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    General Questions

    1.      What are School System Operating Models and Flexibility Options?

    • School System Operating Models and Flexibility Options refer to the state law that requires all school systems in Georgia to select one of three “flexibility options” by June 30, 2015.
    • These operating models and flexibility options are: 1) Investing in Educational Excellence System (also known as IE2); 2) Charter System, and 3) Status Quo System. Both IE2 and the Charter System offer school districts flexibility from certain state rules and regulations in exchange for greater accountability.

    2.      What are the available School System Operating Models and Flexibility Options?

    • Under the IE2 option, a local district has a performance contract with the SBOE (State Board of Education) granting the district freedom from specific Title 20 provisions, SBOE rules, and GaDOE (Georgia Department of Education) guidelines.
    • Under IE2, the district must seek at least one of the "Big Four" waivers: class size; expenditure control; certification; or salary schedule. Also, with this option, the school system may maximize school level governance by granting local schools authority to determine how to reach goals – but no change is required.
    • Under the Charter System option, a school district has an executed charter from the SBOE granting it freedom from almost all of Title 20, SBOE rules, and GaDOE guidelines. Additional per‐pupil funding in QBE is possible, if it is appropriated. Charter Systems must implement school level governance.
    • Under the Status Quo option, a local district elects not to request the flexibility provided under the IE2 and Charter System options. This means that the system will remain under all current laws, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, limiting its ability to implement innovation and losing the benefit of current waivers.

    3.      What does “flexibility and innovation” mean?

    • Flexibility is the ability to waive out of some of the Title 20 rules and regulations. Because APS would not have to follow every rule and regulation we would have the ability to implement some innovations that would best help our system improve student achievement.

    4.      What is Title 20?

    • Title 20 refers to Georgia Education Laws and all related rules and guidelines. The IE2 option and the Charter System option offer some freedoms from Title 20.

    5.      How will choosing a flexibility option change our school district?

    • Choosing a flexibility option would allow APS to be more innovative and creative with the ability to waive some state and local rules/guidelines that could make our schools more effective and efficient.
    • The specific details of how the system would change would be contained in the application to the state for the flexibility option which has not yet been determined.

    6.      When will APS decide which School System Operating Model and Flexibility Option is right for us?

    • Based on stakeholders’ input and a thorough review of the elements associated with the state’s recommended operating models, including, but not limited to, waivers from Title 20, fiscal impact, school governance implications, accountability and performance considerations, and consequences, the School System Operating Model and Flexibility Advisory Committee will develop an executive summary for the Superintendent. The summary will outline advantages, disadvantages, and possible courses of action.
    • The superintendent will review the executive summary and make a presentation to the Board of Education.
    • If we choose to apply for flexibility, the superintendent will outline a timeline for submission to get the application approved by July 1, 2015.  We anticipate that a decision could be made by November 2014.

    7.      What flexibility options have other districts chosen?

    • The state has approved three (3) IE2 districts. They are Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, and Rabun County.
    • The state has approved 28 charter systems. They include Dawson County, Barrow County, City Schools of Decatur, Fulton County, Marietta City Schools and Gainesville City Schools.

    8.      Can APS change the School System Operating Model and Flexibility Option once it has been selected?

    • Once we pick a model, we have the option to change course at any point in time. However, Atlanta Public Schools would have to re-start the application process.
    • The models that involve contracts with the state (IE2 and Charter System) generally begin with an initial 5-year term, after which the district may choose to apply for renewal or select another model.

    9.      Can you give an example of the flexibility that a waiver might support?

    • As one example of how the flexibility that a waiver offers, the teacher certification waiver could be used to allow districts to hire highly qualified, but non-certified teachers. For example, a middle school might hire an engineer without a teaching certificate to teach an advanced mathematics course.

