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State of the Grady Cluster: Lots accomplished, lots to do

Atlanta Public Schools' administrators and principals gave an overview and answered questions Thursday night at Grady High School concerning where local schools stand regarding a variety of education-related issues.

In the First Annual State of the Grady Cluster Presentation, held at Grady High School on Thursday, February 7, 2013, parents and interested community members learned there is much to celebrate in the Grady Cluster of Atlanta Public Schools (APS). 

The Grady Cluster includes Grady High School, Inman Middle School, and the five “feeder” elementary schools: Centennial Place, Hope-Hill, Mary Lin, Morningside and Springdale Park.

No. 1 on my celebration list, as a Grady parent, is the chart of SAT scores shared by Grady Principal Dr. Vincent Murray, indicating an overall increase in 2012 SAT scores, with Grady High School 2012 seniors scoring higher than the national average.

After several turbulent years, “moving beyond scandal” and recovering from massive re-districting, closures and mergers, a serious threat to our high schools’ accreditation, and continued overcrowding, according to new APS East Region Executive Director David White, “...next year should be much calmer.”

However, there are still considerable challenges ahead, with the massive shift from Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) to Common Core Georgia Performance Standards (CCGPS); from the federal standard of AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) to CCRPI -- do you even want to know? -- College and Career Readiness Performance Index, a key measurement from elementary school on up.

With respect to White and the wonderful principals of our cluster elementary, middle and high schools, the First Annual State of the Grady Cluster Presentation had its mind-numbing moments.

Having had children in Atlanta Public Schools for 12 years, as a parent, I’ve seen programs come, and programs go. Every other year, it seems, we have a presentation on The Next New Thing, always accompanied by charts and PowerPoint presentation with increasing numbers of acronyms, assessments, data, measurement, metrics, statistics, etc.

The annual “We’re doing great!” speech is followed by an overview of monumental shifts in process and methodology to fix everything...that wasn’t broken? The slides, charts and graphs fly by so quickly, it’s almost easy to miss the glaring inequalities and disparities, north side versus south side, which continue to exist in Atlanta Public Schools.

But this was about the Grady Cluster. The elementary principals took turns presenting the facets of The Next New Program: Common Core! Followed by the principals of Inman and Grady, with glowing reports about the only public middle school and high school options in our cluster.

There is much of which to be proud in the Grady Cluster, but it is fair to be critical, to be skeptical and to demand answers. In a brief Q & A at the end of the State of the Grady Cluster presentation, parents raised many excellent questions and concerns about our neighborhood schools.

Of primary concern in our cluster are the overcrowded conditions at Inman and Grady and how and when those situations will be addressed and resolved. Those questions remain to be answered.

White offered to stay and answer individual questions, he was mobbed instantly. He also encouraged parent involvement and feedback to the State of the Cluster Presentation. His email is dwhite@atlantapublicschools.us.

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Here's the Live Blog from Thursday's meeting:

Thursday February 7, 2013

6:12
6:11pm - Setting up for APS State of the Grady Cluster Meeting to begin at 6:30pm.
6:14
Atlanta Public Schools
Henry W. Grady HS Cluster
Centennial Place Elem - Principal Alison Shelton
Hope-Hill Elem - Barbara Lashley
Mary Lin Elem - Brian Mitchell
Morningside Elem - Becky Pruitt
Springdale Park Elem - Yolanda Brown
Inman Middle - Paula Herrema
Grady High - Vincent Murray
East Region Executive Director - David White 6:16
AGENDA
GRADY HIGH SCHOOL THEATER
6:30 - 8:00 PM
-- Welcome and Overview of Grady Cluster - David White
-- 2013 Strategies - Elementary Principals
-- Inman Updates - Paula Herrema
-- Leading The Way - Vincent Murray
-- Closing - David White 6:17
"As we plan our second State of the Cluster Presentation, we want to hear from you! Email your thoughts, comments and questions to David White at dwhite@atlantapublicschools.us." 6:25
Personal note: I have a Senior & a Sophomore at Grady High School. I also have a 7th grader, not in APS. My kids started elementary school at Sarah Smith Elem in Buckhead, then Morningside Elem, Inman Middle School and now Grady HS. Good to see and speak to so many of our former principals and teachers here tonight! 6:27
First Annual
State of the Grady Cluster Presentation
East Region

