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.”
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.”
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