Atlanta Public Schools

Charles Jones / WABE

Georgia's Department of Education released graduation numbers today, and Atlanta Public Schools saw double digit improvement.

APS' high school graduation rates climbed more than 12 percent – from 2014's 59 percent to 71.5 percent in 2015. 

Timothy Gadson, APS associate superintendent for high schools, pointed to a mix of contributing factors for the rise.

Peachtree Ridge High School

Gwinnett County residents voted Tuesday to continue funding new school buildings and renovations through a special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST for short.

The vote to continue the Education SPLOST passed by a landslide in Gwinnett – with 17,686 voters, or about 74.6 percent of total votes, saying yes. The county's 1 percent sales tax will fund a projected $950 million worth of building and renovation projects for schools.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Some Atlanta-area communities could lose control of their struggling schools if voters approve a plan proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal next fall. The two districts with the most schools at risk are DeKalb County and Atlanta Public Schools. The pressure is on, and the districts are pulling out all the stops to avoid a potential state takeover.

Pressure To Perform 

At a recent DeKalb school board meeting, Morcease Beasley, DeKalb’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, explained the district’s plan to avoid a potential state takeover.

Helping First Generation College Students Stay In The Game

Oct 15, 2015
John Walker /

First generation college students face major hurdles in their quest to become the first members of their families to receive a college education, an achievement that gives most graduates prospects for a better life.

Of the more than seven million college undergraduates attending four-year public and private colleges and universities, about 20 percent are the first members of their families to go on to college, according to a Washington Post investigation earlier this year.  

Atlanta Scores Low Numbers In New School Study

Oct 12, 2015
APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Atlanta’s public school system is still recovering from the major cheating scandal involving standardized test scores in 2009. The scandal set the district behind in its efforts to improve the quality of education in the APS.

Some schools in the Atlanta system and in other parts of the state are also struggling to successfully educate and graduate students. Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed a plan for a state takeover of some of those schools and the creation of a special district for them. 

A southwest Atlanta elementary school has been broken into for the fourth time since the school year began in August.

Local media outlets in Atlanta are reporting that nine classrooms inside Kimberly Elementary School were vandalized over the weekend, with school supplies thrown across rooms, vending machines damaged and windows broken.

Atlanta police spokeswoman Kim Jones says the damage was discovered Monday morning by a milk delivery man who called police after seeing cash registers on the floor when he arrived at the school.

Atlanta Public Schools Headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. on July 7, 2015.
Stephanie M. Lennox / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen outlined a plan to spend a nearly $100 million to address overcrowding in the Grady High School district.

She spoke to more than 300 parents at the Inman Middle School auditorium on Thursday night.

The plan is to spend $93 million to expand Grady High School, convert Inman Middle School into an elementary school as well as build a new middle school and athletic center by 2023.

Some parents at the meeting said they were concerned about the timeline. Bret Williams has two children at Springdale Elementary. 

Patrons at a summer meal kickoff event for the Atlanta Food Bank
Art of Life Photography

The U.S. Congress could be gearing up for a food fight with First Lady Michelle Obama. Lawmakers could decide to make more changes to meals served in school cafeterias.

Last year, Obama championed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Congress passed the law, which changed school nutrition requirements. Schools now have to serve more whole grains and fruit ─ and less sodium.

Dr. Marilyn Hughes is the nutrition director for the Atlanta Public Schools. She likes most of the changes, but says the sodium restrictions are too rigid.

A Night That Should Call Us All To Action …

Sep 7, 2015
Meria Carstarphen
Atlanta Public Schools website

  Friday night was a long night for me and many others in the APS family, and in so many ways it was a vivid reminder of the challenges that face our school system and the Atlanta community more broadly. Friday night football is supposed to be about friendly competition, a showcase of our students’ athletic abilities, and an opportunity to have fun with our friends and family.  But tragically, a spirited Grady vs.

Stephanee Stephens and her students use tablets during an eighth grade Spanish class at Autrey Mill Middle School in Johns Creek, Ga. on Thursday, May 9, 2013.
John Bazemore / Associated Press

A unique partnership involving an architecture firm and a social venture incubator have teamed up to tackle education issues in metro Atlanta.

Beginning this month, the Education Innovation Network will bring together social entrepreneurs, educators and policy makers in quarterly workshops to explore and grow what they believe are possible business solutions to Atlanta’s public education challenges.