Erroll B. Davis Jr., Superintendent
Karen Waldon, Deputy Superintendent, Curriculum & Instruction
David White, Regional Executive Director

February 7, 2013
6:36
David White, Regional Exec Dir - opens presentation. 6:37
Recognize Atlanta School Board Rep Cecily Harsch-Kinane in attendance. 6:42
David White - 18 years in APS. Introductions of Grady Cluster Principals. 6:43
Dr. Murray - Grady High School - 22 Years at Grady; 30 Years in APS 6:46
Stability & Focus
-- Moving beyond scandal
-- Closures, mergers & redistricting
-- Identifying best-fit leadership - 23 of 27 principal positions filled
-- Working together in the east region and clusters
-- Including Elem, Middle & High Schools
Feeder patterns is a good thing, our goal is the same. 6:47
Next year should be much calmer...so many current initiatives & changes. 6:49
Cluster Goals
1) Become Neighborhood Schools of Choice
2) Respond to the needs of ALL students
3) Implement Teacher Keys Effectiveness System with Fidelity
4) Commit to Continuous Improvement
5) Provide Excellent Customer Service 6:50
"Students come FIRST and all decisions are to be made in the best interest of the students."
From APS Five Year Strategic Plan 6:54
Mr. White presenting demographics for Grady Cluster and CRCT analysis (2012). 6:59
Grady cluster Attendance rate = 94.9%
Goal = Fewer than 10 days absent 7:08
Alison Shelton - Centennial Place Elem
Common Core Georgia Performance Standards - CCGPS
K-12 National Standard - Reading & Math
45 states utilizing these standards
Major instructional shifts
Discusses ELA/Literacy Standards & Methodology
Math - # of standards decreased from GPS to Common Core - depth in subject
7:15
Dr. Brian Mitchell - Mary Lin Elem
Translating Common Core Standards into daily instruction.
Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES)
- Teacher Assessment on 10 Standards
- Admin required to visit teachers at least 6x per year, 3 conferences
- Surveys of Instructional Practice
- Student Growth & Achievement
- Aims for Teacher Growth & Development
Leader Keys Effectiveness System (LKES) - Principals w/APS Admin
7:17
(There's a whole lot of words on these Powerpoint slides -- meaning???)
7:26
Becky Pruitt - Morningside Elem
Common Planning & Progress Monitoring
Consistency, ongoing - opportunity for a lot of good things to happen.
7:30
Barbara Lashley - Hope-Hill Elem
The College and Career Readiness Performance Index: CCRPI
Replaces AYP as measurement tool of performance.
CCRPI Monitoring - Differences between AYP & CCRPI 7:33
(Okay, if you were feeling bad that you couldn't be here for this tonight...don't. I think they have begun speaking another language that I, for one, don't understand. I wonder how all of this translates to teaching in the classroom? So many acronyms, assessments, metrics & big words.) 7:36
(College & Career Planning in Elementary School. Seriously.) 7:39
David White - Measuring Impact
Use Value-Added for Improvement
"Value-added analysis is a statistical method that helps educators measure the impact schools and teachers have on students' academic progress rates from year to year." 7:51
Paula Herrema - Inman Middle School
988 students
31% Gifted - 10% Students w/disabilities
Programs & support at Inman
One of the highest performing MS in the State of Georgia.
Eight Georgia Master Teachers on staff.
Various awards & recognition in extra-curricular programs.
Discussion of the "Middle School Child"
Core Content & After School Enrichment programs.
7:53
Great presentation about Inman. It is good to hear about the students and what is happening in the classrooms and after-school programs. A good break from the data, statistics, assessment, metrics & analysis. 8:01
Dr. Vincent Murray - Grady High School
Last of the Communications Magnet School graduating this year.
Explanation of Grady HS Academies
Small Learning Communities - info sessions at Inman for incoming 9th graders.
Grady tours in the spring.
Grady 101: Informational sessions on Grady website for prospective families.
Summer Transition Program: formerly JumpStart program.
