Wednesday, April 13, 2011

No Child Left Behind affects APS

          When No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was passed in 2001, people were hopeful about the academic future of this nation. The act provided higher expectations, but also accountability, which is what many leaders called for. It expected all students to exceed state standards, to reach 100% proficiency in math and reading, by the year 2013-2014. Academic progress would be measured by yearly tests and every school was expected to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). If not, then there would be consequences and eventually punishments. NCLB also provided more funding for Title I and special help for students at risk, like English Language Learners (U.S. Department of Education).
          In summary, NCLB sounded like a great proposal with ideal goals. However, many would soon realize that while noble, the goals of NCLB were rather unrealistic. They were certainly unrealistic for the Atlanta Public School System. As mentioned in the last blog post, APS presents the case of a typical inner city district with a very high number of Title I students and minority students. Even with the extra help and extra funding, these types of students have historically not been able to progress academically as quickly as others. These students come from impoverished communities, crime filled neighborhoods, and unstable home/family conditions. Research has shown that there is an achievement gap between students who attend high poverty and low poverty schools, and that poverty is associated with decreased school performance (Duncan et al 1998). Minority students have also historically made part of the lower end of the achievement gap, and often their situations are combined with poverty.
         Taking all of these facts into consideration, it was not too surprising to me when I found that since NCLB was enacted, Atlanta Public Schools have not met AYP for a single year (Georgia Department of Education). Of their subgroups, the "economically disadvantaged," "students with disabilities," and the "black" and "hispanic" racial categories did not meet AYP this past year. While these problems exist, it is also true that students have progressed. In fact, Atlanta Schools have seen huge gains in testing scores, and much is attributed to superintendent Dr. Hall's policies and programs (Atlanta Board of Education). However, I am skeptical of these gains because we also know that unfortunately, standards have been lowered. Teachers also spend a lot of time teaching for the tests, the CRCT, instead of focusing on regular class work.
         NCLB has certainly impacted both students and teachers in Atlanta schools. Most gravely, the policy and the expectation of accountability has put great stresses on teachers. In fact last summer investigations began because of suspicions of teachers cheating on the state exams. This brought about an array of problems, as the truths behind the gains at some schools were revealed.
         Since I would like to explore this "cheating scandal" some more, I will save it for my next post.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Breakdown of Atlanta Public School System

APS within Fulton County

             Having talked about the founding, growth, and race relations of Atlanta, I would now like to move on to education issues. In order to later highlight some of these issues, I will first provide a summary of Atlanta Public School System (APS).

Georgia school system divisions

The Atlanta Public School System is located within Fulton County. Most other school systems in Georgia are defined by county lines, but APS is a special case of a city school district within a county school district. This makes it a much smaller area, but with a more concentrated population. APS is made up of 98 schools and is directed by the Atlanta Board of Education. The board is made up of 6 people representing 6 separate geographical districts, and 3 people representing 3 “at large” districts. They are elected for 4 year terms. Superintendent Dr. Beverly Hall's term will end this Summer. 

Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall

The student enrollment at APS is currently at 47,944. About 81% of the students are African American, 11% are White, 5% are Hispanic, and the remaining percentage are multiracial or other. What is significant about these numbers is the fact that compared to the rest of the school systems in Georgia, APS has a much higher percentage of African American students and a much lower percentage of White, Hispanic, and Asian. The neighboring counties like Gwinnett and Cobb have especially high numbers of Hispanics. 
Another interesting fact is that of the 98 schools in APS, 91 are Title-I schools. The 7 non Title-I schools where the only schools in the district to pass AYP for the 2009-2010 school year. Compared to the rest of Georgia's school districts, APS has a higher percentage of schools not meeting AYP.

In summary, APS presents the case of an inner city school district where poverty abounds and where the majority of the population is of a minority. This set up naturally has a very large impact on the school system. Research and testing has shown how difficult it is for minority students from lower socio-economic levels to progress as quickly as other students. The majority of APS schools would naturally have more difficulty when it comes to progressing at rapid rates and meeting AYP. These schools are a stark reminder of the both the academic achievement gap and of some of the problems with No Child Left Behind. In the next blog post, I will talk about how No Child Left Behind has affected Atlanta Public Schools. 

Sources: Georgia Department of Education 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Race Relations

        The study of race relations in Atlanta is one that I could not possible cover in just a single blog post. I have found so many books, articles, and studies that analyze Atlanta's biracial government, its history of segregation and Jim Crow laws, and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, there is extensive literature on just the Civil Rights movement in Atlanta. Because of such wealth of information, I just want to summarize a few of the major points that I thought were very interesting.....and that relate to topics we have covered in class. Everything in the following bullet points comes from the Ambrose (2003) book.

