Meria Carstarphen - American Graduate Champion | American Graduate Champions | PBA30

APS Super Puts Students First, Says Parents Are Part of Equation for Success

By Shelby Lin Erdman 3-17-16

By Shelby Lin Erdman 3-17-16


Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen is a little more than half way through her second year heading up one of the nation’s largest school districts. She took over during the fallout from the historic APS cheating scandal and had a second cheating investigation unfold on her watch.

In her initial evaluation of the district, she called it a “hot mess.” One of her strategies for turning that evaluation around was to reverse the district focus from an administrative, adult-focused system to one centered on children, on students.

We really want parents to help us get children in school, on time, every single day and that starts with getting up and making sure they can get out of the house on time, into the bus or walking to school

And she’s making progress. That’s why Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen is an American Graduate Champion.

Carstraphen has been tasked with cleaning up and reforming a district that made headlines around the country for one of the worst school cheating scandals in history. And, while the Atlanta public school district has top-rated schools, it also has some failing ones, too, that are plagued by, as Carstarphen called it in her school blog, “chronic under-performance.”

The job of the APS chief is a difficult one, by any standard, but Carstarphen, during a recent interview with Public Broadcasting Atlanta, explained her strategy and philosophy when it comes to educational challenges and improving Atlanta’s public schools.

“When you have an opportunity to make a choice or a decision in this job, [it’s] very simple. I start with thinking how it impacts the student first,” she said.

“I don’t think that’s reform. I just think that’s right.”

Carstarphen has what she calls “smart ways” of making education better, including a hands-on approach when it comes to the people in leadership roles at individual school.

“I want to be involved with our principals. I want to know who they are. I want to know what they stand for. I want to know how they will set the tone for the culture of a school,” Carstarphen explained.

“That is really where I will really know that we will have the best chances, the best chances of ever making a difference for children,” she added.

Carstarphen’s strategy for educational success puts students first, which means parents have to be part of the equation when it comes to improving everything from test scores to graduation rates.

The superintendent says the participation of parents in a child’s education really determines how successful the student will be in the end and, in turn, ultimately the school itself. She says her expectations are simple and straight forward.

“We really want parents to help us get children in school, on time, every single day and that starts with getting up and making sure they can get out of the house on time, into the bus or walking to school.”

amgrad_logo.jpg And there’s one more thing parents can do to help a child, according to Carstarphen, and it may be one of the most important things they can do

“Making sure that they’re reinforcing with their child that an education is valuable and can change your life.”

Disclaimer: PBA’s broadcasting license is held by the Atlanta Public Schools

PBA's Atlanta Champions


Scott Allen

"He is such a dedicated teacher who says that he is awed by his students’ creativity and original thought."


Mouhammed Bah

"I think education brings more wealth to being successful than any other thing in life."


Travis Brown

"He just does everything he can to insure that when a student comes in his class he’s removed all barriers so that they can truly learn."


Atia Butts

"You always want to have the mindset of succeeding and if you know the people around you are not going down that path then do your best to be nice, be cordial, but distance yourself from those".

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Kim Bearden

"No child should ever be allowed to be invisible in a classroom."

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Barry Blackmon

"I use a lot of different methods and try to mix my own type of gumbo within the classroom, such as discipline and humor."


Meria Carstarphen

"We really want parents to help us get children in school, on time, every single day and that starts with getting up and making sure they can get out of the house on time, into the bus or walking to school."

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Ron Clark

"We’re trying to lift the spirits of our students so they’ll be excited and they’ll be eager to learn."


Megan Gilroy

"Health can still be fun. It doesn’t have to be this drudgery exercise in this terrible thing."


Dave Howland

"Literally every single grade a kid gets in high school has an impact on their future trajectory. So making sure that that’s a big piece, helps them stay on track to graduate."


Kesha Payne

"Every decision you make, keep students first. I say communicate clearly with parents and administrators. I say collaborate effectively with your colleagues and keep students top of mind."


Immanuel Reed

"When I was a kid, being a part of a program like this helped me tremendously, and I think that me doing the same thing for others, giving them chances, giving them the opportunity to make the best decisions, it’s full circle for me."


Dan Sims

"The hope is in the school house and we hold a primary place in inspiring kids to look beyond this time frame."


Amber Stewart

"The success of a student hinges on the teacher that’s standing in front of that classroom and hinges on the school leader that’s running that school."


Darryl Terry

"As a student in one of the most impoverished areas of Atlanta, I’ve always known that education is going to be my only way out."


Stuart Thorn

"We’ve been able to take the graduation rate for this cohort of kids up from probably what would have been in the neighborhood of five to 15 percent up to now above 85 percent."


Dennis Tolliver

"He captures his students’ attention and they hold on to every word that he says because they know what he gives will truly benefit their lives."

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Jayongela Wilder

"There is nothing more rewarding then seeing a kid that you taught graduate from college."