Does AYP tell the whole story of any school, whether North Atlanta or Lilburn Middle?

In his explanation to nearly 900 parents and students at North Atlanta High on why he gutted the school’s leadership team in a blitzkrieg eight days ago, APS school chief Erroll Davis cited the school’s underperformance.

“This should be our premier school in this city,” he told the crowd. “It’s not a sin to be in the middle of the pack. But I don’t want that to be the standard for North Atlanta High School. With the kind of commitment, with the resources that are available in this community, this school should be at the head of the pack.”

Unflappable and polite, Davis faced tough questions from a community angry that the interim principal was dismissed and the beloved leaders of the school’s small learning communities reassigned. That startling action — carried out without any discussion with school board members or the North Atlanta High community — has provoked hundreds of angry emails, a student walkout and the heated meeting where Davis met his critics.

Despite the inquisition, Davis held fast that North Atlanta was not performing to its potential and graduating only six out 10 students. While Davis took nearly 60 questions, he left much unsaid.

For instance, he repeatedly cited North Atlanta’s failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress, a measure used under No Child Left Behind to rate schools. As of this year, Georgia is no longer bound to AYP because it won a waiver from the unpopular — and some say unfair — federal mandate.

AYP had escalating requirements for all sub-groups within a school so that high-performing schools could be deemed failing by the performance of a small cohort of students. Last year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan warned that 82 percent of school could be failing to meet AYP by the end of the year. Because Congress failed to act to change the law, the White House is granting waivers from NCLB to states that offer alternative accountability systems. Georgia is among 32 states that have won waivers and renamed how they judge school performance.

New designations — priority schools and focus schools — replace the “needs improvement” label in Georgia. 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. North Atlanta was not on either list, although there are a dozen Atlanta high schools in the priority category.

This leads to the obvious question: Why didn’t Atlanta transform its lowest performing schools first and then work its way up?

In yanking the North Atlanta leaders, Davis temporarily replaced them with eight Central Office administrators, including coordinators of both world languages and gifted and talented services. That means key central office jobs that presumably impact the other 47,500 students in APS are empty.

Davis’ explanation that the timing was right — a new principal starts next week and North Atlanta moves to a shiny new campus next year — raises even more questions. Davis stressed that he wanted new principal Gene Taylor to be unencumbered as he assembles his new team.

“I looked at performance and I’ve come to the conclusion that with a dynamic new principal coming that I want him to have every opportunity to succeed,” Davis said.

But wouldn’t Taylor want at least a few veteran administrators on hand to help him figure out the place or at least where the coffee filters and extra keys are kept?

Maynard Jackson High School also has a new principal, and parents clamoring for dramatic change after Davis promised them that he would transform the school into a “shining example” of academic success. Yet, there was no comparable shakeup.

According to the state Report Card, 84.7 percent of North Atlanta students are “meeting and exceeding standards,” compared t0 72.5 percent of Jackson students.

Despite Davis’ emphasis on AYP, he hired a principal from a school that also didn’t make AYP. 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 AYP in 2010-2011 for academic performance. 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. Taylor has done remarkable work at Lilburn, and North Atlanta High ought to be thrilled to get him.

Lilburn’s CRCT performance reveals impressive growth, 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 North Atlanta parents and students would argue that AYP also doesn’t tell the whole story of their school.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

34 comments Add your comment


October 13th, 2012
12:37 pm

Does anyone honestly think the new people coming into North Atlanta High are going to improve this school’s performance?

Poor Boy from Alabama

October 13th, 2012
12:44 pm

Two quick points:

1. Superintendent Davis’ explanation for the actions he took at North Atlanta HS doesn’t pass the sniff test. Either he made a foolhardy move or he’s not giving the real reason(s). Students, parents, and tax payers deserve better.

2. No one statistic gives a true picture of a school’s performance. Balanced Scorecards, or other tools that encompass several metrics, should be used. These should be made public for each school, along with an annual plan that includes goals for the school year,

Private Citizen

October 13th, 2012
1:00 pm

@ Poor Boy, I think we need to get past the “emotion speak.” “Deserve” etc. You either follow policy or you don’t, and policy should be clearly coded into law.


