Friday, February 20, 2009

How the Atlanta Half Lives

We've got Vallas, they've got national Superintendent of the Year Beverly Hall.

She required low-performing schools to implement rigorous programs that focus on literacy and math skills. She increased the amount of training teachers received and she removed weak principals and replaced them with those she deemed better equipped to improve student learning.

State data shows the programs are working. For example, about 72 percent of the system’s students graduated on time in 2008
This is not the Jamaica native's first award, either. She describes some of her plans to improve at-risk urban schools in this December 2006 interview. (That was before Vallas even came to New Orleans.)

Speaking of the superintendent merry-go-round, Hall has been in her current position since 1999. For those of you keeping score:
Hall has been superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, serving 50,000 students, for 10 years, making her one of the longest-serving superintendents of an urban school district. She previously served as state district superintendent of Newark, N.J., Public Schools.

Hall is credited with transforming the 102-school system in Atlanta through a comprehensive reform agenda. Every elementary school in Atlanta made adequate yearly progress in 2008, and graduation rates at several high schools have risen sharply.
At this point, I've read three different articles about her, and I've seen no debate about charter schools or experienced teachers vs. new teachers.

OH, and it looks like Hall oversees a system with 11 accredited high schools, 4 of which gained accreditation during her tenure as superintendent. (And their names are Carver, Booker T., Douglass - and one of them is located on McDonough Blvd....)

For any New Orleanians who are wondering what this "accreditation" business is I speak of, don't worry - not a single RSD or RSD charter school has accreditation - and none of them appear to have plans to apply for it any time soon. But, in case you're an education advocate who wants to see things like "qualified teachers," robust "curriculum," strong "school activities" and stuff like that, SACS provides a nifty primer on what accreditation is. Or, you could just ask folks at Ben Franklin, Lusher, OP Walker, Warren Easton, Edna Karr, McMain or any of the 60 accredited schools in the Archdiocese...

So, even though I hate comparing New Orleans to Atlanta, this is one area where the ATL is painting the floor with NOLA's ass. We ought to bring Hall down here for education conferences and Cowen's educational committee. She may never leave Atlanta, but maybe we can hire someone she mentored at how to do things right. We will have an opening sometime next year....



Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dante said...

"She increased the amount of training teachers received and she removed weak principals and replaced them with those she deemed better equipped to improve student learning."

Must be nice. In most school districts, expecting teachers to do after-hours training and moving around personnel (or firing them) for little things like not doing their jobs well will make you a lot of enemies who have been in their positions for a long time and feel that entitles them to do absolutely nothing. Being well-entrenched, they have friends in the school board. The school board won't look kindly on you shafting their buddies just because they don't do their jobs. Here is what usually happens to people who try to do the sort of thing Vallas has done.

In the linked case, note that the decision to not renew was made before test scores even came out. And for what it's worth, test scores went up dramatically. No adequate yearly progress but they came closer to AYP than they ever have (even counting the year after Jennings was fired). That year Clarke County fired the only middle school principal whose school test scores actually went up from the year before.

the lady said...

Was that you actually complimenting something about Atlanta, Cousin Pat? I'm so shocked!!!
But you can't have her. It's the thing you'll learn about Atlanta one day (trust me), true Atlantans DON'T leave. We stay attached to this fair city trying to help anyway we can.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I say plenty of good things about Atlanta (how to build roads, rebuilding infrastructure, outside-the-box thinking, now urban education, etc). While I'll never have much time or affinity for the traffic or sprawl, those are the prices paid for having a successful mega-city.

Dr. Hall may not be from Atlanta, but she's been there for 10 years so far, and - like you've said before - when you invest that much time in the ATL, you probably ain't going anywhere any time soon. But she's doing urban education correctly, and you're going to have to at least share some of her expertise with us.

DADvocate said...

Strong, smart, right minded superintendents make a difference. The superintendent of my kids' school system didn't do quite as well as Ms. Vallas but he did get Kentucky superintendent of the year.

I know I've bored you with how I think my kids' schools are pretty good. Now I have more support for my opinion.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Hey, remember, y'all Vallas is the generally ineffective Superintendent of the New Orleans RSD.

Dr. Beverly Hall is the Atlanta schools chief, and superintendent of the year.

I'll edit the post to make that clearer...

DADvocate said...

After reading the post, I skimmed for a name. Shucks.