    10.   What was the process and criteria for choosing the Advisory Committee?  Why didn’t APS ask for nominations? 

    • The Advisory Committee includes community members, school principals, teachers, district staff members, and students.
    • Members appointed by the school board represent each educational district.
    • The Advisory Committee also includes representation from neighborhood groups—these members were nominated by the leaders of the various neighborhood groups.
    • Principals representing elementary, middle, high and charter schools were nominated.
    • Central office employees are on the committee who represent major divisions within the organization were appointed by the administration. 
    • To ensure that we hear our student and teacher voices, the current APS Teachers of the Year and two student representatives are also on the committee.

     11.   Is the Advisory Committee partial to any of the models at this point?

    • No decision has been made about an Operating Model. Members have different opinions about the advantages and challenges of each option.  In fact, many of the questions that parents and community members have asked in the listening sessions are the same questions that have been raised, as part of our Advisory Committee meetings.  Advisory Committee members have kept an open mind, as they have received information from the Georgia Department of Education, surrounding districts and other presenters during the Advisory Committee meetings. The Superintendent has also been very transparent about this process and has indicated on several occasions that a decision has not been made regarding a model.  

     12.   Have Advisory Committee members spoken to districts that have already selected a model to see what the thought process and conversation was?

    • Representatives from Fulton Co (Charter System) & Gwinnett Co (IE2) have presented to and fielded questions from the Advisory Committee. All presentations made during the Advisory Committee meetings can be found on the APS website: www.atlantapublicschools.us/flexibility. Video and audio links for each of these presentations are available on the website.

    13.   Will there still be traditional schools and charter schools, or will they all be one way or the other?

    • It depends on the model chosen whether the distinctions remain the same.  Under the Charter System and IE2 options, there is the potential that the level of autonomy for "traditional" neighborhood schools would increase, reducing the differences between them and charter schools. Charter schools will be invited to join the district charter if the Charter System model is chosen. If the charter schools accept, they will let go of their individual charter with the state and would operate under the district charter. If they choose to remain independent, they will continue to operate as they do now.

    14.   Will there be a web site where all the information and presentations from the Advisory Committee will be posted and accessible?

    15.   Will we get the waiver information before the proposal is submitted to the state? Will the waivers APS seeks be known to the public?

    • As part of the process for selecting the Operating Model and/or Flexibility Option, APS would conduct at least one public hearing. During the hearing(s), the details of the application would be provided to the public. As part of the IE2 application, the district would have to specify the waivers that are requested. As part of the Charter System application, the district is required to outline the local school governance and how it would use broad flexibility to improve student academic achievement. However, the district is not required to outline in specific details all of the waivers that would be requested, as part of the application process.  

    16.   What waivers does APS currently have?

    • APS currently uses the class size, expenditure control, and required staffing waivers.

    17.   Is this requirement likely to change if the Governor and/or State School Superintendent changes?

    • The law would have to change for the requirement to change. The General Assembly has given strong signals that they do not plan to make changes to this requirement in the coming session, which begins in January.

    18.   Does APS have someone evaluating how our current practices align with each Operating Model? APS should develop a "matrix of congruency of current practice.”

    • The perspective of the board is that we should use this time to consider where we want the district to be in 5 - 10 years and how best to get there. The model selection will not be based upon a best fit to our current way of operating but a best fit to our vision of how we want to operate in order to create the best outcomes for children. The Advisory Committee is providing to the superintendent an outline of advantages and disadvantages of each model.

    19.   What role is the Mayor/City of Atlanta playing in this and to what degree?

    • As a stakeholder, the Mayor and the City Council are welcomed to share their thoughts, excitement, concerns, and questions through our community engagement process for selecting a model, however, as outlined by the Georgia Department of Education, the school system’s Board of Education must vote and make the decision regarding our operating model. 

    20.   Why is the state forcing this system change?

    • After hearing years of feedback from school districts that the regulations and compliance requirements of the state law and rules were getting in the way of districts innovating and improving, the General Assembly created options that allow school districts to have more flexibility and autonomy so that school systems could be more innovative, as they strive to increase student achievement.
    • After creating these options, the legislature put the June 30, 2015 deadline into the law to require school systems to consider their options and make a choice.

    21.   Can you provide examples and metrics from other districts that have implemented? How have they performed since implementation compared to prior performance?

    • Unfortunately, the options are relatively new and different from what other states are doing, so the data are limited. The state has studied the first four districts that chose Charter System status. Of the four, three of those districts have shown significant improvement. One district experienced a performance dip but appears to be rebounding, according to Lou Erste from the Georgia Department of Education. The DOE has also begun to study the impact of charter system on 16 additional districts and several IE2 districts, but those results will not be available for some time.

    22.   Is “college-style delivery” a lecture class?

    • Yes, that is part of what we mean when we use the term, with the addition of small lab/discussion classes during the week to support student inquiry and facilitate learning. This complete set of classes makes up the term "college style delivery." The example of college-style delivery was one way that a specific school in another district chose to exercise one of its waivers.

    23.   What credentials would “content expert” teachers have to have to teach?

    • If we choose an Operating Model that allowed us to waive certification, we would be able to hire content experts who are not certified. However, they must still be "highly qualified"—highly qualified teachers meet requirements such as successfully completing a specific number of college courses in the content area and holding a college degree.

    24.   How will APS assess progress?

    • APS will still be required to take all of the state required exams. APS will still earn College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) scores, no matter which Operating Model is chosen. APS also uses a number of other measures of progress such as our students’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which we participate in voluntarily through the Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). We will continue to compare our progress to other districts, the state, and the nation.

     25.   What is the APS administration leaning toward and why?

    • The APS administration is reviewing all models at this time.  We are listening to the feedback and questions from stakeholders and providing the community, stakeholders, central office and school leaders as well as the advisory committee with opportunities to learn from the state and surrounding districts who have adopted a model.
    • After the information is reviewed and considered, the Superintendent will make a recommendation to the Board of Education.  The Board of Education will make the final approve the selected option.

    26.   If a class size waiver increases the number of students in a room, how will that help with academic success when research supports smaller class sizes and a focus on social/emotional growth?

    • While research shows that reducing class sizes is not correlated with significant gains in student achievement, especially when compared with the cost, class size waivers would only be used strategically to support student achievement.
    • The class size waiver would allow APS to redirect funds to offer services such as smaller remedial classes, more social workers, behavior specialists, graduation coaches, Student Support Team coordinators, and other additional support services.

    27.    Why is the timeline so short?

    • Prior to the arrival of our superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the district was not in a position to fully address the topic. A decision was made to wait until our new Superintendent and board members were in place. The state has communicated to all districts that have not made a decision to do so ASAP in order to ensure adequate operational planning and allow submittal prior to June 30, 2015. Most applications take at least 3 to 8 months from review to approval. So far, approximately 31 school districts have chosen an Operating Model. At last glance, approximately 95 districts are in the process of making a decision.
    28.   What is a salary structure waiver?  Can you implement pay for performance under a salary structure waiver?
    • Georgia law requires the State Board of Education to establish a state salary schedule along with information on how personnel qualify for different levels of the state salary schedule. A waiver of this salary schedule and related SBOE qualifying criteria allows a school district to allocate the money it earns from state and local tax dollars to teachers based on different criteria established by the school district. A pay for performance structure could be utilized under a salary structure waiver.  

    29.   Since the first two models require a five year contract with the state, does this mean the whole process has to happen again every five years?
    • Toward the conclusion of the first five-year term for either charter systems or IE2 systems, the district will have to reenter negotiations with the state if the district wishes to renew its status as either flexibility model.  a renewal petition for charter systems will likely be required by the state to justify the award of flexibility for accountability.  For and IE2 system, updated plans and strategic aims for both the district and schoollevel will likely to be required to jusify the award of flexibility for accountability. 

    IE2

    30.  What is the IE2 model?

    • Under the IE2 option, a local district has a performance contract with the SBOE (State Board of Education) granting the district freedom from specific Title 20 provisions, SBOE rules, and GaDOE (Georgia Department of Education) guidelines.
    • Under IE2, the district must seek at least one of the "Big Four" waivers: class size, expenditure control, certification, or salary schedule.
    • Also, with this option, the school system may choose to maximize school level governance by granting local schools authority to determine how to reach goals – but no change is required.

    31.  What type of flexibility is available under the IE2 option?

    • Examples of flexibility may include:
      • Customizing a school’s offerings (new arts program, language instruction)
      • Waiving class size to allow for college-style delivery
      • Seat-time requirements to adjust pacing of content/material
      • Early release for additional Professional Development
      • Waiver of seat-time requirements to let students explore internships, dual enrollment, etc.
      • Course credit through content mastery (non-EOCT)
      • Hiring content experts for teachers
      • ELL or Gifted service models other than the state programs

    32.  Can you choose more than one waiver under the IE2 option?

    • Yes. You must choose at least one of the "Big Four" waivers which are teacher certification, class size, expenditure control, and salary schedule.
    • Districts may choose more than one "Big Four" waiver, and districts may also choose waivers of other Title 20 statutes and state board rules such as staffing required, seat time or school year.
    • Accountability targets are set proportionately to the level of flexibility the district requests in the IE2 application.

    33.  If schools and the state choose outcome measures and the schools don’t meet the measures and as a result an outside entity takes over control of the school, would the “take over” entity be held to the same level of accountability as the district? What will be the impact of these failing schools on district accreditation?

    • It is unclear what level of accountability would be required of the "outside entity." To date, the state has not given a school to an outside entity, though Governor Deal recently proposed the idea of starting a Recovery School District, similar to those in Lousiana and Tennessee. The contract between the state and the take-over entity would outline what the performance measures would be. The measures would have to comply with state accountability requirements. District accreditation would not be affected.

    34.  Would waivers requested/granted apply to every school in a district?

    • Under IE2, the district decides which waivers to apply to each school. The waivers are held by the district, not at the school-level.

    35.  Can teacher hiring and firing be waived? Is it one of the waivers that can be requested with if we choose the IE2 model?

    • Due Process is a legal concept and requires that the legal rights of individuals must be respected and cannot be waived. The parts of Title 20 that govern employee dismissal, but DO NOT include due process, may be waived. In other words, the “Fair Dismissal” portions of the law may be waived, but the district must have an alternate plan for providing Due Process.

    36.   What would be the increased/decreased costs for the IE2 model?

    • The increased/decreased cost of implementing the IE2 model cannot be determined without knowing the waivers that would be requested and how those waivers would be used.

    37.   Who would set performance measures for each grade, subject, and school, and what would be the means of assessment?

    • The Governor's Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) will set the performance measures, the means of assessment will be analysis of the results of the GA Milestones in each grade and subject, by school. Other measures would include metrics such as attendance and graduation rates.
    • GOSA and GaDOE have agreed to a structure that sets targets and provides for a “second look” if schools do not meet their targets.
    • These accountability measures are the same for all schools no matter the number of waivers requested by the District.

    38.   What happens once a school is taken over and doesn’t perform? Does it impact accreditation?

    • The school may be given to another district, managed by the state or given to a private or non-profit entity to be managed as a charter school.
    • The SBOE shall mandate the loss of governance of one or more of an IE2 System’s nonperforming schools…Such loss of governance may include, but shall not be limited to:
        1. Convert a school to charter status with independent school level governance and a governance board with  strong parent involvement;
        2. Operation of a school by a successful school system, as defined by GOSA, and pursuant to funding criteria established by the SBOE; or
        3. Operation of a school by a private entity, nonprofit or for profit, pursuant to a request for proposals issued by the Department.
    • In addition to the loss of governance options specified in the statute that could be imposed at the end of the IE2 contract term,  the following options for loss of governance could be implemented during or at the conclusion of the IE2 contract erms.  Note that the numbering continues from the list above.  
    1. Non performing schools could have governance reduced by being required to submit a remedial aciton plan for LBOE approval before the school can implement necessary changes.
      • For this option, the District could specify the general reuirements such a plan must meet or let the school subit a draft based on its own analysis.
    2. The school could be required to make leadership and faculty/staff changes, including replacing leaders/faculty/staff and/or an aggressive professional development program.
    3. The school could be required to implement reconstitution if necessary to ensure performance improvements.
    4. The school could be required to develop individual student achievement plans and implement programs such as after school and/or Saturday tutoring programs that provide additional time on task in subject areas specified in the individual plans.
    5. Other options for loss of governance not listed above that address that specific reasons for a school's failure to meet its targets could be proposed in and IE2 application.

