FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why is Atlanta Public Schools considering school consolidation within the Mays Cluster?
As part of the work for students, Atlanta Public Schools strives to improve quality while increasing efficiency. That is why APS continues the work to right size the district to more effectively direct resources toward the students. That has been difficult when the district works within an infrastructure that at one point was designed to service more than 100,000 students.
APS also wants to deliver the most coherent and effective academic programs possible to students as well as provide the most complete and essential services it can with limited resources.
Over the past two years, necessary changes included adopting new operating models and consolidating some schools in our district. APS does not take the matter of operating model changes, such as school mergers, lightly. A number of factors drive the work, but most importantly APS strives to improve quality while also improving efficiency.
But even after the mergers, consolidations and new partnerships of last year, the fact remains that APS has more work to do here to eliminate redundancies and create stronger, more effective programs that lead to students graduating with real choices in college, career and life.
What proposals are under consideration as Atlanta Public Schools explores changes in the Mays Cluster?
The district has a proposal within the Mays Cluster in time for the 2017-2018 school year that include a merger. A merger happens when attendance zones of two or more schools are combined and consolidated into a single school. According to APS policy and practice, staff from both schools must apply for a position at the newly merged school. The board appoints a naming committee to determine a new name for the school. A closing occurs when the attendance zone of a school is redrawn into the attendance zones of one or more existing schools. Staff positions are abolished at the closed school, and staff is encouraged to reapply within the district.
Proposal for Adamsville/Miles/West Manor:
Recommendation: Close Adamsville Primary School; restructure Miles Intermediate as a PreK-5 school; redistrict some students to West Manor Elementary.
Staff: Consistent with past practices with merged schools, all staff from both Adamsville and Miles will be required to apply for a position at the newly created elementary school.
Zoning: As part of the proposed merger, students residing within the blue area east of I-285 would begin attending West Manor ES for 2017-2018. This area, encircled by Scott Street, includes Towne West Manor and London Town Houses.
Adamsville Building: Potentially relocate Adult Education to Adamsville building. Adamsville could be used as a swing space during West Manor’s SPLOST renovations in 2020-21; Adamsville has the capacity to support both West Manor and Adult Education. Further on-going community conversations are needed.
What is the rationale for making these specific changes?
The rationale for the Adamsville/Miles/West Manor proposal is as follows:
- The primary and intermediate split between Adamsville and Miles creates a lack of coherence in academic planning and programming.
- Opportunity to develop a K-5 school climate of excellence
- Student expectations, protocol, daily routines have to be reset in transition from 2nd to 3rd grade; merging the schools eliminates this transition process
- K-5 at one location will ease the transportation for families with more than one child
- Students at Adamsville would have access to the school-based health clinic currently available only to Miles students
- Instructional planning is challenging when coordinating between two different staffs
- All three schools –Adamsville (381), Miles (396) and West Manor (270) – are significantly under-enrolled. Both Miles and West Manor have sufficient capacity to accommodate students
How will a merged Miles and Adamsville improve learning?
Consolidating these schools not only provides a more cohesive educational pathway but also eliminates the present break between second and third grades for these schools.
Consolidating schools also allows for more resources and capacity, thus giving students and teachers more time for instruction and co-curricular work. Teachers are not taken away as often for bus duties, lunchroom monitoring and other work in larger schools.
The new school will also have more resources and a fuller complement of staff, including counselors, which will improve school programming options and supports for students.
How do we make our schools more competitive?
The bottom line is we have to improve instruction, particularly Tier I instruction, which is synonymous with daily instruction. To do that, we have to further develop the people who are closest to our children – our teachers, paraprofessionals and site-based leadership teams (including principals, assistant principals, and teacher leaders). We have made major strides this year in this area through the work led by the Schools and Academic Office.
We pushed more time and resources into professional learning for employees at the school level, where the work of school improvement actually occurs. We invested (and there are more investments to be made) into the people actually working with our children. That’s what high-performing districts and schools do. They invest in their human capital.
We also need to be more intentional about programming that we put into schools. If industry has a demand for a particular worker profile, then our instructional program must reflect that demand. Our Office of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education works diligently to ensure that our offerings align with the local industry and that exposure to career and technical education experience begins in the elementary grades.
That is the basis of the signature programs that APS has developed: a flagship high school in each cluster with instruction designed to produce critical thinkers and problem solvers ready for college and or career. The Mays Cluster has chosen International Baccalaureate Signature Program – which allows for backwards mapping of the curriculum and programming. From preK-to-grade 12, students have a schooling experience around a finite set of transdisciplinary themes and lines of inquiry through a focus on global thinking. This way there is common understanding of academic programming and approaches to learning as students and families move through the K-12 continuum.
Finally, we must invest some effort, time and money into telling our own story. We need to tell our community about our successes and about the next steps in the transformation work. That is at the heart of our new Family and Alumni Engagement Strategy, where we strive to create honest engagement with our most important stakeholders.
How do we address discipline?
We cannot ignore the fact that many of our children come from challenging circumstances. In many cases, their behavior is a factor of that which they are exposed to in their communities. Our responsibility is to be sensitive to their experiences in the community and employ a more restorative approach to discipline/managing behavior. A traditional style of discipline will not work in Atlanta.
We must teach desired behaviors and reinforce expectations. In short, we must teach and re-teach the behavior we want from students. When we teach desired behaviors, we potentially reduce the likelihood of behavioral infractions down the road. Teaching behavior is similar to teaching content. We reteach it using a variety of methods and strategies until our students reach mastery.
We know that schools need resources for positive behavior supports. Atlanta Public Schools has made Social and Emotional Learning – SEL – a district priority. These skills are foundational to the academic success of our students. If students can persevere – set goals, overcome obstacles and develop healthy relationships – we know they will be more successful in work and in life.
We are working with The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to support the social-emotional learning initiative within the district. APS SEL Cohort 1 consisted of 25 schools, which includes all schools in the Carver and South Atlanta clusters, B.E.S.T. Academy, Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy, and all middle schools.
In the fall of 2016, the SEL initiative rolled out to additional schools, totaling 65 APS campuses including Pre-K through 12th grade and alternative schools. Full district-wide implementation will occur fall of 2017.
SEL provides a foundational learning structure because it enables:
- Students to be active participants in the development and governance of the school learning community.
- Effective academic teaching and learning, which require students to self-manage, problem solve, make responsible decisions, and collaborate. All necessary for today and post-secondary life!
- Creation of an inclusive, participatory, caring environment in the classroom and the school at large—creating family in school where relationships are restored and nurtured.
With a restorative practices component, this work provides a clear way for relationships to be restored when an infraction or offense has occurred. This key component must be in place in order for students and adults to give voice to concerns, repair any harm and fully move back into the day-to-day business of educating students.
How much will the district save by closing Adamsville? Will the money saved stay in the Mays Cluster? What additional services will be gained at Miles and West Manor?
The district has estimated that savings through a school closure to be approximately $1 million per closing. No decision has been made to reallocate any potential savings to any specific expenditure, school or program.
At the merged school on the Miles Campus:
+ 12 Core Teachers
+ 1.6 Extended Core
+ 5 Paraprofessionals
+ .5 Counselors
+ $5,000 Substitutes
+ $28,500 Operating
+ $22,500 Flex Funds
Gifted, EIP, ESOL, Special Ed, Nurse, Psychologist, and School Social Worker may also increase, but we are awaiting exact allotments.
At West Manor:
+ 1 Core Teachers
+ $850 Substitutes
+ $5,000 Operating
+ $4,000 Flex Funds
Gifted, EIP, ESOL, Special Ed, Nurse, Psychologist, and School Social Worker may also increase, but we are awaiting exact allotments.
How many classrooms are available at Miles? What is the comfortable and most ideal capacity of each of these classrooms? Will a merged Miles/Adamsville lead to larger classrooms?
The new school will not create larger classrooms. The school will continue to have about 25 to 28 students per classroom depending on grade level. That’s a good class size. According to staffing allocations, we adhere to some general teacher ratios based upon the grade level.
We depend on our principals to have the ability to handle master schedules and their teaching staff so that the class size is appropriate for the students and type of instruction in each case. Principals have the flexibility to used EIP teachers and other special revenue funds to reduce class sizes.
The Miles building has a planning capacity of 875 students based on a ratio of 25 students per core classroom (35 core classrooms x 25 students = 875 students).
