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Davis: 'We are much more than controversy and scandal'
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@neighbornewspapers.com
August 13, 2013 03:06 PM | 1498 views | 1 1 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Samantha M. Shal / Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis gives his annual State of Schools in Atlanta address at the Carter Center.
Staff / Samantha M. Shal / Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis gives his annual State of Schools in Atlanta address at the Carter Center.
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During his final State of the Schools in Atlanta address, Superintendent Erroll Davis spoke of how the sharp socioeconomic divide between Atlanta Public Schools students affects student achievement and college readiness, calling the 51 percent graduation rate “stunningly unacceptable” during his speech Tuesday morning at the Carter Center near downtown Atlanta.

“We are much more than controversy and scandal,” said Davis, whose contract expires in December 2014. “We are certainly a system that has been filled with challenge over the years [and] have met those challenges. … But it [the district] is one of activism, one of increasing collaboration and increasingly real progress and also filled with hope.”

Justice Brooks, a fifth-grade student at William M. Finch Elementary School, scored the highest in his grade level on both the math and reading portions of the CRCT and had the honor of introducing Davis. The 10-year-old said he plans to march down the aisle with his cap and gown in 2021 and go on to attend Harvard University.

“I plan to save people’s lives by becoming a doctor and finding a cure for cancer,” he said. “I consider myself to be a legacy builder. We all are.”

Davis said the key to ensuring more students like Brooks find success involves providing a variety of learning opportunities at all schools and taking a hard look at how district resources are distributed. Davis said far too often, public education tends to “institutionalize privilege” for just a select few students.

He noted the district’s dropout rate declined 8.5 percent this year, down from another 11 percent drop the previous year. He said 55 percent of district students that went on to attend Georgia universities and technical colleges from 2007 to 2010 had to take one or more remedial courses.

“America, as well as this system, is simply not doing enough for its children,” Davis said. “Our education system is not only failing the poor kids, it is failing all children.

“We must do better,” he said. “When students walk on to college campuses and have to register and spend their time on remedial courses, we’re setting them up to walk right out of college with more debt and very little education. These young adults are going to meander through a society where no college or no post-high school training adds up to no job and no quality of life.”

Throughout the speech, he spoke candidly about the district’s shortcomings but remained optimistic about the future, noting educational partnerships with large corporations like Georgia Pacific and Sodexo and an increased focus on providing training opportunities to teachers.

Another component for success Davis outlined was the district’s need to keep its “foot on the pedal” toward full implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

“From our perspective, there will be no retreat from the Common Core,” Davis said, noting the transition has been a challenge for teachers, but hard work worth doing to guarantee student success.

During a question-and-answer portion of the event, “Georgia Gang” commentator Alexis Scott read from questions submitted by the audience and asked a few of her own — sparing no subject, including Davis’ take on charter schools and the high cost of the new North Atlanta High School.

Scott asked Davis what he thought the role of charter schools in the district would be in the next five years.

Davis said charter schools are not a “panacea,” as the system has some “wonderfully performing” schools and others that have not done as well.

“I don’t see them as competitors,” he said. “I see them as part of our system.”

In response to a question about the much-publicized $147 million price tag to build the new North Atlanta campus, which opened to students last week, Davis said he thought the school may have gotten more than its fair share of media attention.

“If you look at it on a cost-per-square-foot basis, it is not out of line with a lot of our other schools, some our newer schools. …What you don’t hear is such things as this land was appraised for over $100 million but we got it for I think probably $60 [million.],” Davis said

Big schools cost big money, he added, noting the school’s 2,400-student capacity.

“I have visited it and it’s certainly a nice school,” Davis said. “I don’t at all consider it plush. We took an eleven-story building and retrofitted it.”

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acn0211
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August 15, 2013
HS graduation rate is absolutely critical....

However, for an acceptable HS graduation rate, measurement needs to start right from elementary and middle school.

Remedial classes for student achievement and college admissions is merely a crisis mode management technique.

Parent education and student-retention early on at elementary and middle school grades would build a strong foundation for individual children's longterm education. There is no shortcut or easy path to doing well at school, graduating and college education. Parents need to be educated deliberately, that a school education does not merely mean getting passing grades or moving from one grade to another. Parents need to support the school in building strong characters in children, steady commitment to goals, making achievers of every student and developing potential to be productive as individuals, in families, in society and towards the country. Parents and guardians need to work together with school authorities to support children early on, even at elementary and middle school levels. Parents too must be held accountable for working along with teachers to optimizing education.

Errol Davis cannot in right conscience defend the $147 million NAHS - North Atlanta High School, while at the same time attempting to sell the Atlanta International school building at Decatur for a paltry value.

Superintendent Errol Davis did not touch on critical issues facing the APS budget, reports of too many administration employees at headquarters and extremely high salaries for those administration, over 2 times that of instructional employees. Also, he did not touch on the discontent among the low-level employees over being denied any cost of living increase for nearly 7 years.

He did not give enough information on the quality of teachers, and the correlation with student achievement. Errol Davis has not given statistics about teacher turnover and hiring of new and TFA teachers and its impact on student achievement. Not enough was said on the plans to improve education outcomes, and what is being done to better instruction, and retain experienced teachers.

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