But most of the address focused on her tenure at APS.
“Five years ago we met at the intersection of our past and the quest of excellence,” she said.
She said the district has made strides during those years. She and other speakers cited graduation rate increases, a bigger pre-kindergarten program, lower principal turnover and a culture that is now working on behalf of children and not adults.
But she repeated a warning she’s voiced before, that the job isn’t finished.
“Research shows that sustainable progress comes in incremental spurts and in waves and you can see gains and drops and bigger gains and then another dip,” she said, adding that the district continues to move forward. “This work is not for the faint of heart.”
She said more work remains to be done to make education more equitable for all APS students, to narrow the large academic gap between white students and students of color.
November 7, 2019 - Atlanta - Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen delivered her final State of the District address at the newly renovated Harper-Archer Elementary School. The theme of this year's address was"The Epic of APS." The program also included a ribbon cutting celebrating the opening of the newly renovated school. Bob Andres / firstname.lastname@example.org
Credit: Bob Andres
Credit: Bob Andres
After the event, advocacy organizations called attention to the racial and socio-economic class inequities that divide the school district.
“Despite well-intentioned efforts, too many struggling schools are as challenged today as they were five years ago,” said a news release from the Latino Association for Parents of Public Schools and GeorgiaCAN.
The groups contend that there’s been little or no movement in some schools, that charter school performance “varies significantly” and that some of the district’s highest-performing schools have room to enroll more students.
During a news conference after the event, Carstarphen said she’s proud of the gains APS has made so far but said that turning around the district is a “multi-decade journey.”
“It’s a 15-year journey. It took far less time to dismantle progress, so it’s going to take more time to put it back together,” she said. “You have to have time and patience to get through the tough spots.”