-In 1890, approximately 28,000 blacks lived in Atlanta. The city had a huge appeal for black migrants, mostly because of prominent educational and employment opportunities that other large cities in the South still lacked.
-For example, Atlanta had several early education institutions just for blacks, as well as black colleges and universities. Black churches were also very prominent in the social and political sphere.
-Compared to the rest of the South, Atlanta had a rather large number of successful black leaders, businessmen, and property owners.
-The impact of black voters was recognized as early as 1867, when 37 blacks were elected to the state constitutional convention.
-Auburn Avenue, or "sweet Auburn" was a whole business and entertainment district that was entirely for blacks.

-As the city grew rapidly, so did race tensions, discriminations, and segregations. The 1906 race riot is an example of such tensions heightening.
-Zoning laws, housing ordinances, and real estate companies took residential segregation to extreme levels in the early 1900's.
-"Atlanta became, in effect, two separate cities- one white, and one black" (Ambrose 2003:102).
-In the 1920's and 30's, Atlanta served as the headquarters, or "imperial city," of the Ku Klux Klan.

-Slowly but surely, the Civil Rights Movement took full strength and the city of Atlanta began to desegregate. Jim Crow laws slowly disappeared, and African Americans continued to play minor roles in governance.
-In 1973, Maynard Jackson became Atlanta's first African-American mayor.
-His planning, affirmative action hiring, and good relationship with the white businessmen of the city greatly restructured racial relations in governance.
-That same year, a new city charter changed the election process from at-large to district, which meant more opportunities for minority representation were available.

            The story of Atlanta's racial relations is much more in depth than these bullet points show. From this small summary, however, we can acknowledge certain major points and themes. The first is that Atlanta certainly grew from the beginning as a city with a large African American community but with large problems in segregation. While some of the larger sources of discrimination (such as Jim Crow and the KKK) are no longer an issue, it is true that Atlanta still suffers from community and housing segregation. Even if unintentional, Atlanta still has areas that are clearly black communities. However, today Atlanta also has pockets of all Latino, Korean, and Vietnamese communities. This points to the growth of multi-ethnicity, even though most other cultural/racial groups are located within the metro area instead of in the city.
           Second, the history of black leadership and black mayors is an important one. Atlanta stands out from other southern cities of the time because despite segregation, the black community thrived in its own businesses and communities. Atlanta has had black mayors for decades now, and the relationship between Atlanta's white and black leaders has not been a negative one. It has helped the city grow. The politics of mayors like Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young are prime examples of what Judd and Swanstorm (2010)  call "political incorporation." By appealing to the white business elites and supporting pro-growth polices and downtown development, black mayors in Atlanta have been fairly successful. Thus, by delivering important services, they have been able to form governing coalitions. With the support of the white business leaders, mayors like Jackson succeeded in minority mobilization and minority incorporation (Browning et. al 1986).

           I believe that when it comes to race relations, the Atlanta metro area today faces different issues. The huge and rapid increase of Latino's has brought about a new minority population that still faces underrepresentation. The Latino community also suffers from discriminatory policies today. One example is the fact that Latino's in Gwinnett County (a predominantly Latino area) are being targeted by police officers who work in collaboration with ICE. I would like to explore this area more, so I will try to find some articles for a later blog.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

History and Growth

Created by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton in 1886

Peachtree Street 1951

 Like many of America's cities, Atlanta's funding and original growth revolves around the construction of the railroads in the 19th century. In 1837, Atlanta was located at the end of a railroad line, thus giving the city its first name "Terminus." One of the executives of Western & Atlantic Railroad, Richard Peters, eventually named the city Atlanta. When commenting on Atlanta, he once said "the place can never be much of a trading city, yet may be important in a small way" (Ambrose 2003:1). A decade later, in 1847, Georgia recognized Atlanta as a city with a charter. Since then, Atlanta has come a long way.
            In class we studied different factors that led to the growth and urbanization of American cities. I would now like to discuss how the three main factors, transportation, industrialization, and immigration relate to the growth of Atlanta.

          Initial growth in the early 1830's was mostly thanks to James Montgomery, an entrepreneur who established a store and a system of ferries down the Chattahoochee River (Ambrose 2003). While some of his ferries survived until the early 20th century, their importance was quickly overshadowed by the railroads.
          The city of Atlanta grew out of the establishment of railroads! They became important to the "layout, naming, and political and economic makeup of the community" (Ambrose 2003:24). As a consequence, it was the railroad entrepreneurs, wealthy elites, businessmen, and land speculators that came to dominate early Atlanta. By the time of the Civil War, the importance of Atlanta's role in trade and transportation was apparent, and the city was clearly a strategic location to the South. General Sherman and his famous burning of the city and railroads destroyed much of the city's vitality, but also paved the way for new growth and industries. The post-Civil War period was a time of railroad construction boom, as well as the rise of the cotton industry (Ambrose 2003).

