• Frequently Asked Questions

    High School Transformation

    Q: What is the difference between a small learning community and a small school?
     
    A: A small learning community consists of a group of students taught and supported by a dedicated group of teachers and staff in a small, personalized environment that’s focused on meeting the specific and unique needs of the students. It is an educational model that redesigns the traditional high school to enhance the delivery of a curriculum that is more rigorous, relevant and personalized for every student. A small school also provides this same personalized environment. However, it has its own principal, school budget, after-school programs, curricula, and unique culture.
     
    Q: When will the schools be open?
     
    A: In fall 2007, the campuses of South Atlanta and Therrell high schools will open three to four new small schools. In fall 2008, the campuses of Southside, Washington and Douglass high schools will open three to four new small schools or highly functioning small learning communities. In fall 2009, the campuses of Grady, North Atlanta and Mays high schools will open three to four new small schools or highly functioning small learning communities.

    Q: Will all grade levels be a part of the small schools?

    A: There will be a "phase-in" approach with the launching of the schools. Depending upon the current progress of the schools, either 9th graders or 9th and 10th graders will be a part of the small schools that will be launched in fall 2007.

    Q: What will happen to the 11th and 12th graders?

    A: The upperclassmen will be able to continue their programs of study. An instructional plan will be created specifically for these students to ensure that they are able to successfully complete their high school requirements and graduate.

    Q: What research was reviewed to make the decision to create small schools and/or small learning communities?

    A: National, state and local data has shown that our high school students are not receiving the level of rigorous, engaging instruction combined with intentional student support that will ensure their post-secondary success. We are losing between 30-40% of our students from the 9th to the 12th grade. Data was gathered from several sources such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Georgia Department of Education, Office of Student Achievement and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, we collected information from focus groups and interviews with APS students, parents, teachers, school leaders and district leaders. Lastly, extensive research was done in other school districts (i.e. Chicago, San Diego and New York) that have already begun the high school transformation process.

    Q: What is the anticipated enrollment for each small school?

    A: We anticipate that between 175-200 students will be enrolled in the small schools or small learning communities using the 9th and 10th grade "phase-in" approach. Each year, a cohort of 100 incoming 9th graders will be added to the small school until it has grades 9-12, with a maximum capacity of 400 students.

    Q: Will there be an application process for the students?

    A: Students zoned to South Atlanta and Therrell high schools will be able to attend the small schools when they are launched in fall 2007. Students will choose the small school they would like to attend in their zone. Every effort will be made to give students their first choice. If one of the small schools has a magnet program the application procedures currently used will still apply.

    Q: How will the sports program be affected by three to four small schools on one campus?

    A: Similar to the New Schools at Carver, the campus will continue to have one sports program accessible to all students. In other words, there will still be one football team, basketball team, softball team, track team, cheerleading squad, etc.

    Q: How will other extra-curricular activities (i.e. music/arts program) be affected by four small schools on one campus?

    A: Once the four principals are hired for the campus in fall 2006, they will collectively decide how the other extra-curricular activities will be handled for the campus as well as in the individual schools.

    Q: How will students with special needs be accommodated?

    A: Through the Program for Exceptional Children, the district will continue to ensure that students with special needs have the appropriate services and support to ensure a quality education as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students with Section 504 Plans will also be provided the required accommodations.

    Q: What opportunities will the students from different small schools have to interact with one another?

    A: Students from different schools will have an opportunity to interact with one another via extra-curricular activities and campus-wide intramural activities.

    Q: Do current teachers have first priority in interviewing?

    A: All teachers who possess the necessary credentials and certifications will have an opportunity to apply as a teacher in one of the small schools. Current teachers will have an advantage in this process because they will have an opportunity to either participate in or be updated by the Campus’ Pre-Planning Advisory Taskforce.

    Q: What is a "managed" curriculum?

    A: A managed curriculum is a research-based curriculum that will provide teachers and school leaders with specific modules/units, resources and materials that are aligned with the Georgia Performance Standards and that will provide a clear framework for the content being taught.

    Q: What is the "library of themes"?

    A: The "library of themes" will be a menu of high-impact themes the Campus Pre-Planning Advisory Taskforce will use to recommend the thematic focus of the small schools. The district-approved "library of themes" will be supported by data compiled using labor market projections, surveys of the community’s interests/needs, and research provided by organizations such as Workforce Atlanta, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Georgia Department of Labor.

    Q: What is an intermediary partner?

    A: An intermediary partner is an organization that will support our planning process, curriculum development, leadership development and overall development of our small schools or highly functioning small learning communities. These organizations will be chosen based upon their expertise and experience with supporting other districts and schools in establishing small, personalized environments.

    Q: What will the planning process look like? Who will be involved?

    A: Planning for the transformation of South Atlanta and Therrell high schools into small schools will begin in the spring 2006. The planning process will begin with a Campus Pre-Planning Advisory Taskforce. This Taskforce will consist of the current principal, current teachers, parents, students, business partners, community organizations, intermediary partners, district leaders and other key stakeholders. This group will focus on collecting data from the school and community to assess needs and interests. The data will be used to inform the selection of three themes for the small schools using the "library of themes."

    The second phase of the planning will begin when principals for the small schools are hired in the early fall of 2006. A principal-led design team will be created for each school on the campus. This team will be instrumental in creating a detailed plan for the concept and vision of the school, curriculum, programs of study and potential business partners.

    Q: What if a student wants to change from one school to another on the campus?

    A: All of the schools will have a rigorous college-prep curriculum supported by engaging and relevant instruction. The theme of the school is simply a "hook" and not the driver. Therefore, students will not be allowed to change schools after enrollment. There will be multiple opportunities for 8th grade students and parents to receive detailed information regarding the mission, vision and expectations of each school. Parents are strongly encouraged to participate in these information/orientation sessions so that an informed choice can be made.

    Q: Will the students physically be separated by schools?

    A: No. The small schools will be organized into identified sections of the main campus.

    Q: Will current facilities be changed to accommodate small schools or small learning communities?

    A: Because South Atlanta High will temporarily relocate to the Archer Building, the South Atlanta High community will have the unique opportunity to inform the designers regarding facilities needs specific to its proposed small schools. For the other high schools, the district will take into consideration the current facilities as possible themes for the small schools or small learning communities are identified.