APS school chief: New partnership aims to improve college attendance, completion

Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen writes about a new partnership that seeks to raise high school graduation and college competition rates through an investment of $20 million.

By Meria Carstarphen

When Atlanta Public Schools launched our new mission last year to create a caring culture of trust and collaboration where every student graduates ready for college and career, we truly embarked on a challenging, yet ambitious, effort. After all, the district had just reported a 59.1 percent graduation rate, and research showed that only 14 percent of APS 9th-graders completed post-secondary degrees within six years after high school graduation.

APS is responding to grade changing allegations, says school chief Meria Carstarphen

APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen

We promised to significantly change those numbers. We also knew we couldn’t do it alone.

Recently, I had the great honor to announce to APS students and families a transformational partnership with Achieve Atlanta, an organization created by the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

Through their $20 million investment, Achieve Atlanta pledged to not only work with APS to dramatically increase the number of high school graduates but also the number of students attending and graduating from universities and technical colleges.

This is truly a beautiful, bold and aggressive investment, the kind of historic work that will change the lives of APS students and the landscape of the Atlanta workforce forever. This partnership provides the perfect support of our students at the right time, in the right ways and in the right direction.

Work has already begun.

Earlier this month, Achieve Atlanta announced the hiring of Tina Fernandez as its executive director, a person who will be the kind of dynamic and effective leader to rally and inspire people across the business, nonprofit and education spectra all in support of Atlanta’s children.

The group also includes a prominent board comprised of such leaders as Claire “Yum” Arnold, CEO of Leapfrog Services; Mark Becker, president of Georgia State University; Ernest Greer, managing partner of Greenberg Traurig LLP; Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta; Bill Rogers, chairman and CEO of SunTrust Banks Inc.; and Beverly Tatum, president of Spelman College.

In preparing for this initiative, these champions of education did their homework. A commissioned study about improving college access and completion for APS students found that some weren’t receiving consistent, high-quality advice to prepare for post-secondary education and most alarmingly, many graduates weren’t finishing college due to social, academic and financial barriers.

The academics are on APS. Achieve Atlanta will assist with the other barriers.

Achieve Atlanta will launch this fall with an infusion of college advisers and counselors in our high schools through a partnership with the National College Advising Corps. This will augment our current services with advisement about school selection and the application process. The program will also partner with Georgia colleges and technical schools to provide our graduates the extra social support and academic counseling they need to complete their degrees within six years.

Achieve Atlanta also will provide financial assistance to students who have unmet financial needs for college, as well as responsive grants for unexpected needs that may arise during a student’s collegiate experience.

We hear all too often about students who would have attended college and completed their degree if only they had a tiny bit more financial assistance, a better understanding of the application process, or an adviser they could trust once they arrived on a college campus.

Achieve Atlanta will make sure we hear fewer of these stories from Atlanta’s deserving students.

Imagine the impact on the local, regional, state and even national economies, if more students graduate from Atlanta high schools and then earn their college degrees. With investments like this one from Achieve Atlanta, we can expect improved outcomes for APS graduates and, therefore, our city.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

39 comments
anothercomment
anothercomment

They need to take this 20 million and create at least 4 vo-tech schools. One for the North atlanta cluster, / Grady cluster. One for west antlanta and a couple for south atlanta.

There needs to be a second diploma track a general diploma track. Let's face it we can not all be college material. The drop out rate in this state has been kept high by the morons in this Legislature having only one college prep diploma track in Georgia. It is unrealistic. It is shortsighted and does not prepare the majority of Georgians for life.

We need a diploma track with a good vo-tech schools in the high schools that students attend for a half day in their Junior and senior year of High School.

I come from a family of 4. Only two of us are University material. We were lucky, that we grew up in Upstate NY. NY state has always had multiple graduation tracts. It has three now and had two when I and my siblings graduated.

My youngest sister and I both who have high IQ's graduated with the college Prep or Regents Diploma. My other siblings stuggled academically and were able to choose the General Diploma track and attend a VoTECH school their Jr. And senior year. My sister, barely scored above 800 on the SAT, she would have been doomed in Georgia's system. Same parents, same environment as me, who has an IQ north of 120 maybe 140 and graduated with Architecture and Enginering degrees in the top of my Class. In NY my sister was able to take the less challenging General Diploma route, she went to Vo tech for Culinary Arts. She then went to a Two year school for Hotel and Resturant Management and received an AA degree. She then realized she wanted to be a Chef so she went to the Culinary Institutute of America (CIA) which is the top Culinary School in the Country. She received her second AA degree. She also met her husband who is a chef. She would have never made it through a straight college prep program.

