In his explanation last night to about 900 parent and students at North Atlanta High on why he gutted the school’s leadership team in a blitzkrieg Friday, APS school chief Erroll Davis cited the school’s performance.
Among his comments:
“My view is this school needs to be a lot more than it is presently.”
“Performance data for this schools says it has to improve and improve quickly.”
“From 2007 to 2011, this school did not make AYP. Now, it is an Needs Improvement school, which means under some level of state monitoring.” (Here is the link to the North Atlanta High state report card.)
“The graduation rate is higher than system average. It is at 62 percent, seventh from the bottom at APS. This is not what I want for APS. This is not where we need to be. It means we are failing four out of every 10 of our children.”
Davis was unflappable and polite under tough circumstances. Many people in the audience supported the deposed principal Mark MyGrant, evidenced by the deafening standing ovation MyGrant received when he suddenly appeared and walked through the crowded gym.
Davis took about 60 questions, some of which included sharp criticisms. And he made a good argument that North Atlanta High was not performing up to its potential in its graduation rate.
But then Davis offered a less convincing argument for the purge at North Atlanta High when he cited Adequate Yearly Progress, a measure used under No Child Left Behind to rate schools.
I took two hours this morning to examine that claim.
As of this year, Georgia is no longer bound by AYP. Georgia was among the states that contended AYP was unfair as a school could fail on the performance of only a small number of students. Now, standardized test scores still will count in schools’ annual evaluations, but will carry far less weight as Georgia transitions to a system that will measure students’ readiness to attend college or begin a career after high school.
New designations — Priority schools, Focus schools and Reward schools — replace the “needs improvement” label that state school chief John Barge described as unclear and unhelpful.
The performance of Focus schools is slightly stronger than those on the Priority schools. Priority schools are the lowest-performing 5 percent of public schools in the state; Focus schools represent the 10 percent of schools just above them. The reward designation goes to high-achieving schools.
North Atlanta was not on either list, although there are plenty of Atlanta high schools on the priority list. (See below where I list them.) The reward list has not yet been released by DOE and is expected soon.
Despite Davis’ emphasis last night on AYP, he hired a new principal for North Atlanta from a school that also did not make AYP.
Gene Taylor is coming to North Atlanta High School from Lilburn Middle School, where he has been principal since 2008.
According to the state 2010-2011 Report Card, Lilburn Middle School did not make AYP in 2010-2011 for academic performance. It was among the 20 percent of Gwinnett schools that missed making AYP, which, in part, stemmed from the escalating standards built into the No Child law
And Lilburn Middle is also on the state’s Focus list this year.
But AYP doesn’t tell the whole story of Lilburn Middle, a 93 percent minority school where 92 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches. The system-wide average in Gwinnett for free and reduced lunch is only 52 percent.
When you look at Lilburn’s CRCT performance, you see steady improvement, especially in reading. In fact, 68 percent of eighth graders at the school met the standard for reading and 26 percent exceeded, a remarkable accomplishment for a school where 22 percent of students have limited English proficiency, according to the state report card. The school achieved Title I distinguished School Status in 2009 and 2010.
But neither does AYP tell the whole story of North Atlanta, which exceeds the APS district-wide average on many measures and is, in fact, showing progress.
According to the state report card, 84.7 percent of its students are “Meeting and Exceeding Standards.”
From the report card:
Georgia High School Writing Test: 96.53 Percent Meeting and Exceeding Standard
11th Grade – GHSGT English Language Arts 89.13 Percent Meeting and Exceeding Standard
11th Grade – GHSGT Science 88.13 Percent Meeting and Exceeding Standard
11th Grade – GHSGT Social Studies 83.09 Percent Meeting and Exceeding Standard
To be clear, Gene Taylor has done remarkable work at Lilburn and North Atlanta ought to be thrilled to get him.
But it still isn’t clear why Davis thought that he had to yank the administrative team out of North Atlanta considering that Atlanta has 14 schools on the state’s Priority list and most are high schools. (Here is the AJC story announcing the priority schools.)
Atlanta Public Schools on Priority List:
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog