity, and funds critical work to drive systemic level improvement in K-12 public education for students and families is pleased to announce that Emily Castillo Leon has joined the staff. 

“Our staff is committed to working with parents, educators, community leaders and philanthropists to ensure students have opportunity, well-being and self-determination,” said Ed Chang, executive director, redefinED atlanta. “Emily’s background as a school leader will help propel redefinED atlanta’s vision to transform Atlanta into a place where every student in every community receives a great K-12 public education.”

Emily Castillo León was the Founder and Head of School of Ethos Classical. As the Founder and Head of School, she led Ethos from concept inception to execution, with Ethos now serving over 450 scholars in southwest Atlanta.  She has a proven track record of transformative academic outcomes for scholars in district and charter schools. As the founding assistant principal of KIPP Nashville Collegiate High School, she led the humanities team to the highest scores in KIPP network history on the NWEA MAP Reading Assessment and scholars demonstrating growth in the 99th percentile on the Tennessee English I End of Course Exam.

Emily began her career in education as a high school English teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina. As Lead English II Teacher, she led her scholars, and her team to a 92% overall pass rate on the state writing assessment, positioning her school as the third-highest achieving of 21 high schools in the district. Emily has also served as Manager and then Director of Teacher Leadership Development with Teach For America where she modeled best practices with managers and teachers and led a cohort of first-year English teachers to “significantly exceed growth” on Common Core-aligned state assessments. Before founding Ethos, she was a fellow with the highly selective Building Excellent Schools Fellowship. Emily received a bachelor’s degree in English and communications from Wake Forest University.

In her new role, Emily will support the execution of redefinED atlanta’s school growth strategy. This position will play a vital role in the start-up of new schools, and school expansion and provide resources and guidance to school and district leaders and governance entities. As the senior director of schools, she will foster collaboration and accountability and stand with the community to hold the bar for quality and excellence.

About redefinED atlanta:

Every student in Atlanta needs access to a great K-12 public education. Together with parents, educators, community leaders, and philanthropists, redefinED atlanta is transforming Atlanta into a place where every student in every community has opportunity, well-being and self-determination. For more information, please visit www.redefinEDatlanta.org.

redefinED Atlanta Is Investing Up to $150,000 in Grant Funds To Support Schools’ Family and Community Engagement Efforts

Engagement Grant

redefinED atlanta, a nonprofit that engages communities, advocates for equity, and funds critical work to drive systemic level improvement in K-12 public education for students and families, announced today it is investing up to $150,000 to launch the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) grant. This fund will support schools in being able to establish, build, and strengthen their family and community engagement efforts throughout the 2022-2023 school year.

“The best school leaders and teachers understand their students’ and communities’ unique needs. They work best when given the trust, freedom, flexibility, resources and support to serve those needs,” said Ed Chang, executive director, redefinED atlanta. “ Active parent and community engagement are essential to establish levers of support for every student.”

Who is Eligible?

  • Any Atlanta-based Title 1 school is eligible to apply for funding.  
  • Eligible schools can apply for up to $15,000 in funding.

How it Works:

  • The application window will open on June 15, 2022, and remain open through July 15, 2022. 
  • This is not a rolling application. 
  • redefinED atlanta will review all applications after July 15, 2022, with interviews taking place through the first week of August, and we will notify schools of their grant status by Aug. 12, 2022.
  • redefinED atlanta will provide technical support for schools that are awarded funding. This technical support will include planning to support engagement efforts beyond the 2022-2023 school year. 

 

“Unlike our previous event-based microgrants, we are investing these funds to support engagement strategies across the entire ’22-’23 school year. We know it will take our entire community to support the needs of children in public schools,” said Adah Pittman-DeLancey, vice president of impact & external relations, redefinED atlanta.  “Ideally, the efforts launched in the coming school year will ignite our broader community to help identify when, where and how they can be in service to schools–especially with pandemic’s impact on children’s learning.”

redefinED atlanta believes parent and community engagement is one factor that will help advance our mission of every child in every community receiving a great K-12 public education.