My brother as well went to the VoTECH school, for auto mechanics. While my father went so far as filing out an applications for college. Even applying and getting him in to a SUNY school it was not the place to be for my brother. he lasted a semester. My Brother has used his Mechanical skills and has worked for 32 yeas for a Union Printer, running highly technical printing presses. he has at times made more than I did as an engineer. His Company tried to open a plant in SC. He came with to train. They went back to NY and California to their better schools systems and their Union plants and workforce.

The $20 million would be better spent on a second diploma track with a at least 4 real Vo tech schools.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Oh man, and to think I left my "Buzzword BINGO" cards at the office......


What is this, year two for Carstarphen?  Right on schedule:


Year One:  Blame everything on the predecessor.

Year Two:  Introduce major initiatives (i.e., fancy ways to spend more money)

Year Three:  Honeymoon's over.  Start getting heat.  Update the old resume.

Year Four:  Hey, where'd she go??


Hell, most people would be happy if an APS diploma meant the kid could actually read, write, and do simple math.

BurroughstonBroch
BurroughstonBroch

@Lee_CPA2  She's on track, and the new superintendent in DeKalb is a year or more behind her. Achieve Atlanta is a masterstroke because, if it fails, she can blame it on them.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

If you want to increase students' success rates in college and/or career, make sure they can understand what they read, write a complete sentence with proper spelling, grammar and punctuation, and perform basic math before they leave high school (ideally, before they leave elementary school).


Ensuring they have these basic skills will provide the greatest return on investment in education. And it wouldn't take $20 million to do it.

redweather
redweather

@atln8tiv And if students and teachers didn't have to devote so much time to standardized tests, they could no doubt address these basic skills more effectively.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Achieve Atlanta is a bold vision and a big bet.   It's definitely needed, but it's kind of hard to focus both on growing academic achievement and high school graduation rates AND college matriculation/graduation rates simultaneously.   I'm glad they created this vehicle, and I just hope they can execute it.   That may prove a most challenging undertaking.   I look forward to hearing more specifics on HOW Achieve Atlanta will tackle the social and financial barriers.    How will they incentivize the mentors?   How will they track the students?   What will be the key performance metrics to know that they're succeeding?


I wish them luck - it is undoubtedly an important initiative.



popacorn
popacorn

I bet Meria is really going to miss Austin. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

So far ( 9 out of 14 comments), this conversation is hogged by one nay-saying, cynical, contemptuous blogger. Maybe he just wants the Atlanta school system to fail.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @OriginalProf 

I'm not necessarily a  defender of APS.  (Though I will say here that I'm glad to see that Mark Becker, President of GSU and on this Achieve Atlanta Board, will be doing something to justify his million-$ salary next year.)  But you post so often on topics that sometimes it seems no-one else can get a word in edge-wise.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@popacorn @OriginalProf @class80olddog 

You too, buddy boy. 

 I post when the topic is something I know about such as the USG or college teaching.  There really seems to be some misinformation out there about college building funds, tuition, fees, and how colleges work on the inside.


But what I was referring to was reading a blog where the first 5 posts are by one blogger. Thought then after-thought then after-thought then after-thought.....

class80olddog
class80olddog

@OriginalProf All you defenders of APS need to catch up. I don't WANT APS to fail, but every time I turn around I hear something negative about APS (cheating, changing grades, letting students with changed grades stay in their classes).  Never do I hear ANY discussion of the specifics of what they are going to do to make things better.  Even in this article - "academics, that is on APS" but not a word on how they will assure that students are getting taught and master more material on time.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@redweather @class80olddog @OriginalProf That was the biggest load of tripe I have ever seen - not one word in the twelve pages on HOW the goals were going to be reached.  Not one word about attendance or discipline.  Just a bunch of feel-good fancy words.  Did you hire a superintendent or a PR person, APS?

class80olddog
class80olddog

"where every student graduates ready for college and career"

OMG - I HATE that "AND" in there!  Every student should graduate ready for college OR career!

NOT EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO TO COLLEGE!

They just need a HS diploma that REALLY means something.

ATLPeach
ATLPeach

You must begin in the lower levels you if you really want to improve graduation rates. By the time they get to high school, many of them are so far behind academically, there is no amount of work that is going to catch them up. This is why technical schools are so important. Bring back blue collar job courses and allow students to take them.


The real issues must be dealt with first if APS wants to succeed. I never hear the superintendent talk about how discipline is going to improve throughout the system. Fights and violence are a regular occurrence in APS schools from elementary to high school. The students are out of control and word on the street is, she's laying the blame on teachers. This came from the mouth of an administrator. They are not to suspend kids. So, what is the alternative? Teachers are leaving APS in large numbers, but it's not being discussed. She needs to find a way to get kids under control, support teachers, and  make parents accountable. Until that happens, graduation rates will continue to be low. Sure, they'll figure out a way to fudge the numbers, but no real change will occur. I am truly ready for a superintendent that puts children first and listens to teachers.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@ATLPeach " I am truly ready for a superintendent that puts children first and listens to teachers."