October 13th, 2012
1:02 pm

And it was so bad the change could not have waited 3 more weeks? PLEEASE. When the school board took YEARS to get rid of Bev (on her own timeline) and still hasn’t cleaned up, we are supposed to believe this was necessary? When will the truth be known?

And after these 8 CO administrators are “finished,” it is obvious that no one was really needed in their CO positions, so they should be let go as well. Only if you have an extemely BLOATED CO can you afford to move them for a matter of weeks or more.

The people of Atlanta can see now how much of a mess there really is.

Private Citizen

October 13th, 2012
1:12 pm

What is the problem with excess administrators returning to the classroom? When money gets tight and the extra jobs (like having a gardener for your flowers that you can no longer afford), when money gets tight and extra central office admin. become inappropriate, the correct thing for them to do is return to the classroom and get a post when once has been made vacant due to attrition, someone leaving or retiring etc. Booting school admin out the door (force) and then putting displaced central admin (with different job titles) in their place is just terrible. I have before noted that when one of these admin types makes it up into the $100k pay range, they will not go back down to the $50k/yr teacher pay range and will malign and shape-shift and move other people around and harass teachers as “efficiency experts” or any other sorry thing they can think up to maintain their $100k/yr or thereabouts pay-rate. Pardon if I sound a little harsh, but I call it organized crime and I do not resonate with persons who operate in this manner like sharks swimming through the system. There really should be a war on between teachers and these type administrators and teachers need to fight back instead of passively accepting these circling hoodlums. But in Georgia there is no union and you might as well throw a teacher in the street and run over them and expect them to thank you for it.


October 13th, 2012
1:15 pm

Cheers for those willing to settle for inadequate.. Why are people always wanting students to meet any standards in school when their parents feel that inadequate is

Private Citizen

October 13th, 2012
1:15 pm

Yes, good idea. Apply same standards to schools and do not allow the central admin to make kabuki theater and run one school up the flag pole. Democracy = ethics = similar treatment for all, not singling out.

Be fair!

October 13th, 2012
1:21 pm

@ catlady, absolutely not true! I know one of the people going to the NAHS and she is a gem in the CO. These people are being expected to do “both” positions until the permanent team is installed. My school is going to miss her expertise and we are ready for her return! I think it is terribly unfair to say these people are not doing anything in their current positions, they had NO choice but to go to NAHS! Honestly, NAHS should have closed with my class, the last graduating class of Northside 1991. This is when the two schools were combined. They haven’t had stable leadership since Mr. Rudolph retired.

Private Citizen

October 13th, 2012
1:28 pm

I don’t know about APS, but there’s stories about school district principal meetings and how unethical they are, fueled by and protected by that silly Pearson driven ASCD group (their professional organization that provides the dopey trainings they force onto teachers), like they’re sitting around munchin in cigars and telling tacky stories about people, point is if someone can make it up into the non-classroom $100k/yr pay grade, in many districts they become gilded and will stay there for a very long time whether they are a principal or move around to / within the central office administration. The make a caste system, and because they are so important, to maintain they have to marginalize Georgia teachers and treat them like dirt. This organized crime is exacerbated because teachers are not stupid see through these administrators and how they are so brutally exploiting the system, therefore capable / aware teachers become a target of the “efficiency experts.” It is really ugly and it is really destructive, and it you think of 100k/pay for ten years = a million dollars, that’s a lot of pairs of eyeglasses for children compared with one of these expensively dressed lunatics on the loose. Oh yes, let me repeat, they must “Love the Children.”

Ed Johnson

October 13th, 2012
2:02 pm

“Balanced Scorecards, or other tools that encompass several metrics, should be used.”

As the adage says… “When one has two clocks, one never knows what time it is.”

Having too few measures isn’t the problem. The problem is failure to make rational use of measures, which requires numeracy. Balanced Scorecards promote irrational use of measures usually in response to top management not knowing what to do with measures other than to rank the figures or to track the figures against targets with red-yellow-green “traffic lights.”

