FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Why is Atlanta Public Schools considering school model changes within the Douglass Cluster?
While Douglass had a legacy of high performance, the cluster has faced many challenges over past two decades:
- Declining enrollment due to:
- Closing of properties & apartment communities
- Economic downturn and high rates of foreclosures
- Change in school zones
- Phase-out of engineering program
- Availability of more choices for families without a strategy (charters, single-gender schools, etc.)
- Under-enrolled schools/inefficient buildings
- Cluster currently uses only 5,712 seats out of 12,225 available
- 7% utilization rate
- Leadership transitions, especially at Douglass High, have created challenges in recruiting and retaining talent
- Lagging Douglass Cluster performance – only two of 11 schools scored above 60 on the state College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI)
2. What scenarios are under consideration as Atlanta Public Schools explores mergers/consolidations/partnerships in the Douglass Cluster?
After weeks of public engagement and work from the new Douglass Cluster Steering Committee, two scenarios have emerged as leading options for school model changes in the Douglass Cluster. At the Board of Education meeting on Monday, Feb. 6, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen presented this recommendation:
- Scenario 1 – BEST and CSK moved onto one campus (the CSK building), where they will offer grades 6-12 single-gender instruction.
- Scenario 2 – Close BEST and CSK, and offer grades 9-12 single-gender academies within Douglass High School. There would no longer be single-gender middle schools.
- Both scenarios: Phase out the closure of Harper-Archer Middle and create a new middle school at the BEST or CSK building; close Fain and Towns and open a new elementary at the renovated Harper-Archer building; and open a new Woodson Park with a partner.
None of these potential changes are definite at this time.
3. What other potential partnerships is the district considering for the Douglass Cluster?
The Emerald Corridor Foundation has presented APS with an opportunity to leverage planned $18.5 million E-SPLOST investment into a major revitalization proposal.
The proposal involves new construction that would include a new PreK-8 Woodson Park Academy (managed by an operating partner, but retaining the neighborhood school status in which all kids from Woodson Park Academy would be enrolled)), a new YMCA and a health care center.
Such a proposal suggests using the $18.5 million in SPLOST dollars along with about $15 million for the YMCA center and another $20 million of other construction. Emerald Corridor has been aligning funders with such a proposal.
As such a model would be highly dependent upon philanthropic support, the district has engaged in discussions with potential funders about an educational model in which they would be willing to invest. KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools appears to be the only partner that funders would be willing to support with such a venture.
KIPP, which operates seven successful charter schools in APS and has approximately 650 students in the Douglass cluster on its waiting list, is interested in being the education provider for Woodson Park Academy as a partner school. This means that unlike charter schools in which students are admitted through a random lottery, in a partnership school model, Woodson Park would remain a neighborhood school as KIPP would serve every student in the Woodson Park attendance zone.
Should APS decline to enter into such a partnership with the Emerald Corridor, the foundation could enter into an agreement with an education operating partner without APS guidance, approval or oversight.
The district is also in discussions with other potential partners that could support Douglass HS and/or BEST/CSK, depending upon the final scenario. The Douglass Cluster could possibly be the home of the district’s first Junior Achievement MBA Academy, an innovative school model, designed to provide rigorous standards-based education infused with career-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills. There is also an interest in finding an early college partner for the cluster, which could provide students with increased opportunities for accessing college courses while in high school.
4. What is the rationale for making these specific changes?
We have many reasons to consider the Douglass Cluster proposal:
- BEST and CSK are significantly under-enrolled; merging onto one campus will create a more efficient model while maintaining single-gender option
- Harper-Archer MS is significantly underperforming; re-setting the culture by growing a new middle school one grade at a time will allow for the strategic creation of a new model
- Fain and Towns are significantly under-enrolled and require capital investments; merging into a newly renovated Harper-Archer building will provide greater opportunity to strengthen elementary experience in newly renovated building
- Launching Woodson Park Academy on a new campus with a comprehensive revitalization effort will provide students with access to early childhood programming, a YMCA and a health clinic
- KIPP, a leading partner, has a strong track record of performance in Atlanta and significant waiting list of families in the Douglass Cluster. KIPP will be able to attract funding support for the comprehensive approach with the Emerald Corridor Foundation
- Finally, APS is committed to finding solutions that ultimately strengthen the Douglass HS feeder pattern with the ultimate goal of creating a high performing high school at Douglass HS.
5. What will happen to GO Teams already formed at impacted schools?
Presently, GO Teams at all APS schools, including those at schools under consideration for model changes, are moving forward with planning and budgeting. District leaders are working through plans about how GO Teams of impacted schools should merge should APS move forward with any school model changes.
6. What happened to the K-7 and K-8 models that were considered at one point?
Although the district recognizes the potential benefits that could be created in an expanded elementary school environment, after the concept was presented to the Douglass Cluster on Wednesday, Jan. 25, the community failed to generate significant interest as a potential new design for the cluster.
7. What programs or efforts make you optimistic for Douglass?
We have many bright spots for Douglass as we move forward with the APS mission, vision, strategic plan and turnaround strategy.
- Launched partnership with the Rollins Center for Language & Literacy (with Atlanta Speech School) at all elementary schools ($1M in grants)
- Implemented School Improvement Grant for Douglass HS ($4M+)
- Implemented new curricular resources across the cluster including units of study and a balanced assessment system
- Worked with community in developing a cluster plan and aligned on STEM as signature theme; have begun implementing requirements for schools to work towards STEM certification
- Implemented turnaround strategy, with a primary focus on elementary schools within the cluster
- Selected several new principals who are showing promise
- Douglass HS has seen significant growth in graduation rates with a 10.1-percentage-point gain in 2016 for a 68.8 percent graduation rate
8. Are the scenarios final and definite? How can I express my support or concern about any of the changes recommended for the Douglass 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 Douglass Cluster have been a direct result of interactions with students, educators, families, community members, clergy, partners and others. We have also been working with the recently formed Douglass Cluster Steering Committee. Members include:
In addition to the community meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9, at Coretta Scott King, the Board has scheduled two public hearings:
- 6 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 22, at BEST Academy
- 6 p.m., Monday, Feb. 27, at CSK
- Declining enrollment due to: