“Good job, good buddy,” the Atlanta school board told Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in a CB radio-style cheer Tuesday.
Carstarphen, a former Texas school superintendent, was hired in 2014 and charged with turning around the troubled Atlanta school system in the wake of a cheating scandal that drew national attention.
On Tuesday, the school board conducted Carstarphen’s annual performance evaluation behind closed doors, as allowed under state law. Board chairman Courtney English summarized the board’s opinion publicly.
“We are incredibly pleased with her progress,” he said. “Dr. Carstarphen has met or exceeded our expectations in each area of focus.”
English credited Carstarphen’s administration with increasing the number of high school graduates, creating academic programs for each cluster of neighborhood schools, and starting an ambitious plan to improve the district’s lowest performing schools. He cited the expansion of social-emotional learning, which teaches students how to form healthy relationships and make responsible decisions. And he said a district survey shows that employee morale is improving.
When Carstarphen started, Atlanta’s academic performance was among the worst in the state. The most recent state test results show little improvement.
About a third of Atlanta students are on grade level in reading and writing. Atlanta students passed state tests at rates below the state and, for most subjects, at among the lowest rates in the metro area. Twenty-two Atlanta schools are at risk of potential state takeover if voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District this fall.
“I think the district is in a better place but we are far from the finish line,” Carstarphen said Tuesday.
Too many poor black children in Atlanta aren’t reading on grade-level, she said. Arts, athletics and world language programs aren’t strong enough. And principals and teachers need more support from the central office.
“We have other outstanding issues that are bigger than life,” she said. “There’s been a big lift in Atlanta Public Schools but as far as getting to a place of full transformation, our work is just so not done.”