William Casey

October 13th, 2012
2:34 pm

I’m not absolutely sure of this so I won’t use his name. However, I’m fairly sure that when a Principal I had in Fulton Co. in the late ’80’s returned to the classroom in the ’90’s, he retained his last Principal salary, more than 100K.

Poor Boy from Alabama

October 13th, 2012
2:40 pm

Private Citizen @ 1 pm.

I don’t think it’s “emotion speak” to point out that everybody within APS needs to be held accountable and that students, parents, and tax payers deserve a clear explanation for Mr. Davis’ actions. As Catlady pointed out, a new principal was scheduled to take over in less than a month.

Poor Boy from Alabama

October 13th, 2012
2:50 pm

Ed Johnson @ 2:02

Even the information from a clock needs to be put in context. 12 noon is very different from 12 midnight :-)

Balanced Scorecards do not promote irrational use of measures. A well designed scorecard can be an invaluable tool for evaluating performance by those inside and outside an organization. I suggest you pick up a copy of “The Balanced Scorecard” by Robert Kaplan and David Norton if you have doubts.

What you’re referring to is incompetent and/or deceptive management. We see that way too often today. There’s an old saying for this, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with BS.”

Atlanta Mom

October 13th, 2012
2:57 pm

Here’s what I’ve been wondering. Was there not another principal selected for NAHS, and he/she was roundly rejected by the parents in the spring some time? If I didn’t just dream this, it seems this might be Mr. Davis’s way to let the parents know they don’t run the school (to put it politely).

Poor Boy from Alabama

October 13th, 2012
3:07 pm

Ed Johnson@ 2:02

Should have included this link to give you a feel for what they do in Ohio. I won’t claim that their schools are the best or that their version of a report card is perfect, but at least there’s some transparency about what’s happening at each school:

I would beef this report up to include student discipline information and a measure of parental satisfaction.

You will find nothing like this on the APS web site. Individual school report cards on the GA Dept of Education web site are confusing to say the least:

One would have to be a true wonk to make sense of them.

Here we go again

October 13th, 2012
4:36 pm

I wonder if it was because the principal was white? Karen Waldon has a history of “problems” with white administrators.

Ed Johnson

October 13th, 2012
5:45 pm

@Poor Boy from Alabama,

Yup, Robert Kaplan and David Norton. Actually, they make my case. So does “what they do in Ohio” (thanks for sharing that). So it is quite pleasing APS has nothing like it, though APS has a so-called Balanced Score Card, one that helped drive it into the CRCT cheating scandal. And now DeKalb’s superintendent wants a BSC?

Consider that a rational use of a measure “will, if it contains knowledge, make a prediction, with the chance of being wrong, and fit every observation of the past.”

And then consider that an irrational use of a measure conveys nothing more than information about what happened, just as “what they do in Ohio,” apparently. The oft cited analogue is that of driving down the road by the scene in the rearview mirror.


October 13th, 2012
6:02 pm

None of the current methods for reporting school performance give a meaningful answer to how a school is performing. Children, like all human beings, have many factors in their lives that affect things like learning and performance. As long as those external factors are ignored, as they presently are, we will not have a truthful gauge of school performance.

I’m not sure about the new CCPRI and how it will work, but I suspect it will be much the same as before. A measure that provides misleading information to parents, schools, educators, and all stakeholders. A number cannot tell the whole story about a school.


October 13th, 2012
6:06 pm

Ed Johnson – you are exactly right about balanced scorecards. They are, in fact, of little value. Even the red, yellow, and green squares mean nothing. Kaplan and Norton make a few good points about reporting data, but those points are lost in the ways BSCs are used in most districts. They are, in my opinion, irrational.

Loving Life!

October 13th, 2012
6:08 pm

I am going to say something that may come as a shock but as a former school administrator, you just get tired of the bulling. You are intimidated by your central office to create more progress with less funding and staff shortages. You are harassed by parents who feel your disciplinary decisions were too harsh for their child. You are disrespected (especially at the middle grades level) by the students so that it becomes hard to put on a smile at work sometimes. Education can sometimes be a thankless profession nevertheless, it is my passion. I found my solace when I saw my all my juniors pass the science portion of the GHSGT when I served as a high school teacher and I found my perseverance when I saw my middle school rise from a “D” to “B+” after a decade of serving as their curriculum assistant principal. That being said, I have seen two principals escorted off campus because we did not meet out targets (at my former high school in Atlanta and my former middle school in St. Pete, Florida). I myself have been placed on PDPs (professional development plans) on several occasions due to the “bullies” but I did not let any of it defeat me.