Overview of programs, electives, activities.
AP - Grady recently awarded support for additional STEM-focus AP classes beginning next year.
8:03
Grady Cluster Class of 2011 Grad Rate = 73%
(after state adjustments to measurement metrics) 8:06
(Grady JROTC included in Grady Celebrations!) 8:07
David White - concluding comments. 8:07
Q&A offered. 8:09
Abby Martin - Grady Parent - request to post slides & information on the website.
Also - Grady Cluster needs a pre-school.
Mr. White mentions possibility at Hope-Hill.
Question re: attendance & teacher absences/substitutes.
Mr. White - measures district is taking to identify & improve teaching time.
8:11
Question - APS Sub List
Mr. White - substitute applications can be submitted only in June & July.
Again, district looking at the process. 8:13
Q - measuring impact seems a good program, but what about impact on teachers? Big classes & a lot of pressure on teachers.
A - sophisticated processes of evaluation & measurement. There is a lot of mistrust, stress about evaluation. It is important that we get it right, something that we are considering and trying to get right. 8:15
Q - Inman Task Force recommendations? Concerns about Mr. Davis's response by letter. Request a meeting with Superintendent. It has been a couple of months.
A - Superintendent unable to make the meeting tonight. Mr. White will forward those concerns. 8:16
Q - The entire Grady Cluster is interested in what is happening with Inman. 8:17
Q - Springdale Park expansion?
A - scheduled to break ground in June. Good collaboration & movement.
Q - Parent involvement?
A - will follow-up 8:19
Q - philosophical about all the measurements tonight, concern re: bureaucracy. How is the cluster balancing need of bureaucracy with needs of students & teachers. Calendar comment re: standardization -- our year-round school?
Also concern re: elementary schedule changes - bus schedule/breakfasts.
A - Local School Councils have a very strong voice in the district - one way to push back on new programs & initiatives. 8:22
Q - Impressed with much of the presentation tonight. What tools do teachers have to work on behavior in the classroom? Daughter at Inman, small group of students within her team disrupt every class. Solutions for managing classroom behavior?
A - Paula Herrema - implementing strategic professional learning at Inman to help manage. 8:23
Q - Challenges within the District/within the Grady Cluster?
A - David White - encourages email to him. All of this is to help teachers.
8:25
Q - administrative support? add'l support for larger schools?
A - staffing chart - based on student enrollment 8:27
Q - Results on EOCTs at Grady (End Of Course Tests)?
A - Dr. Murray - changing curriculum affects scores on tests. Difficulty transitioning for students and teachers. Curriculum changes, but the EOCTs don't align very well. 8:31
Q - Grady - good scores, but not many extra resources coming to Grady, as far as very crowded conditions. We haven't seen or heard about any relief measures. Resources going to N. Atlanta?
A - David White - process of verifying residency has been very difficult. Budget about $20K to hire a contractor to help verify residencies. This verification will be targeted to Inman & Grady.
Q - Any effort to provide resources for the students we currently have?
A - David White - trying to help Dr. Murray start school in August fully-staffed, without all the substitute teachers that we have had in the past. 8:32
Q - varying student-to-teacher ratios at APS high schools. Issue of equity within district, that our high school has such a high student-to-teacher ratio. 8:33
Q - re: equity. Grady Cluster doesn't have a single baseball field, no greenspace for sports, even football, since stadium is owned by APS & used by all schools.
A - far too little greenspace. 8:34
David White staying to answer individual questions, but closing meeting so his team can go home. 8:35
Closing LIVE Blogging - will re-cap for tomorrow's Midtown Patch!

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