The Week with Dr. Lisa Herring – Week of November 16 & 23

Good day, Atlanta Public Schools! I’m Dr. Lisa Herring, Superintendent. Welcome back to “The Week,” where we provide you with a video summary of the news and information you need most from Atlanta Public Schools.

Today, my guests include Yolonda Brown, our new Chief Academic Officer, and Tauheedah Baker-Jones, our new Chief Equity and Social Justice Officer.

YOLONDA BROWN:

Good afternoon! I am Yolonda Brown, the new Chief Academic Officer for Atlanta Public Schools. We want to start this edition of our weekly update with amazing news thanks to the awesome graduating Class of 2020! The day after we celebrated these very deserving students with commencement activities at Lakewood Stadium on Monday, November 6th, we were able to announce that Cohort 2020 achieved the district’s all-time highest graduation rate!

That’s right! according to graduation data released this week by the Georgia Department of Education, APS achieved an 80.3 percent graduation rate for cohort 2020. By achieving its all-time high graduation rate, APS has closed in on the state by 0.6 percentage points narrowing the gap to 3.5 percentage points. The state 2020 graduation rate is 83.8%.

There are more details on Dr. Herring’s blog at Talk Up APS and on her Twitter feed.

And now we want to highlight our six schools with graduation rates greater than 90 percent: Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (100% for the second year in a row!), Drew Secondary (98.2%), Atlanta Classical Academy (97.7%), North Atlanta High (92.3%), Carver Early College (91.6%), and Grady High (90.9%).

We also want to acknowledge Frederick Douglass High School for achieving the district’s highest gain with a 12.9 percentage-point increase in its graduation rate over last year!

So, congratulations to all of our graduates and thank you to all of our district leaders, principals, graduation coaches, counselors, teachers, and staff who made this happen!

With APS reaching higher numbers of total students graduating, the district must now take a harder look at improving these numbers across our diverse demographics.

To explain more, let’s bring in Tauheedah Baker-Jones, the district’s new Chief Officer for Equity and Social Justice.

TAUHEEDAH BAKER-JONES: Thank you, Ms. Brown. When we take a deeper look at the latest graduation rates, here are some things we found:

  • Graduation rates for both White students (96.7%) and Hispanic students (82.8%) reached new highs with the 2020 cohort, while the rate for Black students (77.2%) was higher than the 2019 rate (75.5%) but slightly lower than the 2018 high of 78.2%.
  • Nearly 20 percentage points separated the graduation rates of Black students and White students.
  • The 2020 graduation rate for students with disabilities increased by 8.0 percentage points over 2019 to reach an all-time high of 64.6%.
  • The graduation rate for English learners also reach a new high of 76.1%, a 6.4-percentage-point increase compared to 2019.

As this data indicates, APS has work to do with regard to addressing inequities in all areas of district functioning, including academic performance, culture and climate, talent management, stakeholder engagement, operations, and finance.

To begin addressing these challenges, the Board in 2019 approved an equity policy, and a key part of the District’s five-year strategic plan is to close these opportunity gaps where they exist.  Thus, with our renewed focus on equity, we plan to take a deeper dive into closing opportunity gaps, with one intended outcome being improving graduation rates. That’s why my vision is to create a new Center for Equity and Social Justice within the Atlanta Public Schools.

The new Center will engage our entire community in a collaborative effort to break the predictive link between demography and outcomes so that all of our students can achieve at high levels.

Achieving equity requires strategic decision-making to remedy opportunity and learning gaps and create a barrier-free environment, which enables all students to graduate ready for college, career, and life. Together, we all can do our part to keep Equity At the Forefront.

DR. HERRING: That’s “The Week” for this week! As usual, I ask that you continue to keep connected with Atlanta Public Schools and your home school.

Be Safe and Be Well!

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