A less than positive assessment of the credentials of principals recently hired by the Atlanta Public Schools [Updated]

[Update] Maureen Downey at the AJC Get Schooled blog article today is on this piece as well.]

In a post titled A New Day In APS: Event Postponed Until Tomorrow, Jarod Apperson reviews the background of the 19 new principals hired by the Atlanta Public Schools and, in many cases, finds the level of quality to be well short of excellent. Apperson gives an example of the impact of a strong principal and then goes on to review the academic and employment backgrounds of the new principals.

As always, he meticulously documents his findings and then reaches the following conclusions,

The need to hire 19 school leaders gave the district a chance to significantly raise the bar for leadership at about 25% of its schools… it appears that opportunity will be largely missed.

The APS of today seems to be the APS of yesterday.  Perhaps changes are being planned for tomorrow.

The following are extended extracts from Apperson’s article. But if you really care about the level of quality of the new principals APS has hired, skip the extracts below and go here to read the entire article.

Impact of Strong Principals For evidence of the impact an effective principal can have on a school, one needs look no further than Coan Middle School in the Jackson Cluster.  Just two years after taking on the role of school leader, Dr. Betsy Bockman lifted the school from the bottom of the barrel to one of the city’s top performers.  Today, sixth graders at the school outperform eighth graders at King Middle School down the street. 

Academic Background of New Hires – …I first looked at the thing they all share—an academic background.  For context, let’s begin by considering the academic background of the district’s high-performing charter school principals… Principals who graduated from a top-tier university lead all nine of those schools….This consistency is contrasted by APS where only 5 of the 19 new hires have ever graduated from a Tier 1 institution.  Despite having multiple degrees, seven of the hires have only attended the lowest-quality institutions.

Copying best practices from our charter schools is not rocket science…They are just doing some basic things right, and one of those things is staffing schools with leaders who have themselves been academic success stories.   

Experience as Principal in Other Districts – Of the five principals hired who have experience serving as principals of schools in other districts, two have led schools with solid academic track records while three led schools with disconcerting underachievement…Plenty of people can talk the talk in an interview, but the district’s students deserve leaders who have a track record of delivering results.  

Experience as Assistant Principal in Other Districts – … one of the most relevant objective measures for these employees would be their employment history.  Of the five principals [who are rising directly from Assistant Principal positions] hired, all show cause for concern. … A Fulton administrator asked about the quality of candidates remarked that rejects from their district often land jobs with APS… The district cannot continue to be the dumping grounds for leaders who fail to pass the leadership bar set by Fulton County and other districts in the area.

Even more concerning is the fact that parents recognized the lack of quality applicants but their voices were ignored.  Despite formally requesting a new slate of candidates, parents in the Mays Cluster were given the cold shoulder by the outgoing administration.  Three of the candidates they interviewed were hired to lead APS schools over objections about applicant quality. 

Hired From Within APSAs mentioned above, nine of the new hires are promotions from within APS or permanent appointments of interim principals…Rather than rummaging the country for top applicants, APS hired the folks who landed in its lap.  Nine candidates were already working in the district, while 10 came from two adjacent districts.  Many of them have troubling performance histories, academic backgrounds, and employment records.  Though they may defy the odds and achieve at high levels, it is time for APS to choose leaders with the odds in their favor.

Still Waiting on the New Day…there is still cause for hope.  Carstarphen has established new HR leadership with Pamela Hall and Skye Duckett coming from Austin.  Though Carstarphen approved all of the 19 principal hires, the process and recruitment were largely driven by the outgoing administration….Some evidence suggests that Ms. Hall and Ms. Duckett will have higher expectations of applicants seeking jobs with the district, particularly on the dimension of academic preparation.  …  In Austin, 70% of hires came from Tier 1 or Tier 2 institutions… Though APS was able to hire 18% of its teachers from Tier 1 universities, most of those hires came through Teach For America. .. In a dumbfounding move, the current administration decided to nix its relationship with Teach For America for the upcoming year, cutting off the district’s primary source of staff educated at the nation’s top institutions.

Apperson clearly makes the case that APS could have done better and let’s hope that Carstarphen’s new team takes on the challenge.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

2 Responses to A less than positive assessment of the credentials of principals recently hired by the Atlanta Public Schools [Updated]

  1. MIchelle Constantinides says:

    As always Jarod’s perspective is worth noting! The removal of so many principals at once clearly presented APS with a herculean task. Now we will see which will become labors of Carstarphen.

  2. Beverly Fraud says:

    An extremely troubling quote from Ed Johnson in regard to why APS wouldn’t provide more candidates when the local school council (LSC) at Young Middle School was (according to Johnson) upset that only one viable resume was made available for the LSC to peruse.

    Says Johnson:

    “APS refused. Why? Under unrelenting pressure from the LSC meeting members to explain why the LSC and Young community had been set up to select the one principal candidate APS wanted, the west region executive director said, in effect: “I will put before Dr. Carstarphen only the principal candidates she wants so I won’t look bad in her eyes.”

    The ‘red flag’ warnings were out there; and it looks like more of the (Broad influenced?) top down, heavy-handed autocratic control that was the hallmark (no pun intended) of B. Hall, and a LOT less like “a new day at APS”

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