@Maureen “Maynard Jackson High School also has a new principal, and parents clamoring for dramatic change after Davis promised them that he would transform the school into a “shining example” of academic success. Yet, there was no comparable shakeup.”
Jackson’s former leader, Dr. Shirlene Carter, was demoted over the summer to principal of Kennedy Middle School and was replaced by a interim leader, Thomas Kenner (a principal mentor and former leader of Usher and Young Middle Schools). There “shakeup” was done so less publicly, or maybe the East Atlanta parents just really do not care about Jackson now that Drew is opening up a high school.

@Poor Boy from Alabama “picture of a school’s performance…should be made public for each school, along with an annual plan…” I fully agree. These should be submitted to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement whose entire website needs an overhaul to allow for easier comprehension of year-by-year change (charts and graphs).

@Private Citizen “you either follow policy or you don’t, and policy should be clearly coded into law.” Schools are become more and more like businesses everyday where principals are moving from educators to factory general managers having to crunch numbers daily.

@Be fair! “These people are being expected to do “both” positions until the permanent team is installed” True, that is why there are two in each position essentially allowing them to continue their central office assignment remotely while picking up half the work load of a site-based position. These are not “excess” administrators/positions they are warranted however, Davis/Waldon possibly placed administrators they can trust at the site to continue their investigations and ensure the new principal, Dr. Taylor, instills the policies they would like for NAHS.

@Be fair! “NAHS…haven’t had stable leadership since Mr. Rudolph retired.” I feel that Mrs. Delphia Bryant-Young, NAHS principal in 90s was a great administrator as I have worked with her in the past. After her resignation to move to North Clayton HS, the ending of the Performing Arts magnet program decreased the amount of Buckhead outsiders in the school

In the end the ENTIRE MESS THAT SURROUNDS NORTH ATLANTA HIGH was/is being handled very inappropriately by parents and district administrators. Why build a new high school so remote from the population it will serve and twice the size it needs to be? Building a relief middle school for Inman/Sutton would be the most reasonable option as middle schools cost less to build, the areas property values where it is needed are less than the IBM site, and the high school population is not growing at the same rate as the middle schools due to the fact that many parents have hesitations about NAHS, Grady, and especially Jackson. APS is at the edge of creating great change after the Hall dynasty fell. Parents, faculty, and students should support Davis and Waldon in their endeavors to make said change happen and it is a tough pill to swallow especially after the public placed their trust in Hall and look what happened.

Their is one thing that Hall said during her State of the Schools speech after the cheat scandal came to light that resounds truth, “Teaching is personal. Everyday we look our children in the eyes knowing we can make a difference in how they view the world.” Our children are watching their school leaders act selfishly and their parents cruel to accomplish their goals – and its sad as hell.

Ed Johnson

October 13th, 2012
6:18 pm

“A measure that provides misleading information to parents, schools, educators, and all stakeholders. A number cannot tell the whole story about a school.”


Absolutely. Just consider that “A measure that provides ONLY information to parents, schools, educators, and all stakeholders” will invite tampering and the silliness of accountability for targets. And when a system hasn’t the capability to make the targets, cheating and faking will prevail and so prevent learning how to improve the system.

Proud Lilburn Middle Teacher

October 13th, 2012
7:29 pm

Thanks, Maureen, for telling the people what they needed to know about our departing Principal. He is going to build remarkable growth in all facets of his next school. He has been the main reason for the growth I’ve seen at Lilburn Middle. Thanks again! We will miss our boss!

