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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.

Use Your Voice + Vote for Atlanta Education

Importance of Voting

Georgia’s general elections are on Nov. 8, 2022. These elections will decide races for the key positions that will impact not only our educational system but our city and state as a whole. You will have the opportunity to vote on the critical role of the State Superintendent, which is the person with the power to determine the school districts and budgets for the entire state, setting the future of Atlanta schools.

You might ask yourself, “does my vote even matter?” Of course it does! Voting is a critical way to be civically engaged and help shape the future of education in Atlanta. We believe that the knowledge, experiences, and strengths of community members, like you, are essential in building a brighter and more sustainable future for our young people.

Whether you’re the most civically engaged person or growing in your role of motivating your networks to vote in every election, not encouraging your neighbors and friends to vote comes with consequences. Two things that come to mind are A.) The continued achievement gap between minorities and disadvantaged students versus their white counterparts and B.) Ongoing income immobility. Children having access, or not having access, to education determines their future outcomes.

Additionally, you will be able to vote for U.S. Senate and House representatives, state Senate and House representatives, Georgia governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and other state executive offices, as well as several state high courts.

Make a Voting Plan

With such an important election coming up, making a plan to vote will ensure that your voice is heard.

  • Registration
    The first step to making a voting plan is registering to vote or check your registration status. You can register online or by mail if you are eligible.
 

If you are already registered to vote, it is important to check your registration status to ensure that your information is still correct in the system and to know where your polling location is if you choose to vote in person early or on election day. 

The deadline to register for this election is Oct. 11, 2022. Please note, if you are not registered by that date, you won’t be able to vote in the November election.

  • Absentee Ballot Voting
    Absentee ballots are an option for registered voters who prefer not to vote in person or will be out of town on the election day. You do not need an excuse to request an absentee ballot, but you must request an absentee ballot in order to receive one in the mail.
 

Once you receive your ballot, you will fill it out, and follow all instructions to submit it. Your County Registrar’s Office must receive your ballot before the polls close on election day to be counted.

  • Early Voting
    Early voting helps voters avoid crowds or find a time to vote that’s better for their schedules in the weeks prior to election day. This is done in person in the same way that one would vote in person on election day. Early voting in Georgia is Oct. 17-23.
 

The assigned voting location for early voting may be different from your assigned location for election day voting. Be sure to check where you will need to go to cast your ballot.

  • Voting in Person on Election Day
    Voting in person on election day requires individuals to arrive at their assigned polling station on Nov. 8, 2022, to cast their ballot. Be sure to check your registration status to ensure you go to the correct polling location between the hours that the location is open.
 

Many employers in the state of Georgia are required by law to give you time off to allow you to vote on election day. Paid administrative leave for voting is available to employees when their work schedule does not allow them at least two hours, including travel, to vote either before or after work. Employees who are scheduled to begin work at least two hours after the polls open or end work at least two hours before the polls close are not eligible to request paid leave for voting. Administrative leave for voting is not available for voting mid-day.

Discover Candidates’ Stances and Nonpartisan Resources

Information is a powerful tool. After you’ve made a voting plan, learn more about the candidates fighting for a seat and explore nonpartisan resources to be fully informed as you cast your vote. These resources can act as a guide for you to discover who is running for each position, as well as how each candidate feels about important issues to you and your community.

Resources

The Candidates 

BallotReady 

Branch 

Look, voter fatigue is real, but local elections are just as important as presidential elections, especially with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. Arguably, they are even more significant because the people elected are making decisions about your typical everyday operations like getting clean water to your home, ensuring your trash is collected, and in the case of children, the overall quality of schools and public education.

At redefinED atlanta, we are committed to partnering with you to advocate for an equitable public education that provides students with the knowledge and tools to pursue their passions, realize their full potential, and better their community and society. This vision is not possible without the voices and votes of our collective community, especially during such a pivotal election for our state.

Together, we can shape the future of Atlanta education for the better.

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

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!

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.

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

May 2022 Newsletter

Every child deserves a great public education regardless of where they live. When parents, school leaders, and educators partner to understand the unique needs of their students, children can learn and thrive in school and beyond. To support positive student outcomes in schools, educators and school leaders need our trust to develop and implement approaches that build on students’ strengths and address every student’s learning needs in the classroom.

