Frequently Asked Questions for Carver Cluster
What are the goals for the Carver Cluster?
After extensive community engagement, the Carver Cluster created a mission and vision for its schools and adopted College and Career Readiness as its signature theme. Using the 21st Century Learning Framework and the Collaboration for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to inform our education approach, all students will be college and career ready. With a focus on educating the whole child, students will experience a rigorous instructional program and receive the necessary supports to be successful in high school and life. Students will begin to gain college credit or an industry certificate of value while still in high school.
Through a culture of collaboration, respect and trust, the Carver Cluster will enhance and strengthen its overall academic programs while maintaining a safe and nurturing environment that prepares students for college and careers
Produce high-performing, college and career ready students that are globally aware and ready to have a positive impact on society
Carver Cluster Plan
The Carver community set these priorities for the cluster as aligned to the district’s 5-year Strategic Plan:
- Mastery of core content knowledge
- Improve literacy and numeracy skills
- Provide integrated learning experiences for students that drives exposure, expression and global awareness
- Prepare all students for college and career
- Talent Management:
- Improve teacher quality and improve delivery of instruction
- Expand professional learning opportunities for teachers to better develop college and career ready students
- Systems and Resources:
- Maximize and align partnerships to support cluster needs
- Provide increased learning time opportunities that offer customized instruction
- Address social and emotional needs of students
The operating partners will also bring their own academic themes into the schools they manage. For example, Purpose Built offers STEAM, an integrated curriculum that coordinates the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics through problem solving, discovery and exploratory project/problem-based learning.
Why did the district bring in partners to help with turnaround in the Carver Cluster?
Because of the effort to turnaround Atlanta Public Schools, the district has taken on a lot of work. But we know that we do not have the capacity to do all of the turnaround work within the district on our own. We needed strong, experienced education partners to help us with some of the heaviest lifting and in some cases, actually lead the work.
We chose them for their efficient, effective systems already embedded in a sound organizational structure with a healthy culture.
Current turnaround partners include:
- The Rensselaerville Institute’s School Turnaround program, a leadership development initiative designed to assist principals to achieve rapid improvement at 10 low-achieving schools, which includes work at Adamsville, Continental Colony, Finch, Kimberly, Perkerson and Peyton Forest elementary schools; Miles Intermediate School; Sylvan and Young middle schools; and Carver High School. On March 6, 2017, the Board approved adding five more schools to the program.
- The Kindezi Schools, which runs two successful charter schools in Atlanta and has offered to operate Gideons Elementary School.
- Purpose Built Schools which is a partner organization with Charles R. Drew Charter School in Atlanta, began operating Thomasville Heights Elementary this school year. They will begin operating Slater Elementary and Price Middle during the 2017-2018 school year and then Carver High School in the 2018-2019 school year.
How does the district pay the turnaround partners, specifically Purpose Built Schools and the Kindezi Schools?
Per contracts, each school’s costs are based on per pupil allocation consistent with the former school’s allocation with the addition of turnaround resources that all turnaround schools are receiving. These partners also are able to raise money independently and implement their design built on a brand that they’ve created.
Some of these operators have been able to show how they use our per-pupil allocation and, when necessary, bring class sizes down to 8:1 and double and sometimes triple instructional support in classrooms. They have even been able to add early childhood programming, which has been a priority issue for the district.
They add a complement of wraparound support. Even a small school could have six full time support positions such as a social worker, counselor, parent liaison, nurse, an opportunity gap specialist and a strategic partnerships coordinator.
What has Purpose Built Schools accomplished at Thomasville Heights?
Thomasville Heights currently educates about 395 students, a steady count from the 385 students that were enrolled in the school last fall. Purpose Built has been focused on a student stability plan to keep kids in school at Thomasville and to matriculate to Price Middle, which will be operated by Purpose Built as of the 2017-2018 school year. To build a sense of community, Purpose Built has launched an initiative to recruit the 52 families who live within the school’s attendance zone but choose to attend a charter school or out-of-zone school.
- Purpose Built added 32 additional full-time instructors over last year, reducing the student-teacher ratio to 6:1.
- The school increased enrichment time from 90 minutes per week to 450 minutes per week. Students attend two daily enrichment classes that include art, band, chorus, Spanish, dance, technology, robotics and PE.
- The school provides small-group Tier 3 literacy and math instruction daily through two Literacy Centers and two Math Centers. The Literacy Centers serve 198 K-5 students, and the Math Centers serve 174 K-5 students. This arrangement is double the capacity of the Drew Charter School program (on which it is based).
Social and Emotional Learning
- The school has reduced suspensions by 70% over last year.
- Through a partnership with Chris 180, the school has employed a full-time family therapist, who currently works with 15 families. It is expanding the partnership to include a behavioral therapist, as well.