Where are you going to find one of those?

ATLPeach
ATLPeach

@class80olddog  Would you really want your 11 year old in school with 15 and 16 year olds that were retained? They're usually the worst behaved kids. There are enough issues with the students that are the correct age without adding older kids in the mix. From what I've been told, APS frowns upon retaining students in kindergarten. A child should not enter first grade without being able to write their full name, recognize all letters and numbers, perform simple addition and subtraction problems, and read simple sight words. They should already be able to write simple sentences. This is where the failure begins. But who cares what teachers think.

anothercomment
anothercomment

Part of the problem is parents give them names that can not be spelled! That alone handicaps a child. My mother was a named by immigrant parents after wife of the Uncle who Sponsered her father in the country. The woman had the name of an obscure Greek Goddess. My mother the at some point decide to Americanize her name by changing the spelling. It was no longer spelled with letters limited to the Greek alphabet. I used to get so frustrated in elementary school at any form that asked you to write your Mothers name, as I could not spell it, and no teacher could guess either. My mother's younger siblings were Betty, Jacob, Rosemary, easy names. My cousins didn't have this problem.

Do these parents not understand what a burden they are doing to their children, giving them a name they and the teachers can't spell.

It also sends the resume to the oval file later in life.

class80olddog
class80olddog

You could put the holdovers in special classrooms

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@ATLPeach


You must begin in the lower levels you if you really want to improve graduation rates. By the time they get to high school, many of them are so far behind academically, there is no amount of work that is going to catch them up. 


Hear, hear!  They could start by keeping some in high school until they can really do high school level work, but that would mess up their CCRPI scores, wouldn't it?

class80olddog
class80olddog

By the way, isn't it about time for school to start again?

class80olddog
class80olddog

One way the State could help the APS system (and all systems, in fact) is to make welfare benefits dependent upon children's school attendance records.  For each tardy or absence, a certain percentage of benefits is removed.

Also, reduce food stamp awards by the amount spent on free/reduced lunch and breakfast.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

"We promised to significantly change those numbers."

-- M. J. Carstarphen


And so they will, much like Beverly Hall did.  Count on it.


Note that at least one person involved with Achieve Atlanta participated in the failed attempt to cover up the APS cheating scandal.


Why does this keep happening to APS?


Instead of worrying about "numbers," why not work on improving APS and let the "numbers" take care of themselves?


For sure, the problem is more a way of thinking problem than a lack of money problem.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@EdJohnson "Why does this keep happening to APS?"

Because they won't admit what their REAL problems are: their students and their parents.  When you have students who don't want to learn and parents who don't care about their kids (not even enough to feed them rather than do drugs), you are going to have a "failing" school system.  Until they identify the real issues (attendance, discipline, social promotion) and address them effectively, they will always have a failing school system.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@EdJohnson 

"For sure, the problem is more a way of thinking problem than a lack of money problem."

That is correct!

Tcope
Tcope

Typical top down bureaucratic plan that will accomplish nothing. Why not give the $20 million to the taxpayers of Atlanta where it will be appreciated.

bu2
bu2

@Tcope 

Basically they are saying their existing counselors do a really lousy job so they are going to outsource some of it with private help.

gactzn2
gactzn2

I support Dr. Carstarphen's new initiative.  Getting these resources into these schools can make a difference for more students.  I hope this succeeds.  I can appreciate them using all community resources and implementing them at the school level where it directly impacts students.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@gactzn2 Ah, bull crap!  The problem has NEVER been about money.  Is that money going to get more kids into their desks?  Is that money going to help put disciplinary problems into separate classrooms?  Will that money solve the rampant social promotion?  APS already spends $12000 per student - among the highest in Georgia - and still has an abysmal record.  The problem is the students and the parents, and no amount of money will change that - you can only react to it.  Put the parents of truants in JAIL - that costs the school NOTHING.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Correct me if I am wrong, but does Carstarphen sound just like Beverly Hall?

class80olddog
class80olddog

Ideas for improvement of HS graduation rates and college acceptance rates include: improved cheating methods, removal of standards for completing high school, elimination of test score usage, elimination of all attendance requirements.  For college - elimination of SAT requirements, basing college admittance on GPA only and skin color.  College graduation rates will be improved by elimination of any grades below C and reduction of required hours to 10. The new funds will be used to hire additional central office personnel to manipulate numbers.