Based on an initial walkthrough of the building to assign spaces should a merger occur, the Miles principal has determined that there is sufficient space to accommodate various classrooms with five teachers per grade level. Her assessment accounts for adjustments for reduced class sizes, computer labs and space for classroom EIP teachers and instructional coaches. There are also sufficient classrooms with restrooms for pre-K, kindergarten and special education units.
For her plans, the principal has allocated 16 classrooms for pre-K through second grade with ratios of 23:1 for kindergarten (does not include para-professionals for each classroom); 20:1 for first grade and 17:1 for second grade. These ratios are for planning purposes and will be adjusted based upon actual enrollment.
The typical classroom at Miles is 750 square feet. A classroom that size can hold one person per 20 square feet or 37 persons per the building code. A practical more comfortable maximum capacity is approximately 30-32 persons per classroom.
What is the purpose of APS? What are the goals for the Mays Cluster?
The job of APS is to provide a rigorous academic curriculum for all our students so that they can graduate with a marketable high school diploma. Our mission and vision state this clearly and succinctly:
With a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career.
A high-performing school district where students love to learn, educators inspire, families engage and the community trusts the system.
Mays Cluster Plan
After extensive community engagement, the Mays Cluster created a mission to “prepare students to become 21st century learners who are ready for college, career and beyond.” The cluster chose International Baccalaureate (IB) as its signature theme. IB describes an approach to curriculum and instruction that prepares students to be inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who are motivated to succeed. The program is offered in more than 4,000 schools in more than 150 countries.
The Mays community set these priorities for the cluster:
- Improve student mastery of core content knowledge.
- Focus on ESOL and Special Education populations.
- Prepare all students for college and career success.
- Provide fine arts and world language programs.
- Build teacher capacity of core content knowledge.
- Build teacher and staff capacity to implement IB.
- Build systems and resources to support the Cluster Plan, including IB implementation.
- Implement systemic procedures for supporting discipline (SEL and Healthy Culture).
- Engage parents and the community.
- Promote an adult mindset for IB with high expectations.
Why are schools not performing?
For many years, our schools (teachers and site-based leadership teams) did not have access to the tools necessary to promote improved student outcomes. When this administration began work, it found many gaping resource deficits; broken and inefficient systems; and counterintuitive practices. We identified the critical weaknesses, developed a plan for addressing them and simultaneously focused on compounding our strengths where we were strong.
All of the changes in senior leadership in APS (years past) resulted in the collapsing of APS’ core content curricula. In short, this administration found APS without a viable, standards-based curriculum for the core content and tested grades. How could we have expected our students to do well on standardized tests when our schools didn’t have standardized curriculum? We have one now thanks to the work of our staff in the Schools and Academic Office. They built a high quality curriculum in record time. But it hasn’t faced an assessment period yet. We have to get to May – after the administration of Georgia Milestones assessments.
Past challenges created a revolving school leadership door through which we have often seen as many as 15 new principals each year in a system with 87 schools. With that churn, you could see a complete turnover in leadership in only a few years, and then you have to start all over again building capacity. As we restore confidence in leadership, we hope to see stability and ultimately school improvement.
Again, we have to invest in professional learning opportunities. We must invest in our leaders to have the knowledge, skills and disposition to lead our schools, support our teachers and students and push a stronger culture.
The Rensselaerville Institute’s School Turnaround program, a leadership development initiative, is designed to assist principals to achieve rapid improvement at some of our schools. In the Mays cluster, that includes Adamsville Primary, Miles Intermediate School, Peyton Forest Elementary School and Young Middle School.
Why is it that the teachers cannot teach children to read? What are you doing in Mays to teach students to read?
Many teachers across the nation have difficulty with the how-to’s of teaching students to read. For a very long time, our teachers did not have the resources to effectively teach the subject. Too many had been relying on makeshift curricula and had limited understanding of the balanced literacy framework, which is central to teaching and assessing “learning to read” and “reading to learn” skills and involves a flexible mix of teacher-directed instruction, small group instruction and center-based practice opportunities (both collaborative and independent).
Because reading is core to learning and is a complicated pursuit to actually teach kids to read, many of our teachers and school leaders have asked for support in this area. They have asked us to show them more effective ways to teach reading, and we have already led groups of hundreds of teachers to do just that with the assistance of the Schools and Academics Office.
