August Newsletter — Putting a Stake in the Ground

The 2020-21 school year is unlike any we’ve seen in modern history. As we continue through this time full of unknowns and uncertainties, it is our duty to advocate for equity being at the center of every decision made on behalf of students and families of Atlanta Public Schools (APS). We believe that equity-centered leadership will face some resistance because change is never easy, but in time, it will unite our district and provide the foundation for every school to be stronger throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Parent Groups Come Together To Help To APS Families Affected By Pandemic

Two parent-driven organizations are stepping up to help Atlanta Public Schools families who may be struggling with housing, food insecurity or other needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Atlanta Thrive and the Latino Association for Parents in Public Schools recently announced plans to distribute $100,000 to those affected by the pandemic.

The funding comes from the For Us By Us Atlanta relief fund, and through a partnership with the APS Office of Partnerships and Development.

As Coronavirus Cases Increase, Some Metro Atlanta School Districts Plan To Start The Year Remotely

Atlanta Public Schools, the DeKalb County School District, and the Clayton County Public Schools recently announced plans for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. All three school systems plan to begin the year virtually, based on current public health data on the spread of the coronavirus in metro Atlanta.

The districts said they followed guidance issued by the Georgia Department of Education in June, which said schools should stick with remote learning if the coronavirus has reached a level of “substantial” spread in their communities.

July Newsletter — We Go Further Together

Summer is often a carefree time, a season associated with less stress than the others. The sun shines for longer, and kids can do what they do best: play.

This summer, of course, is shaping up much differently. Let’s be honest. We’re tired, scared, angry, frustrated, and every emotion in between. Today, we woke up to the news of a triple shooting that injured a 9-year-old victim, and the sickening deaths of Ahmaud Aubrey just outside of Atlanta and Rayshard Brooks here in the City of Atlanta are still fresh in our mind. People are losing jobs and homes, COVID-19 cases are on the rise, and people are still dying from the pandemic. This past weekend, Secoriea Turner, an 8-year-old girl and Atlanta Public Schools (APS) student, was killed in the backseat of her mother’s car, and our mayor (who recently tested positive for COVID-19) is left pleading once again to try to stem the violence.

June Newsletter — In Service to Community

With schools closed for summer and our district in heavy planning due to uncertainties in the wake of COVID-19, we are grateful for the opportunity to reflect on our mission and the ways we show up in and for the community we serve. When students go back to school this fall, they will return impacted by the compounding effects of bearing witness to protest brought on by racial injustice and heightened inequity worsened by the pandemic.

Thank You, Teachers

With parents and guardians doing their best to homeschool their students and support their families during this pandemic, it’s clearer now more than ever just how valuable teachers are to our young people’s success. So many teachers are going above and beyond right now — as they tend to do — to meet their students’ and families’ needs. As a former teacher and as the executive director of redefinED atlanta, I salute the more than 5,000 teachers across Atlanta, who are integral to our goal of becoming a city where every student in every community receives a high-quality education.

Cultivating strong school-level talent is a core element of what we do as an organization, and so this Teacher Appreciation Week, I’d like to share a little bit more about the educators who have participated in an innovative partnership we helped launch to strengthen Atlanta’s public schools.

Relay Graduate School of Education’s mission is to prepare teachers and administrators with a practical and effective program that balances the theory-focused offerings of most traditional programs with a heavy dose of deliberate practice and concrete ways teachers can help their students.

When I learned about Relay’s model and saw the initial evidence of their effectiveness I immediately wanted them to help prepare teachers in Atlanta, where (like many districts across the country) there was a shortage of educators. There are few programs nationwide that track the effectiveness of their budding teachers, and Relay requires all of their prospective teachers to demonstrate that on average they can move students about a year’s worth of growth in a year’s worth of time. While this certainly won’t raise the ceiling on teachers’ effectiveness, it can help to raise the floor of what we can expect for the effectiveness of our teachers entering into the field. It’s also worth noting that Relay is the rare program that’s had success attracting candidates of color: 70 percent of teachers in Relay’s residency program nationally identify as people of color, and that figure rises to 95 percent for the Atlanta program in the 2019-20 school year.

That’s why redefinED atlanta was proud to support Relay expanding to Atlanta in 2017. During the 2017-18 school year, Relay worked with principals and principal supervisors from the South Atlanta cluster. Those administrators told their peers about the quality of the program, and demand increased among both school leaders and teachers. As one school leader who was in the original 2017 cohort said, “Relay has assisted me in rethinking the manner in which I interact with teachers and teacher leaders about teaching and learning and improving student outcomes. I have received specific strategies for strengthening culture and academic achievement. I am excited about learning more.”

Led by Atlanta native Christy Harris, a former APS student who was also a teacher and school leader in the city, Relay launched its teacher residency program for the 2018-19 school year. This program provides an opportunity for someone new to the teaching profession — a graduating college senior, a paraprofessional already working in schools, a career-changer — to gain classroom experience with a mentor teacher, gradually assume more responsibilities, and, after two years, graduate with a teaching certificate and a master’s degree in education.

As the third year of this partnership comes to a close, Relay has helped hundreds of educators in Atlanta move into schools and strengthen their practice. redefinED atlanta is proud of the role it’s played in generating a robust talent pipeline for teachers and school leaders. With an eye toward the urgent need to make more progress across Atlanta, we look forward to supporting more prospective educators and further strengthening our city’s schools.

To the 5,000-plus teachers across Atlanta, happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

May Newsletter — Forging Ahead in the Time of COVID-19

As many of us continue to adjust to the impact of the pandemic, much has changed and yet many things remain the same.

High school seniors across our district completed their last day of school last Friday, but not at all like they intended when the school year began. Students with plans to embark on their college careers this summer and those with intentions of going straight into the workforce are all facing uncertainty.

Switch To Online Learning Could Provide ‘Stress Test’ For Metro Atlanta Schools

Starting Monday, March 16, several metro Atlanta public school districts and all 26 of the state’s colleges and universities will make the switch to online learning due to coronavirus concerns.

Schools say they’re ready for the change. But experts say there could be some unforeseen challenges to virtual classrooms.

Providing Access

The biggest challenge for a lot of K-12 districts is making sure students and teachers have internet access and a device to use.

A Bolder Path Forward: Reflections on Accelerating Milestones Progress

Like so many of you, “back to school week” is one of reflection for me. As a former teacher and principal, back to school week has been a time to hold a mirror to myself to applaud past successes while also acknowledging failure and contemplating growth opportunities and future action. As I reflect upon Atlanta Public Schools (APS), the district has much to celebrate and be proud of this past year. The recently released 2019 Georgia Milestones scores indicate that APS has achieved their highest rates of proficiency since the state first implemented the test in 2015.