    39.   Can we learn what worked from Gwinnett County and apply their experience to the state regulations?

    40.  If the IE2 model is chosen by the board, how will the community stay involved and support the process during the implementation?

    • If the BOE chooses to implement the IE2 model, during the application writing phase we would engage the community in a series of information sessions and public hearings.

     

    Charter System

    41.  What is the Charter System model?

    • Under the Charter System option, a school district has an executed charter from the SBOE granting it freedom from almost all of Title 20, SBOE rules, and GaDOE guidelines. Additional per‐pupil funding in QBE is possible, if it is appropriated. Charter Systems must implement school level governance.

    42.  What type of flexibility is available under the Charter System model?

    • Examples of flexibility may include:
      • Customizing a school’s offerings (new arts program, language instruction)
      • Waiving class size to allow for college-style delivery
      • Seat-time requirements to adjust pacing of content/material
      • Early release for additional Professional Development
      • Waiver of seat-time requirements to let students explore internships, dual enrollment, etc.
      • Course credit through content mastery (non-EOCT)
      • Hiring content experts for teachers
      • Non-traditional ELL or Gifted programs

    43.  A bullet point under Charter System states there will be school level governance. Will the current requirement for 51% parent representation still be the same?

    • The local school council requirements are not a part of the legislation. However, while the district must design the composition of the governance teams, before approving the application, the state will weigh-in on all the application's elements, including parental composition of the governance team if it does not meet their standard (which is unknown).

    44.  Would waivers requested apply to every school in a district?

    • Under Charter System the district decides which waivers to apply to each school. The waivers are held by the district or cluster-level, not at the school-level.

    45.  Can teacher hiring and firing be waived? Is it one of the waivers that can be requested with if we choose the Charter System model?

    • Due Process is a legal concept and requires that the legal rights of individuals must be respected and cannot be waived. The parts of Title 20 that govern employee dismissal, but DO NOT include due process, may be waived. In other words, the “Fair Dismissal” portions of the law may be waived, but the district must have an alternate plan for providing Due Process.

    46.  What would be the increased/decreased costs for the Charter System model?

    • The increased/decreased cost of implementing the Charter System model cannot be determined without knowing how we would use the waivers granted. Under the Charter System model the district is eligible to receive extra funds of approximately $4 million annually, if appropriated in the state budget.

     47.  Under the Charter System are waivers granted across the school system? 

    • Under a charter system, the district has broad flexibility to implement waivers at the district and at the individual school level. The district would work with individual schools to best apply those waivers that are needed. 

     48.  Is the school governance at the local school or the system level?

    • Governance will be shared between the school-level and district-level. There is a local school governance team which has autonomy in terms of how they use their discretionary budget as well as playing a role in the selection of the principal. There is still governance at the district level. DOE expects significant parent and teacher participation on the teams.  

    49.  Can a Charter System be run by a non-profit or for-profit entity?

    • A Charter System is run by a superintendent and a Board. The structure of governance does not change at the system level, but does change at the school level. The superintendent is still responsible for the schools within the system, and she shares authority with them in a number of critical areas.

    50.   If the Charter System model is chosen by the board, how will the community stay involved and support the process during the implementation?