This month, we’re raising awareness about freedom and flexibility-also known as autonomy-and how it impacts students, families and schools. We invite you to learn more about practices in Atlanta public schools and together, Atlanta can reimagine and innovate for schools everywhere.

Click here to read the full May newsletter!

Mental Health Awareness Month – A Q&A with a Rachelle Clay, former APS teacher

Mental Health Awareness Month - A Q&A with a Rachelle Clay, former APS teacher

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As public schools are still navigating through a pandemic, we wanted to take a moment to share how the pressures of teaching during these difficult times can impact school talent’s mental health. We sat down with Rachelle Clay, a former teacher, for a candid Q&A about how she managed the challenges of teaching during a global pandemic. 

redefinED atlanta: Teachers have been the unsung heroes for many years. What was your teaching experience like prior to the pandemic?

Clay: Teaching is already a stressful profession and became more stressful during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, my worries were, “am I doing enough; am I providing enough differentiation, remediation and extensions in my lessons to keep my students engaged and growing?” 

In addition to making sure my students were academically stimulated, I wanted to make sure they were socially and emotionally well. By March of 2020, the worst had yet to come. Enter the pandemic, and the uncertainty of what teaching and education would look like. What was supposed to be a 2-week virtual learning experience, stretched to a year and a half. 

redefinED atlanta: What was it like being in the classroom when school districts had to make critical decisions and shift to virtual learning?

Clay: Educators scrambled to shift to virtual learning, trying to make sense of what it meant, and how to deliver quality instruction via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. An extremely daunting task, in addition to all of the other stressors of teaching.

redefinED atlanta: What were some of the stressors that kept you up at night when you were teaching during the pandemic?

Clay: During the pandemic my stress level increased significantly. There were unrealistic expectations from school administration to operate under “business as usual,” when there were greater concerns such as the educational inequities that some families would endure as a result of not having access to the technology or the internet service that would help in making their students successful in a virtual educational setting. 

Then there was the compounded stress I placed on myself to try and maintain the same level of rigor I provided my students in person. Coupled with the fact that there was no escape from work, as it was now in my home, I felt as if I was perpetually working. In order to regain my peace and some resemblance of normalcy, I had to learn to extend grace to myself, while being intentional about setting boundaries and practicing self-care.

redefinED atlanta: What were some of the ways you managed your stresses while teaching virtually?

Clay: During this time, I learned to be okay with not being okay and to accept things that were out of my control. In doing so, I learned to surrender to my feelings, to sit in them and to try to best understand the root cause of the feeling. 

I began to meditate, which helped me to identify triggers for my stress. I became intentional about taking breaks, closing my computer and walking away. I learned to ask for and accept help, and most importantly I worked on being kind, gentle, compassionate and loving to myself. I spoke words of affirmation to build myself up, instead of breaking myself down, because I am my own worst critic.

redefinED atlanta: Even through all the challenges, what were some of your personal successes?

Clay: Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, I feel as though I met the challenges presented and grew in the process. I developed a self-care routine of mindfulness and introspection that I may not have otherwise done, had it not been for the stress associated with the pandemic. 

Amid the growth, I chose not to return to the classroom at the start of the most recent school year. I am not sure if I will return to the classroom, but I do see myself working with students in some capacity, in the future, as it is my passion and my gift. 

redefinED atlanta: As you look back at your teaching experience, what’s a major takeaway you want readers to remember when thinking about teachers and other school talent?

Clay: As I reflect on my time in the classroom, pre and post-pandemic, it is my hope that society will become more empathetic and compassionate toward educators. Education is often a thankless job where the professionals are highly criticized, while being undervalued and underappreciated. Moving forward, I would implore society to try and be a little more understanding of educators, to show a little kindness and to extend a little more grace, because grace is something that we all can be afforded.  

redefinED atlanta understands that great schools have great teachers. And while teacher burnout is becoming more common, here are some resources educators can use to help manage stresses in and outside of the classroom: 

 

To read similar stories or other announcements, please visit our newsroom!