The Atlanta architecture firm of Perkins+Will and the Center for Civic Innovation are behind the effort.

Audience members at Monday night's APS board meeting hold signs challenging board members to publicly oppose Gov. Deal's "Opportunity School District" plan. That proposal, which appears on the Nov. 2016 ballot, would allow the state to take control of cer
Jim Burress / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools' board members got an earful Monday night from parents and others angry over the board's silence on what they say is an essential issue.

They’re opposed to “Opportunity School District,” the name of Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to allow the state to take control of underperforming schools.

Students engage in an activity with a teacher at school.
US Department of Education /

It’s back-to-school season for many Atlanta Public Schools and Georgia students. However, young children and teens may not be motivated enough to stay on the right track, psychologically, during the school season.

Dr. Ciara Smalls-Glover, an associate professor of psychology at Georgia State University, discussed one of the ways parents can motivate their children during the school year on “A Closer Look,” with hosts Denis O’Hayer and Rose Scott. 

Martha Dalton / WABE

Wednesday was the first day of class for students in the Atlanta Public Schools. The district is trying to make a fresh start and move on from the recent cheating scandal. As APS tries to rebuild, some obstacles still lie ahead. 

A New Start

To get ready for the new year, APS recently held its first “Back to School Bash.”

The front sign of South Atlanta High Educational Complex
Brenna Beech / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools said it will strengthen its rules on changing students’ grades. This comes after a districtwide investigation, which was triggered when APS officials found administrators at some high schools inappropriately changing students' failing grades to passing ones. 

The district issued a report, which says the investigation didn’t uncover any additional instances of "serious" grade-changing.

Schoolbus dropoff APS
Bruno Girin /

Starting this fall, Atlanta Public Schools will tag young students who take the bus to go home. 

It's part of a new school bus drop-off policy where someone has to be waiting at the bus stop. 

Using zip ties, teachers will attach STAR (Student Transportation Access Registry) cards to the backpacks of pre-K, kindergarten and first-grade students. The cards will have their name, school phone number and bus information. 

Students will be required to have an approved escort waiting for them at the bus stop. Otherwise the driver has to take the student back to school. 

APS Superintendent Looks Back At Her 'Tough' First Year

Jul 9, 2015
Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen with a student

It's been a full academic school year since Dr. Meria Carstarphen took over as Atlanta Public Schools superintendent, during the fallout from the historic cheating scandal.

Carstarphen has been charged with cleaning up the district, even as another investigation involving grade changing allegations unfolded on her watch.

After a year at the helm of one of the nation’s largest public school systems, Carstarphen still stands by her initial evaluation of the district as a “hot mess.”

Atlanta school superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen
WABE 90.1 FM/Dan Raby

When a jury convicted 11 former Atlanta educators of a test-cheating conspiracy two months ago, some thought it was the end of a long, ugly chapter. However, recent allegations of grade-changing at some Atlanta high schools may indicate the district’s troubles aren’t over.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said Tuesday attitudes in the district need to shift if it wants to stamp out cheating.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

It’s been two months since 11 former Atlanta Public Schools educators were convicted of conspiring to cheat on state tests. Now, the district has launched an investigation into grade-changing. But officials say they are determined not to let history repeat itself.

When the state investigated allegations of test cheating in APS in 2010, some employees said a culture of fear and intimidation kept them from reporting any wrongdoing. New APS chief accountability officer Bill Caritj said that shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

Mayor Kasim Reed Defends Record, Fights Back Against Critics

Jun 23, 2015
Patrick Semansky / Associated Press

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed defended his recent record and went after his critics during an extensive and in-depth interview on “A Closer Look” Tuesday afternoon. 

The conversation comes as the city and its government are busy with enterprise ventures, programs and problems. There are big infrastructure projects planned – including road and bridge repair. A new Falcons stadium is underway, and the future of Turner Field when the Braves leave is turning into a thorny and contentious issue with some community groups.

In this Saturday, May 31, 2014 photo, members of the graduating class and faculty attend the SCAD Commencement in Atlanta. On Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014, the College Board said the average cost of attending college crept up again in 2014.
John Amis / Associated Press

  A new program called Achieve Atlanta aims to improve the college graduation rate for Atlanta Public Schools students.