Another Proud Lilburn Middle Staffmember

October 13th, 2012
8:19 pm

Maureen, thank you for acknowledging that AYP doesn’t always tell the whole story (or the new labels due to the Waiver). You mention that our test scores have gone up, especially reading. I don’t know if you’ve seen our test scores this year or not, but are scores are up across the board. We’re very excited that all the hard work that Dr. Taylor has led us to do is paying off. Last year’s 8th graders Meet or Exceed (2008 – the year before he came – in parentheses): Reading 98.3 (80.5), ELA 98 (80.9), Math 86.4 (55.3), Science 72.2 (49.7), SS 78.1 (43.4), Writing 94.5 (67.7)).

Another Proud Lilburn Middle Staffmember

October 13th, 2012
8:26 pm

(2nd post with copy-editing fixes). Maureen, thank you for acknowledging that AYP (or the new labels due to the Waiver) doesn’t always tell the whole story . You mention that our test scores have gone up, especially reading. I don’t know if you’ve seen our test scores this year or not, but our scores are up across the board. We’re very excited that all the hard work that Dr. Taylor has led us to do is paying off. Last year’s 8th graders Meet or Exceed (2008 – the year before he came – in parentheses): Reading 98.3 (80.5), ELA 98 (80.9), Math 86.4 (55.3), Science 72.2 (49.7), SS 78.1 (43.4), Writing 94.5 (67.7)).

LMS Teacher

October 13th, 2012
8:47 pm

These stats from Lilburn Middle show how much Dr. Taylor has done for the school in three years. These are last year’s 8th graders’ CRCT scores and Writing Test scores for how many MET or EXCEEDED. In parenthesis, are the 2008 scores (the year Taylor began).
Reading 98.3 (80.5), ELA 98 (80.9), Math 86.4 (55.3), Science 72.2 (49.7), SS 78.1(43.4), Writing 94.5 (67.7))

bootney farnsworth

October 13th, 2012
9:33 pm

not just no, hell no.

Fulton charter supporter

October 13th, 2012
9:40 pm

It’s become apparent Davis can’t run a school, much less a system. When is the APS school board going to do its job and fire him?

Private Citizen

October 13th, 2012
11:41 pm

Aye yi yi. Good to see the public involved. Let me say that is my little screed about some of the things I have seen in the central office administrator caste, I do not mean to say or imply anything mean about persons from APS CO and I do not know a thing about them. Someone here said they were good people. One thought I have though, is that after an ambush, I’d think there is no honor is being the one to step in and fill the shoes of the persons just ambushed. Personally, I might just say “no” and not do it. Now if this were the case, I would then be promptly fired for insubordination. But you know, I just do think it is conscienable to be a party to these type of actions and I think that whatever problems, issues, etc. there were in play, somebody skipped due process.

@ Ole Man, Something about “demand results” and hold everyone accountable. Be careful with the “everyone” speak. That’s called generalizing. I think if you want some results, the first thing you need to do is bring 2nd world USA into the 1st world have universal health care for every citizen, you know, just like every single first world country outside the USA? You know? I can tell you for a fact that half the kids in the State of Georgia, give or take a few million, do not have eyeglasses. We have a caste system in place, Ole Hombre. I don’t know about you, I’m tired of it and it “makes me sick” so to speak. People are exploited with the medical fees. Also, it no fun to watch the school house have to play both medical provider and education. Yes, i think this scales outward to effect school performance. Things are run thin in this nasty overly-capitalistic system where 10% of the people own 90% of everything and they still can’t get enough. You know, back when this country was good, guy’s like Romney were paying a 40% tax rate. So please open your eyes to the greater conditions. If you weren’t an Ole Hombre, I’d tell you to get on airplane and visit a civilized 1st world country where they have health care for each citizen and do enough taxing to pay for the schools without running it thin and making a circus. I fear I will go to my grave trying to figure out in the USA why it is that when you get some minimal amount of local government functioning it quickly turns into a lying, stealing, scheming mess, and the “Mission Statement” is just some hoo to keep the public at arm’s length from the people shovelling the money into the trucks behind the government building. I have put some thought into this. The best answer I have found is from Confucius, whose specialty was government. He said the people follow the example of the leader and that is why you do not want a crook as the leader because the whole country will go rotten when the people imitate him(/her).

