Atlanta Public School Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen answered a series of questions for the Atlanta Magazine. Among the topics discussed were her accomplishments in Austin, high stakes testing, changes she wants to make in APS and the influence of the business community.
The following are some excerpts, but please read the whole thing here:
On high stakes testing – [In Austin] We were no longer focused on getting students to regurgitate answers on the state assessment, but we focused on whole-child development; social and emotional learning;…While testing was important and had high-stakes consequences, the test should still be the afterthought.
On educational outcomes in Austin – Outcomes were great. We had an all-time high graduation rate. The last official count was 82.5 percent, but I am certain that as we finish out the 2013 numbers, it will be at least 84 percent. The dropout rate will also be at an all-time low.
For two consecutive years… high school attendance topped 90 percent. That was a big first for the district … We can’t teach the students if they’re not in class.
On organizational changes – I’m going to have to make some aggressive changes in organization …we still don’t have an accountability, compliance, and testing office to monitor what we’re doing. That will be established.
Other functions need to be put in places where people “own” the systems. The student data system and special education…How do we make sure that instead of blaming and pointing fingers, we get people the support they need?
…we have to make some core organizational changes that will allow us to actually restart in some areas.
On the influence of the business community – Your position or influence won’t matter. There’s only one group that I feel like I answer to, and that’s the children of Atlanta. At the end of the day, my decision-making is always about them.
I will assume that her accomplishments in Austin – including the improved graduation rates and attendance – will become the longer term objectives for APS. It is also important to understand what the starting point is – we should know in the next couple of months as many academic and other metrics will be published as part of the Balanced Scorecard.
There is no question that Carstarphen has her work cut out for her and, as she noted in the article, there will be some pain as the organization undergoes structural and cultural changes. But if she can attain the targets she achieved in Austin over the next several years, the pain will soon be forgotten.