Thanks to a multi-million-dollar grant from the Peach Bowl Inc. and the College Football Playoff Foundation, we will be implementing a district-wide training program for all kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers over a two- to three-year period. APS will oversee the use of the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction that focuses on teaching kids to read at the word level, make connections between sounds and letters and develop language skills.
Within a sequential framework, students must show mastery of one reading skill before moving on to the next one. This method ensures that our students can learn at their own pace and are not moved through the system without actually learning how to read.
All K-1 teachers and paraprofessionals will receive training in Year One with teachers from grades 2-5 receiving training in Year Two. Year Three will build capacity by developing our own experts so the program will sustain itself for years to come.
Finally, Title I schools in Mays and other clusters will benefit from curriculum purchased from Wilson Language Fundation (K-3) and Just Words (4-5). This is an essential reading resource that guides the teaching of reading through a sequential curriculum for a more effective learning experience.
Where can I find data about growth and content mastery for our schools?
Growth data is available in GADOE CCRPI reports: http://ccrpi.gadoe.org/2012/. The state did not calculate SGP results before 2012. The 2016 CCRPI reports also provide content mastery results. For achievement data before 2012, please see GADOE’s CRCT page at https://www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Assessment/Pages/CRCT-Statewide-Scores.aspx or the GOSA report cards at https://gaawards.gosa.ga.gov/analytics/saw.dll?dashboard.
Adamsville and Miles were most recently K-5 schools in 2012, which is also the first year of CCRPI data. Note that the CCRPI formula and the state exam changed in 2015, so 2012 CCRPI results are not immediately comparable to current CCRPI data. State and district averages are included for comparison.
Before the STAR exam, the district used Performance Series by Scantron as an interim assessment (known in the district as CAAS). The tables below show achievement levels over time on the Performance Series for the Mays cluster.
Performance Series was not administered to all schools in both the fall and spring before the 2013-2014 school year. Peyton Forest did not administer the exam in spring 2014.The table below shows similar results for the first administration of Star Reading. Note that Performance Series and Star exams use different scales, so the exams are not directly comparable.
Spring administrations of the Performance Series were not required in later grades because they would coincide with the state test. The table below reports state test growth from 2014-2016. The state average is 65%.
What are plans to improve achievement and close learning gaps at the merged school?
The new merged school, if approved, would have three focal points to guide and enhance instruction for the 2017-2018 school year: Balanced Literacy, Writing across the Curriculum, and Data and Technology Use.
The Balanced Literacy program will focus on early literacy as well as the complete framework of a balanced literacy program. The literacy framework will consist of the following:
- Instructional activities that develop phonemic awareness. The phonemic awareness programs at the new school will include Orton-Gillingham (K-2), Fundations (3rd Grade) and Just Words (4th-5th grades).
- Reading a variety of interest-based informational and literary texts. This reading will take place through the teaching of the units of study, independent and small group reading time and through book studies.
- Building academic language (tier 2 and tier 3) to provide students access to complex concepts and ideas; 30/30/30 model with teaching pre-fixes, suffixes and root/base words during the literacy block.
- Short Cycle Assessment Initiative, which focuses on skills such as main idea, story structure, etc. that will provide a weekly spiral review on concepts that will be tested on the Georgia Milestones.
For Writing Across the Curriculum, the framework includes:
- A designated writing plan for Wednesdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, students will be introduced to the various forms of writing (Narrative, Informational/Explanatory, and Opinion).
- Writing from multiple sources, which is the Pre-K through 5th grade precursor to conducting research.
- Students will integrate technology by responding to writing prompts 2nd-5th grade on the computer and K-2 will have the same writing framework as 2nd-5th with turning in written responses based the rubric.
For Data and Technology Use, the new school will integrate computer and Internet technologies into literacy instruction. The school will monitor children’s early literacy development through ongoing classroom assessment and providing instruction based on the diagnostic information obtained, including appropriate instructional intervention to children who fall significantly behind (STAR Reading Study Island).
Additional supports include:
- Additional Spanish teacher to meet the standards of service for world language and to support the implementation of the IB signature program for the Mays Cluster.
- Additional PE teacher to support the health standards of service.
- EIP teachers for the reduced class size model and augmented model to meet the needs of students.
- Early literacy training with the Orton-Gillingham Program to assist teachers with preparing students to read. This program will be K-2 during the first year of the merger and 3rd-5th will be included the second year.
