Achievement gap hasn’t budged in two decades; report underscores need for next strategic plan to be aggressive, action-oriented.

December 12, 2019 — Even if Black students continue progressing at their same rates and White students’ performance remains the same, Black students won’t match their White peers in math proficiency until 2136.

That unsettling finding is among the scores of data points included in a new report released today from two parent-led advocacy organizations. The report, Pockets of Promise Amidst Widespread Inequity: The State of Atlanta Public Schools in 2019, was released by the Latino Association for Parents of Public Schools and GeorgiaCAN, parent-powered non-profit organizations that work to drive improvements across city schools.

The report takes a long view of student performance, and finds that the long view is dismal. The gap between the percentage of White fourth-graders who could read on grade level and the percentage of Black fourth-graders who could read on grade level has barely budged in 17 years. The percentage of Latino fourth-graders who can read on grade level is the same as it was eight years ago.

Given this landscape, it is perhaps less surprising that more than two-thirds of parents surveyed believe that the school district should intervene in struggling schools in 1-2 years.

The urgency of the situation described in the report contrasts dramatically with the draft version of the five-year strategic plan presented at the December Board meeting and which takes a passive approach to consistently struggling schools.

“The inequities highlighted in our report are extremely troubling, and we hope the APS Board is bothered them, too,” said Ricardo Miguel Martinez, the president of LAPPS. “As the Board finalizes its next strategic plan and searches for its next superintendent, we hope our report serves as a reminder of the need to take aggressive action — quickly and continuously — in order to shake up schools that are consistently struggling and disrupt what has become the tragic status quo in Atlanta.”

The groups’ report looked beyond citywide inequities and pinpointed school-specific challenges. For example, the report features the number of schools where 15 percent or fewer of students were reading and writing on grade level. In 2014, there were 18 such schools.

In 2019, after some of these schools were restructured or partnered, 10 of these 18 schools had still not exceeded 15 percent proficiency. Of the eight schools where gains passed this threshold, none exceeded 26 percent proficiency.

“This report is sobering,” said Steven Quinn, State Outreach Director for GeorgiaCAN. “Even when Atlanta Public Schools takes dramatic action, progress is not guaranteed, and when there is progress, it typically comes very slowly. The Board and the new superintendent need to focus their energies — and their courage — on taking bold action to create the type of educational opportunities students at these schools deserve.”

The third and final section of the report cites the results of a community survey about persistently struggling schools. More than 70 percent of parents and community members think the district should intervene in 1-2 years.

A copy of the report is available on the GeorgiaCAN website.

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The Latino Association for Parents of Public Schools provides a support network for parents to have a voice within schools. Local chapters exist in schools across the city, and each chapter helps to plan integral school activities and support students’ academic success. Collaboration with Atlanta Public Schools and individual schools has been central to LAPPS’ success. Follow LAPPS on Twitter @LAPPSGA.

GeorgiaCAN seeks to identify and advance common-sense policies that put the needs of students first. We engage local stakeholders—from community members to policy makers—to advocate for student success throughout the entire public education system. Learn more at www.gacan.org.

Michael is the Executive Director of GeorgiaCAN.

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