Maria Saporta of the Saporta Report gives an overview of $20 million initiative to WABE's Amy Kiley.

Atlanta School Board Chair Talks Costly Decisions

Jun 19, 2015
APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

The state deadline for school systems in Georgia to choose an operating and models flexibility option, which determines how the schools will operate, is coming up. But the Atlanta Public Schools leadership has already resolved to "push decisions down to the schoolhouse level," Atlanta Board of Education Chairman Courtney English says. 

The Atlanta Board of Education voted 9-0 in its last meeting to continue with APS' charter school structure, which gives the district freedom from most state-level education rules and guidelines via a contract between the state and the district.

Judy Baxter /

More cheating allegations are popping up in the Atlanta Public Schools, just months after almost a dozen former APS educators were convicted in court for conspiring to cheat.

The district is looking into allegations that students in an online learning program at Crim High School used the Internet to find test answers. Additionally, the principal at the South Atlanta School of Law and Social Justice reportedly changed students’ failing grades to passing ones. She no longer works for APS.  

Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in the WABE studios.
Jason Parker / WABE

The Atlanta Public Schools will cut 18 band and orchestra positions next year. But, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says APS is still committed to the arts.

“It’s true that we’ve had a rough budget year,” she says. “It’s true that we’ve had to rethink our model.”

Carstarphen says the cuts were mostly in elementary schools and for programs that had low enrollment. Even though one-third of all music positions were cut, Carstarphen says APS is not ditching the fine arts.

M. Agnes Jones third grader Leticia Cotton plays on the bank of Sweetwater Creek.
Collin Knauss / National Park Trust

Kids who live in town often don’t get out into the natural areas around Atlanta. At the same time, parks are struggling to attract younger and more diverse visitors. But there are efforts to address both of those gaps.

Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Three former Atlanta Public Schools educators will be resentenced at 2 p.m. Thursday. 

Former testing coordinators Sharon Davis-Williams, Michael Pitts and Tamara Cotman received 20-year prison terms after a jury found them guilty of conspiring to cheat on state tests. They were sentenced to serve seven years of the 20-year term. 

Judge Jerry Baxter will give them new sentences.

WABE legal analyst Page Pate says there could be a couple of reasons for that.

Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

An attorney for one of the former Atlanta Public Schools educators convicted in a test-cheating trial says a new group supporting them launches this week.

Gerald Griggs offered few details beyond a website named "" at a church on Sunday according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

He says the organization will focus on changing "the minds and the hearts" of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter and District Attorney Paul Howard.

Baxter plans to resentence three of the former educators who got the stiffest sentences on Thursday.

Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Confusion over state laws could be behind a move to reconsider the prison terms of three convicted former educators in the Atlanta cheating trial.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter had sentenced the three to 20 years in prison – to serve seven years in jail and 13 years probation. But that may have been a mistake. WABE legal analyst Page Pate says 20 years is the maximum sentence for violating the state's racketeering law. The defendants were tried under Georgia's conspiracy law.

Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ten former educators were sentenced Tuesday, as the Atlanta test cheating trial came to a close. But as the community tries to heal, some are now turning their attention to the children affected by the scandal.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the idea of the Atlanta Redemption Academy. It would provide tutoring for students who are behind because their teachers cheated. Colleen Burns’ daughter is one of those students.

She was held back because she didn’t learn academically at an APS school like she should have,” Burns said.

Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The sentencing hearing will continue Tuesday for 10 of the 11 former Atlanta Public Schools educators convicted for their roles in the test cheating trial, with the defendants poised to make a decision that will determine the next few years of their lives.

The ex-educators, who are charged with racketeering, are due back in court at 10 a.m. to tell the judge whether they choose to take a lighter sentence negotiated by the district attorney’s office in exchange for waiving their right to appeal and an apology.   

Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ten former teachers and administrators convicted of racketeering will be sentenced Tuesday instead of Monday. After hearing last-minute witness testimony, Judge Jerry Baxter pushed the sentencing back.

Character witnesses – friends, family members, and co-workers – all lined up and vouched for the defendants and plead for light sentences. Some defendants, like former testing coordinator Donald Bullock, spoke on their own behalf.

“My livelihood is gone,” Bullock said. “My license is gone, all because I told the truth.”