Private Citizen

October 13th, 2012
11:49 pm

Ole Hombre, How exactly do you expect kids to perform when the clock on the wall across the classroom looks like a potato? Or when they have headaches every day and say, “Owe. My head hurts,” and they mean it. And it’s because they’ve been needing eyeglasses for the past five years.

I can tell you for a fact that more needy families than not in the state of Georgia do not know the term “Peach Care” and do not use this service for their kids. I’m not sure why, but I’m sure there’s a reason. This state still thing “The Lion’s Club” provides eyeglasses for needy children. Well, they don’t. Yes, I’m sick of this stuff. So you better open your eyes before you go rootin’ tootin’ like you’re the factory manager because you are using some pretty impure steel in your presses.

Psst, Ole man, when they built the CERN particular accelerator in Europe, when they powered it up, the only parts that broke were the magnets / mounts that came from the USA.


October 14th, 2012
8:12 am

@LMS teacher & Another Proud LMS teacher:

So what changes did your principal implement that resulted in improved test scores?

Can you provide any specific details?

Did discipline improve?

Were you implementing a “research based test prep” curriculum…one of those *amazing* computerized programs that is “guaranteed to improve test results”?

Or…did actual teaching practices significantly change?

What changed?

Proud Lilburn Middle Teacher

October 14th, 2012
9:51 am

I could provide many details, but we are trying to be cautious among this controversy.
Teaching practiced have improved; we’ve been given access to and been supported into numerous development courses locally at our school to improve content delivery as well as overall framework of a lesson. The improved test scores are just one mark of how are students are more focused on learning, smarter, and overall better citizens than they were before Dr. Taylor helped us see what we now all see: all students can achieve at high levels if we work hard and smart to do it. No excuses for failure, high expectations for behavior, and a rigorous curriculum are common threads of our students’ success. And yes, in addition to excellent teaching, we also have a “miracle” program that provides true differentiated support to struggling math students as an extra resource for several students. If it didn’t work on truly improving basic math skills as well as higher order thinking, we would not still be using it and setting the example of how it works and can be used successfully.
There are far too many details of how the last 4+ years have changed at LMS. It has not all been hearts and flowers. It has not been easy or without its own controversy. I think that’s why I and some other colleagues have been watching the blogs and have decided to weigh in. We believe in Dr. Taylor. We are devastated to lose his tieless work and vision. We did not always feel that way, especially at first. We hope folks will hang in and try to work with him because we know he can help.
I was not hired by him; I have not always gotten along with him. Years later, I can honestly say these things because they are true. I hope that’s helped explain a little.


October 14th, 2012
12:15 pm

Congrats to LMS. Wonder if APS will support getting rid of sorry teachers no matter…Wonder if APS will provide the $ for staff development needed. Wonder if APS will do the same for other schools in the disgtrict. Wonder if….

Private Citizen

October 14th, 2012
1:32 pm

@Proud Lilburn Middle Teacher, Resepctfully,

“helped us see what we now all see: all students can achieve at high levels if we work hard and smart to do it. No excuses for failure, high expectations for behavior, and a rigorous curriculum are common threads of our students’ success.”

sounds formulaic, propagandistic. It is kind of frightening and sounds like something you have been told many many times. Why does it sound like propaganda? Specifically, lots of “we” speak and “all students” speak. All the buzzwords are there, “rigorous” “high expectations” “all students” etc. and so on.

@teacher&mom is kind of hinting at, “So, you got some software and materials to get the job done?” and this might, in part, explain the improvement is test scoring.

Thank you so very much for a little commentary on the details. Like the published letter from the NAHS teacher, a report from you provides perspective to the public. It is a counterpoint to the “The numbers went up? Oh, Great! Let’s Move On and Get The Job Done” and other Army-type motivational speak. It makes sense that when you starve a school of resources and test them thoroughly, and then provide some relevant resources, that the test scores are going to work. I am sure that you work with great dedication and allow me to say “thank you.” As Tupac would say, “You are appreciated.” For real.

[...] And MyGrant says he was even more surprised when his ex boss Davis told nearly a thousand parents, students and community members on Oct. 9 that he had to act quickly and decisively because North Atlanta was a failing school and that dramatic change was needed. [...]