    • If the BOE chooses to implement this model, during the application writing phase we would engage the community in information sessions and public hearings.
    51.   What is the difference between the Charter System and the System of Charter Schools
    • In Charter System, the district retains overall authority while distributing autonomy in certain critical innovation areas (curriculum, personnel, operations, etc) to each Charter System school. Each Charter System school still falls under the umbrella of the school district (the LEA), which means it is not a party to the charter system contract with the state and won't be held accountable on an individual basis to the goals listed in the Charter System contract. Charter System schools are not separate legal entities from the district itself. In a System of Charter Schools, each school in a school district would write its own charter petition to convert to a charter school and would be responsible as a separate legal entity for the goals that would be included in a charter contract between itself, the school district, and the state.
    • A System of Charter Schools can have some central office involvement, but a much higher degree of independence and autonomy must be present in each of the charter schools. Simply put, a System of Charter Schools is a loose federation of charter schools operating as individual corporations with optional central office involvement while a Charter System is a school district operating as a district under a flexibility contract for increased accountability and distributed autonomy in certain areas to each school to foster innovation.  
    52.  Would there be yearly milestones to meet under the Charter System operating model?   
    • Every year, the Charter System has to report its progress on its goals and objectives to the State Board of Education in an annual report format. Ultimately, the Charter System will be held accountable to meeting its goals by the end of the Charter System contract term.
    53.   How long does APS have to reach the performance measures under Charter System operating models?
    • APS would have to meet its goals by the end of the Charter System contract. If annual goals or objectives are agreed upon, APS's performance as a Charter System each year on those goals or objectives will be monitored through the annual report. 

    Status Quo

    54.  What is the Status Quo model?

    • Under the Status Quo option, a local district elects not to request the flexibility provided under the IE2 and Charter System options. This means that the system will remain under all current laws, rules, regulations, policies, and procedures, limiting its ability to implement innovation and losing the benefit of current waivers.

    55.  What type of flexibility is available under the Status Quo model?

    • Status quo has no flexibility options. The class size and expenditure control waivers may be granted if the state believes there are extraordinary circumstances or an unexpected hardship.

    56.  What would be the increased/decreased costs for the Status Quo model?

    •  

    57.  Would the Status Quo System be the “same old way”, as far as parent’s involvement duties, teacher’s duties, etc.?

    • The Status Quo System would not have to be "the same old way." APS would still have the opportunity to make changes in policy, procedures, expectations, etc. Governance at the school level would continue to reflect the Local School Council model.

    58.  If the Status Quo model is chosen by the board, how will the community stay involved and support the process during the implementation?

    • The community input will continue through current mechanisms – PTA, Local School Councils and partnerships with the district and local schools.

    59.  Could Atlanta Public Schools chose the Status Quo model, further analyze the choices and make a decision a year down the line? 

    • While this could change, it is APS's current understanding that it could choose status quo and pursue charter system or IE squared status at some point in the future, but APS would lose its currently utilized waivers in the interim period.

    Other

    60.  If APS chose to pursue a System of Charter Clusters, could APS allow some school clusters to be charter and some not?

    • Given that APS would need to submit a system application for all district schools, under the System of Charter Clusters model, this would require that APS submit an application for each cluster within the system.
    • All of the schools within a feeder pattern would work together and gain consensus and submit a plan and application for this model. The process would involve each cluster holding votes of the parents/guardians and the faculties and writing a roughly 100 page application for charter status independently. Each cluster would have the ability to structure itself in the way it feels most appropriate.
    • For APS, development of individualized plans for each of the clusters would not be practical for all nine clusters. It is more feasible for the system to propose a systemic approach that addresses the needs of all schools.
    61.   Is there a system that is currently using the cluster-based model (System of Charter Clusters)?
    • No. Neither the Single Charter Cluster modeld not the System of Charter Cluster model has been approved by a chool district or the state Board of Education as of yet.
    62.   How would APS accommodate the diversity of the Atlanta system in the System of Charter Schools or the System of Charter Clusters?
    • Both the System of Charter Schools and the System of Charter Clusters would require a grassroots effort at each school and cluster respectively within the district to draft their own petitions and plans for how to utilize charter status. APS as a centrally operated entity would not and could not drive either of these reform-based models because they both depend on the initiation and pursuit at the school and cluster levels respectively across the district.

     



    Operating Models and Flexibility Options Summary Chart