          Near the end of the 19th century, Atlanta experienced vast expansion due to the addition of electric streetcars and horse drawn trolleys. I thought this was interesting because it fit the examples we talked about in class. Due to the streetcars, Atlanta was able to expand and "streetcar suburbs" emerged. In addition, the streetcar companies were funded by wealthy entrepreneurs who created companies. Two of the largest competing companies in the late 1800's were the Atlanta Railway and Power Company and the Atlanta Rapid Transit Company (Ambrose 2003).

          Like the cities of the north, Atlanta's industrialization was marked by new technologies, better transportation, and wealthy entrepreneurs. However, Atlanta's industry revolved around the cotton textile mills. Large companies emerged and built mills, warehouses, and presses, which only benefited from the growth of the railroads. Other industries in the city included paper goods manufacturing, lumber, and fertilizer production. At the end of the 19th century, diversified commerce also became important. To diversify commerce and attract new industries, several different associations played a large role in industrialization and in persuading the city council to lower taxes. These notable groups were the Atlanta Agricultural and Industrial Association and the Atlanta Manufacturer's Association (Ambrose 2003).

          In contrast to the cities of the Frostbelt, Atlanta did not experience such a large population boom fueled by immigration. While there was a sizable German community, Atlanta's population increase was a result of people migrating from rural areas to the city (Ambrose 2003). When the need for labor emerged, organizations formed to attract different workers. One such organization was the German Immigration Society, founded in 1868, and the Negro Anti-Emigration Club, which tried to prevent black laborers from going north (Ambrose 2003).

Friday, April 1, 2011

More than Education

          As I began background readings on Atlanta and its education system, I realized there is a wealth of information on the city and is governance as a whole. My preliminary readings already exposed me to other urban issues that I would like to address. Therefore, before I go into details of education in Atlanta, I would like to focus a few blog entries on subjects like history and growth, housing, race relations, and immigration. Much of this will be based on two books that I think will especially useful. These are:

Stone, Clarence N. 1989. Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946-1988. University Press of Kansas.

Ambrose, Andy. 2003. Atlanta: An Illustrated History. Athens: Hill Street Press.

So without further ado, I would like to go into a little bit of the history of Atlanta and its growth.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why did I choose to blog about this topic?

Atlanta skyline

             I knew that I wanted to focus on the city of Atlanta, because that is where I was born and where I lived all my life until I left for college. I love Atlanta and I think it is a pretty amazing city with much to offer. Even though I lived in the suburbs (Alpharetta) thirty minutes north of downtown, I never felt like I lived in the suburbs. It definitely still felt like a busy city that was full of traffic, shops, movie theaters, restaurants, and parks. I also went to a Catholic private school but it was located much closer to downtown, or as we like to say, "inside the perimeter" of I-285. Because I spent most of my time outside of my house in the actual city, I believe I was able to learn much about Atlanta, its citizens, and its culture. If you ask me, I have mostly positive things to say about the metropolis as a whole. 
           However, even though I do think Atlanta is great, I also know that the city faces many of the problems familiar to other urban areas in the United States. These include homelessness, racial segregation in housing, areas of urban blight and poverty, lack of public transportation, and of course, complex issues involving local education and education policy. When it comes to education, I believe I saw many of the issues firsthand even though I did not go to public schools. I still had family members and friends who went to public schools in the metropolis, so these issues were often talked about. I also visited these schools often. 
          One of the main issues I noticed was how the schools seemed to be very racially segregated based on location. There could be a school nearby that was 90% Latino, but only thirty minutes away there was a school that was mostly Asian and White. One could clearly see contrasts between schools like these, that ranged from the racial composition of the students, to resources available at each school, to the type of classes that were offered. In high school, I became especially interested in these differences when I realized that the majority of my friends and acquaintances who went to these mostly minority and mostly impoverished schools were not planning on going to college. Was it their choice....or their families? Were they "bad students?" Or were they victims of a school system that simply did not prepare them or push them toward higher education? As these questioned emerged I began to be interested in education policies and in the education system of the United States. The more and more I have learned, the more I realize what a complex diversity of issues are involved. 
         My hope this that through this project I will be able to delve deeper into some of the questions that I have yet to find answers to. In the very least, I hope to gain insight about some of the policies and policymakers that are responsible for the way the education system looks least how it looks in Atlanta. To conclude, I would like to post a link to a video I remember seeing a while ago on the news. I think it offers a good idea of some of the issues I would like to learn more about.