- 57% of Pre-K students met end-of-year requirements by January.
- The school has received applications from 52 families for Pre-K next year and intends to add a second class to accommodate demand.
- The parents formed a PTA for the first time in recent memory. The group currently has 30 members.
- The school established a GO Team. In the election, 73 Thomasville Heights parents voted – the highest parent participation in the Carver Cluster.
- Attendance at parent-teacher conferences increased from fewer than 10 parents/guardians in October to 64 in February.
Community Support Program
Purpose Built has taken steps toward a comprehensive Community Support Plan designed to impact those external factors that have an impact on student outcomes. The Community Support Program currently includes:
- Six full-time support positions – Social Worker, Counselor, Parent Liaison, Registered Nurse, Opportunity Gap Specialist, and a Strategic Partnerships Coordinator.
- A partnership with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (“AVLF”) providing free legal representation on housing issues to all families. In just the first 90 days of its work, AVLF has helped keep 44 students at THES by preventing foreclosures or other housing-related moves.
- A partnership with Families First, currently providing support to 13 families with young children through the Parents as Teachers program (projected to increase to 20 families in the next 60 days).
- A partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank providing 200 boxes of food for families each month.
After-School and Extracurricular Programs
- The school established a 2-hours per day, 5-days per week after-school program serving 220 students (there was no comparable program last year). Daily attendance in the program is approximately 170.
- The school is partnering with the neighboring Boys & Girls Club to provide weekend recreational opportunities for students (and hopes to add the YMCA shortly).
- The majority of students receive three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
What is the timeline for the other schools that will be operated by Purpose Built? What is the status of those transitions?
Purpose Built plans to begin operating both Slater Elementary and Price Middle School starting in the 2017-2018 school year. Officials report that they are on target to fill all positions at Slater and Price by mid-April. As per agreement with the district, Purpose Built provided prioritized consideration of existing staff at both schools; approximately 50% of staff applied for positions and around 75% were offered jobs.
Purpose Built also held an initial parent meeting at both schools in February. The schools plan to host a family STEAM night in late April to introduce the new instructional program to all families.
What is the status of the Kindezi’s transition to operate Gideons?
Kindezi has completed its own priority hiring process for Gideons, which included several teacher recruitment forums held in January and February. Kindezi has hired a new principal and assistant principal as well as 31 teachers. Nine other teachers are in the contract offer/reference check process, and the operating partner is currently hiring for an office manager, office specialist, and operations manager.
Kindezi has also engaged in a student recruitment campaign that has included distribution of information at West End Mall, community recreation and pre-K centers through NPU-V and a direct mail campaign within NPU-V. They expect about 400 students for K-5 and 22 for PreK.
The school plans to actively engage Gideons families through weekly home visits and at least two home visits before the school opens for the 2017-2018 school year. A parent information session is being planned for Tuesday, March 28, at Gideons. The school will maintain its GO Team, which last met on Jan. 30. The next meeting is planned for mid-April.
The Kindezi team for Gideons has completed the first draft of turnaround playbooks on curriculum & instruction and student culture, based on best practice research. The playbooks outline key levers for turnaround at Gideons, as well as goals, objectives, and strategies for instruction and student culture.
Upcoming dates for Gideons:
- New teacher institute – June 12 through July 14th
- Teacher pre-planning – July 24 through 28
- Students return – July 31
How long will the operating partners run schools in the Carver Cluster?
Purpose Built Schools and the Kindezi Schools have different contracts guiding their work with schools in the Carver Cluster.
As part of its contract, Purpose Built Schools began to provide complete operational, management and educational services at Thomasville Heights Elementary School beginning in the 2016-17 school year. It adds Slater Elementary School and Price Middle School in the 2017-18 school year and Carver High School beginning in the 2018-19 school year.
APS and Purpose Built Schools agreed to a contract that automatically renews on an annual basis for 14 years. The 14-year timeframe is designed to cover the period of time it would take a student entering pre-K in August 2016 to graduate from Carver High School.
For Kindezi, the operating partner will provide complete operational, management and educational services at Gideons Elementary School beginning in the 2017- 18 school year.
APS and Kindezi agree to a contract that automatically renews on an annual basis for six years after the initial planning year. The seven-year timeframe is designed to cover the period of time it would take a student entering Kindergarten in August 2017 to matriculate to middle school.
For both contracts, APS may terminate the agreement if the operating partners fail to substantially implement the education program and achieve certain performance standards.
What are the feeder patterns for the Carver Cluster? Will the presence of operating partners affect the patterns? For example, do students have a choice whether to attend Carver High or Carver Early College?
