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Atlanta Public Schools: Can They Be Fixed?

On March 28th, Atlanta Public Schools (APS) held a day-long “meet and greet” event to usher in the incoming APS Superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen. Current Superintendent Erroll Davis’ term ends at the end of the traditional school year, June 30, 2014.

Davis, who has acted as interim Superintendent, was seen as somewhat of an odd if not mediocre choice since his only experience with education was a term as Chancellor of the Georgia University system. Davis was seen more as a corporate figurehead rather than an actual educator who was appointed to manage not only the overall platform and direction of APS, but also help facilitate reforms in light of the ongoing cheating scandal effecting the system.

atl_schoolsIn spite of this, his departure, as well as Carstarphen’s likely ascension to the post of APS superintendent, is still overshadowed by the recent standardized test score cheating scandal involving, as of last year, 178 educators, school administrators, and senior APS directors, 35 of whom are currently in trial facing 65 counts—this includes the former Superintendent, Beverly Hall, who is also battling stage IV breast cancer.

In fact, as of April 2nd, Hall turned down another plea deal that would’ve required her to “admit wrong doing” as she seems content to remain silent about her alleged role in the cheating scandal—in spite of the fact that the racketeering and corruption charges, as a part of the wider RICO trial, can land her a maximum of 45 years in prison.

This and other examples of belligerence on the part of the accused has indeed shaken the city—as well as the nation as a whole—to its core with regards to high-stakes standardized testing as a requirement to the still-controversial “No Child Left Behind” law passed by the Bush Administration. It remains to be seen whether this ongoing trial or the calls for more education reform standards will indeed improve this country’s education outcomes, especially when dealing with an economy plagues with such lack of demand for “Generation Y” or “Millennials.”

Frankly, there doesn’t seem to be any miracle cure for what ails APS, much less the country’s, other school districts, many of whom share similarities or more appropriately discrepancies in test score rises and drops during the course of a school year.

Obviously, the issues at foot here are systemic throughout most K-12 school districts in the United States and all seem to lead back to the notion of “teaching for the test”— that is, teaching students simply to pass a given standardized test rather than prepare them for a highly competitive and highly computer-driven world.

So how does this and other revelations fare for Dr. Carstarphen’s goals of not only raising test and attendance scores but also addressing long-standing problems of racial disparities and the distribution of resources within Atlanta Public Schools? Who can say?

But with the April 14th Atlanta Board of Education vote that will officially appoint Carstarphen as Superintendent just a couple of weeks away, one can only hope that the Board’s likely affirmative votes for her can usher in a new era for APS going forward. As an Atlanta Public Schools graduate, I certainly hope that she can affect some positive change, as well.

Jonathan G. Banes

Jonathan G. Banes

Contributing Writer
Jonathan Banes bio, in his own words: "I am an aspiring business attorney who is currently seeking my Juris Doctor at Georgia State University and have had a decade-long devotion to covering politics and business around Atlanta, the Gold Dome, and across the United States. Having lived in the Metro Atlanta area all of my life I believe I’ve seen just about everything that makes a big city in the New South tick and I hope to continue following local/state/regional/ national business and policy trends well into the future. I look forward to assisting perspective readers who feel let down by other local or regional business news outlets by bringing issues important to them to light through BAMSouth.com.
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