About redefinED atlanta:

Every student in Atlanta needs access to a great K-12 public education. Together with parents, educators, community leaders, and philanthropists, redefinED atlanta is transforming Atlanta into a place where every student in every community has: opportunity, well-being and self-determination. For more information, please visit www.redefinEDatlanta.org.

June 2022 Newsletter

The best school leaders and teachers understand their students’ and communities’ unique needs. They work best when given the trust, freedom, flexibility, and support to serve those needs. Active parent and community engagement are essential to establish levers of support for every student.

To aid schools in serving all students, we are launching our Family and Community Engagement Grant (FACE). We believe parent and community engagement is one factor that will help advance our mission of every child in every community receiving a great K-12 public education.

Click the link to read the full June newsletter and learn more about the FACE grant!

Reimagining and Redesigning Education Through School Autonomy

Last month we focused on the pressing need for more school autonomy in public schools–or as we like to call it, freedom and flexibility. We understand communities have different needs. Covid uncovered and amplified existing inequities and forced schools to rethink the delivery system for children in weeks and months instead of years. It also showcased the need to reinvent and reimagine how we think about schools and how they can meet the specific needs of their students and community. 

As a part of the campaign, we sat down with Emily Castillo Leon, founder and head of Ethos Classical, to share how Ethos’ school leaders have exercised freedom and flexibility to rise to the challenges of a pandemic and endemic world.

More than ever, we feel that increasing schools’ autonomy and flexibility will enable schools to develop and implement approaches to teaching and learning that better build on our strengths and address the needs of students than if policymakers or others outside schools made those decisions.

Every child is different, and we get to see where they soar and when they need support firsthand because teachers and school leaders are in schools and classrooms with them nearly half of every calendar year. School leaders and educators can best do their work when they can adjust and tailor learning to students’ needs in real-time or adjust the next day’s lesson based on what happens in a school day. 

Statistics have shown an increase in freedom and flexibility in the most-needed high-risk school systems can enable schools to develop and implement approaches to teaching and learning that better build on their strengths and address the needs of their students than if policymakers or others outside schools made those decisions.

School empowerment can show up by allowing a school leader to adjust a school’s schedule, make changes to the staff, allocate their entire budget and select curricula that provides every student in their school excellent public education. 

Giving school leaders room to redesign their neighborhood school in partnership with their community or even allowing for new schools to open in response to students’ needs is a way to ensure every child can attend the school that’s a right fit for their unique needs. 

Like our children, schools are different too, which calls for our school leaders to be able to employ teacher autonomy to support and help design the best programs that meet the needs of all children, regardless of their zip code.

Collectively, the support and trust from our community, civic leaders and educational collaborators are needed more than ever so that we can have the freedom and flexibility to create solutions and make the best decisions based on the needs of our students. We can only achieve this mission by working together.

redefinED recognizes that to ensure every student in every community has opportunity, well-being, and self-determination, there must be resources for organizations to work and thrive. Watch the video to learn more about school freedom and flexibility!

mass shooting response

A Message From redefinED atlanta About the Uvalde Mass Shooting

mass shooting response

Dear Friends and Family,

We are devastated and heartbroken by the mass murder that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. While thoughts and prayers aren’t enough for the families in New York, California or Texas, it’s all we have to offer.

Tuesday’s incident took the lives of 19 children and two educators, and it marks at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school in 2022. We understand the aftermath of a massacre can leave families, educators and school leaders feeling stressed, helpless, angry, scared and grieving.

In this moment of solidarity, we’re sharing a few resources to help you navigate these difficult times and find ways for you to communicate with educators and families in your community. 

Resources for Families, Educators and School Leaders:

If you need an immediate thought partner as you work through the day, please reach out to Adah Pittman-DeLancey, vice president of impact and external relations, at apittman@redefinedatlanta.org

We hope our country will be spared from further mass shootings sometime soon. In the absence of immediate policy actions to address gun violence, we are working to create space to offer support, share resources and unite for collective efforts.

Yours in service,

redefinED atlanta