Bringing in operating partners to manage some of our neighborhood schools won’t affect the attendance zones nor the feeding patterns of our schools. Both Slater and Thomasville Height elementary students will continue to matriculate to Price Middle School; Finch, Gideons and Perkerson elementary students will matriculate to Sylvan Hills Middle School.
Students from both Price and Sylvan Hills will continue to have the option of attending either Carver High or Carver Early College.
What is the status of the Rensselearville Institute partnership in the Carver Cluster?
The Rensselaerville Institute’s School Turnaround program, a leadership development initiative designed to assist principals to achieve rapid improvement, currently works with Finch and Perkerson elementary schools; Sylvan Hills Middle Schools and Carver High School in the Carver Cluster.
The principals recently completed mid-year training in Seattle, Wash., focused on course corrections to support new thinking and action. The 10 principals involved have embraced the support and collaboration and have developed solid connections with their specialists.
As part of the job-embedded work, Rensselearville has assigned a turnaround specialist to each school with an immediate focus on increasing the principal’s time in classrooms and creating data analysis at the classroom level to inform change for children.
The focus of the work is on core behavior changes and leadership development as a means of building durability of change at the building level.
What is the timeline for Carver School of Technology?
As part of its small schools consolidation at Washington, Therrell and Carver high schools, the district created a plan to phase Carver School of Technology into Carver Early College. This school year, the school continued students in both the 11th and 12th grades.
The original consolidation schedule planned for Carver Tech to fully merge into Carver Early College for the 2017-2018 school year. But because of class rankings and academic standing issues, the district is considering a plan, which will require board approval, to extend the phase-in process an additional year to allow about 80 rising 11th graders to finish high school as Carver Tech students.
What are the budget and staffing constraints for Carver Early College?
Because APS has been phasing out Carver Tech with only 11th and 12th grades served this year, Carver Early College has seen decreases in both projected and actual enrollment.
Initial enrollment projections for Carver Early College for the 2016-2017 school year showed 588 students. But the school ended up with only 468 students, which resulted in five (5) surplus positions during leveling in September 2016. As of today, the school only has 356 students enrolled. Projected enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year is 396.
To compound their enrollment decline, they also received an austerity budget cut of $45,085 – the school’s proportional share of the $4 million budget reduction. However, Carver Early College received an addition of $255,000 of cluster and signature funds that it did not have last year, allowing the school principal and GO Team to add back some staffing for next school year.
What are the SPLOST 2017 commitments for the Carver Cluster?
Last summer, Atlanta voters approved the continuation of a penny sales tax directed to district capital projects for the next five years. The district plans to direct $16.5 million toward major renovations of Gideons Elementary School, including updated classrooms and offices; a new entry; updated auditorium, media center, cafeteria and kitchen; updated HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems and new landscaping.
Design work will start in July 2017 and finish in June 2018. Construction starts in July 2018 and finishes in July 2019 in time for the 2019-2020 school year. Students will need to be relocated for this project.
What is the status of the Dual Immersion Language Program at Perkerson Elementary School?
In Georgia dual language programs, students spend at least half of their school day in the target language and the rest of the day in English. Some programs may choose to increase the percentage of the day spent in the target language in the early years. Immersion students are taught math, science, literacy and sometimes social studies in the target language. They are taught English Language Arts, reading and other courses in English.
Perkerson Elementary operates the oldest Dual Language Immersion program in the district offering Spanish and English. The school has been adding a grade to the program each year and plans to offer the program for K-4th Grade for the 2017-2018 school year.
How is the district handling truancy issues near the Carver campus?
In response to concerns of truancy around Carver High School, the Office of Student Services is arranging a meeting among the associate superintendent for the Carver Cluster, the principals at Carver High School and Carver Early College and the APS police department to discuss ways to take action. The district’s Truancy Center also plans to conduct additional sweeps in the Carver School zone.
Additionally, the Truancy Center is working with the Office of Communications and Public Engagement on a media campaign for late March/April to get the word out about how to respond to truancy. This will include posters for businesses to post in windows agreeing to not serve students without guardians during school hours. The center has already reached agreement with some community members in the Carver zone to help spread the word and distribute materials at NPU meetings, faith-based gatherings and elsewhere.
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 Carver Cluster has chosen a College and Career Preparatory path – which allows for backwards mapping of the curriculum and programming.
Using the 21st Century Learning Framework and the Collaboration for Academic Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to inform our education approach, all students will be college and career ready. With a focus on educating the whole child, students will experience a rigorous instructional program and receive the necessary supports to be successful in high school and life. Students will begin to gain college credit or an industry certificate of value while still in high school.
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.
What are the district’s strategies to improve reading in the Carver Cluster?
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 actually teaching kids to read is a complicated pursuit, 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 Washington 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.