More Hispanic students attend North Atlanta High School than any other Atlanta high school, but they struggle compared with their black and white counterparts, data show.
As new North Atlanta principal Howard “Gene” Taylor works to lift all students’ performance, parents are taking another look at the achievement gap.
North Atlanta’s Parent Teacher Student Association went over the numbers during their Nov. 2 meeting. Hispanic students make up 17 percent of the total student population, but are absent for more days, have a higher dropout rate and fail more subjects.
“There’s definitely been dialogue about it,” PTSA co-President Amy Shea said. “I think that one of the things we’re looking at is how best to [address] that. Frankly, the principal needs to have a few weeks to get his team together.”
North Atlanta parent Liz Diaz, who speaks Spanish, offered to help bridge the gap between the PTSA members and Hispanic families.
By the numbers for the 2010-2011 school year
Percentage of students absent more than 15 days
White: 13.8 percent
Black: 15.9 percent
Asian: 10 percent
Hispanic: 36.2 percent
Graduation rate by ethnicity
White: 71.8 percent
Black: 63.8 percent
Asian: 50 percent
Hispanic: 43.6 percent
Percentage of students failing end of course tests
American literature and composition: 2 percent
Math I: 21 percent
Biology: 3 percent
American literature and composition: 10 percent
Math I: 58 percent
Biology: 39 percent
American literature and composition: 34 percent
Math I: 73 percent
Biology: 70 percent
Note: This is a partial list of test results picked to show a range of subject areas. The state reported that there weren’t enough Asian students taking the test to provide a comparison with other subgroups.
Source: Georgia Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.
There are obstacles that may not be apparent to non-Hispanic parents, she said. Many of these families don’t have Internet access and aren’t legal residents of the U.S., she said. Their murky legal status discourages their children from graduating because these students feel they’ll have trouble getting a job after high school. It’s also a barrier to parent participation, making them reluctant to show up to the school out of a fear they’ll be deported, Diaz said.
“These parents are scared,” Diaz said. “They’d rather stay under the radar.”
The school’s overall academic performance has come under scrutiny after Atlanta Public Schools on Oct. 5 removed North Atlanta’s leadership team. APS officials are looking into allegations of grade changing at the school. Former principal Mark MyGrant says allegations of racism, not academic performance, led to the changes.
A Buckhead Reporter investigation uncovered emails between Board Chairman Reuben McDaniel and District 4 School Board Member Nancy Meister and other documents that support MyGrant’s claims. But those emails primarily focused on the treatment of black students.
In an effort to refute those allegations of racism, MyGrant’s attorney sent a report from Jarod Apperson, a forensic accountant, to APS officials.
The accountant’s report found black students at North Atlanta performed better than local and national averages. While its focus was not solely on Hispanic students, the report touched on some of the challenges they face.
Comparing performance data with census figures, Apperson concluded that the majority of Hispanic students do not live within residential Buckhead. His report found the school’s Hispanic students are primarily first-generation immigrants with great needs. Hispanic students primarily reside in apartment complexes and the population may be more transient as a result, Apperson wrote.
In his report, Apperson said Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis didn’t give Hispanic performance enough consideration before reassigning the school’s leadership team.
“If Mr. Davis wants to hold different schools to different standards, the fact that North Atlanta is the only APS school serving a significant number of Hispanics cannot be ignored,” he wrote.
Shea said the school will likely need the help of outside experts to tackle the problem.
“That’s the first question, ‘Who are the experts and how do we have them interact with the personnel at the school?’” Shea said. “It’s a big question.”