- Afterschool tutorial and morning remediation for students with specific reading and math deficits.
- Gifted teacher to push inside classrooms to service gifted students and assist with literacy and writing framework.
- Use of Title II funding to support the development of teacher capacity in the area of content knowledge and pedagogy.
Finally, the school will include a series of extracurricular programs including a debate team, a chess team, book clubs, a mentoring program for girls, Boy Scouts, a dance team, orchestra, a technology club and the Challenge 24 Club. The school will continue offering these programs from Adamsville Primary: Pep Squad, Distinguished Gentlemen and Tennis.
Will the principal or the district provide a transition plan at any of the upcoming public hearings?
The proposals are only under consideration at this time and have not been approved by the Board of Education. After board approval, the district and the principal will work on transition plans.
But with every closure, the district establishes a transition team, starting with the principal and the GO Teams of the impacted school. They will work together to determine who should be included on the team in supporting the students and families for a successful transition.
For past transitions, the district has hired external support to additional capacity to ensure smooth processes.
What is the status of the PTA?
If a school merges, the receiving school will be encouraged to include new families in that school’s PTA. With the creation of GO Teams, many are worried about the future and effectiveness of the PTA. The PTA can remain an effective support of schools if parents, teachers and other stakeholders continue to participate. The new GO Teams by no means are meant to dilute PTA members’ abilities to volunteer, contribute or weigh in on important school matters.
Where can parents get help with supporting their children?
The district’s Student Services provides numerous resources beyond our teachers to support children. Our parents and caregivers should get to know the counselors, social workers, nurses, and cluster mental health providers at their children's schools. Also, they should become fully engaged in the RTI/SST (Response to Intervention/Student Support Team) process from the beginning. Parents should be active attendees at any meetings, know of any planned interventions, and ask how to reinforce interventions in attendance, behavior and academics at home.
Our families of children in special education should strive for full attendance and active participation as a partner in every IEP meeting.
Parents and caregivers, with support staff and the teacher, can support the whole student so students have better outcomes long term.
Additionally, parents should ask the principal and the teacher what can be done at home to support social emotional learning. For example, the Pre-K-8 Second Step curriculum provides detailed information for home use directly aligned to in-school lessons. These aligned strategies and/or vocabulary for at home use are powerful.
What are the state and district guidelines for transportation?
The state requires a district to provide transportation for elementary, middle and high schools for those students living more than 1.5 miles from their home school.
APS transports elementary students when they live 1 mile or greater from the school; middle and high school students when they live 1.5 miles or greater.
Are there any pending charter school contracts for the Westside? How many charter schools are scheduled to open in APS for 2017-2018 and 2018-2019?
The Atlanta Board of Education has not approved any new contracts for charter schools for either school year. New applicants for charter schools to open in 2018-2019 must submit their applications by April 14, 2017. The administration will make any recommendations to the Board by June 2017.
Where can I find APS plans for these school changes?
Please visit http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/schoolchanges.
It is updated regularly and contains every presentation and supplementary materials related to proposed school model changes.
How will the district determine names of newly merged schools?
The Atlanta Board of Education recognizes that the selection of a name for a facility is a vital component of its public image and will ensure that the name selected will reflect honorably on APS and the community. For each new school, the board will create a five- to seven-member committee that would include a board member, an Atlanta City Council member and representatives from the Neighborhood Planning Unit, the school and parent groups.
Consideration will be given to names of local communities, neighborhoods, streets, landmarks and individuals who have made a significant contribution. Nominations will be accepted by the committee from individuals, organizations or board members. Names of individuals will be considered only after they have been deceased for five years.
For more information on Board Policy for Naming Facilities, visit Atlanta Board of Education BoardDocs at http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/Public.
Are the scenarios final and definite? How can I express my support or concern about any of the changes recommended for the Mays Cluster?
None of the potential changes are definite at this time. The earliest opportunity for the Board to act on any recommendations will be at its next meeting on Monday, March 6.
Community engagement has been an effective component throughout this process. In fact, the numerous changes made thus far to proposals for the future of Mays Cluster have been a direct result of interactions with students, educators, families, community members, clergy, partners and others.
Although the district and the Board have completed a series of community meetings and public hearings, the public can still reach out to:
- The primary and intermediate split between Adamsville and Miles creates a lack of coherence in academic planning and programming.