Atlanta Board of Education Approves Turnaround Strategy to Transform APS’ Lowest Performing Schools

NEWS RELEASE                                                                                             March 7, 2016

Atlanta Board of Education Approves Turnaround Strategy to Transform APS’ Lowest Performing Schools 

 

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Board of Education at its March 7 meeting approved in a unanimous decision the Atlanta Public Schools administration’s recommendation to implement the Turnaround Strategy, a bold approach to increase student achievement and transform its lowest-performing schools. The Turnaround Strategy provides a roadmap to dramatically improve student achievement in the short term and long term by:

directing more services to students,

increasing professional development of top turnaround leaders and teachers,

implementing school operating model changes, and

adding experienced education partners

 

"I am appreciative of the board’s decision to support this comprehensive plan to address chronic under performance and transform the lowest performing schools in Atlanta Public Schools. This means a lot for our students and the future of our Atlanta community,” said APS Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen. “Since July 2014, this administration has been focused on improving instruction in our most challenged schools, making deeper investments into the students who need the most support, and extending more support to targeted schools so our students have a better chance to graduate from APS ready for college and careers of their choice.”

 

The APS Turnaround Strategy targets several schools that the Georgia Department of Education has identified as eligible for the state’s proposed takeover Opportunity School District (OSD). APS’ strategy targets those 26 schools, starting in the Carver, Douglass and Washington clusters, where some of the district’s lowest-performing schools are in need of immediate help for students.

 

The recommendations that were formally presented at the February 1 board meeting, after months of community engagement, were further tweaked based on feedback from numerous community engagement sessions, public hearings and individual conversations held over the past five weeks.  Several aspects of the original proposal that were revised in the final recommendation included revising some facility recommendations, creating additional staffing processes for staff whose jobs may be impacted, adding grandfathering provisions for any boundary changes and ensuring transition supports were in place.

 

Additional Support to Targeted Schools

This phase of the strategy focuses on several key areas that include high-impact tutoring; math and reading specialists to directly support students to improve math and reading skills; extended learning time; a Spring Break Academy; recruitment of respected turnaround school leaders; targeted professional learning for teachers; and accelerated roll-out of social emotional learning in schools. Several components of this work are already underway. These strategies will continue over the next several months to provide students with support they need immediately.

 

Mergers and Closures

School closures or consolidations were considered when there were schools with inadequate performance, low enrollment relative to the capacity of the building, facilities in need of significant investment, and the performance of neighboring schools. The following closures and consolidations were approved in support of the turnaround plan:

  • Washington Cluster: Closure of Bethune Elementary School and opening of a new K-8 STEM Academy at the former Kennedy Middle School site
  • Washington Cluster: Merger of Connally Elementary School and Venetian Hills Elementary School
  • Douglass Cluster: Merger of Grove Park Intermediate Elementary School and Woodson Primary Elementary School

As part of the recommendation to launch a new K-8 STEM Academy, the board also approved slight revisions to the current attendance boundaries for Bethune, which reunites the English Avenue community into one high school feeder pattern long-term and to plan for future anticipated growth in this community. Students who are currently enrolled in other schools may be grandfathered into their old attendance area so that their education is not disrupted.

Washington Cluster

The administration presented critical facts about each cluster which informed the Board’s decision.

·       Decision: Close Bethune Elementary School and open a new innovative K-8 Science Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) academy in the former Kennedy Middle School. Bethune has a three-year CCRPI average of 42.1, the second lowest in the district. A new school which will open with elementary grades in 2016-17, and phase in the middle school grade, beginning in the 2017-18 school one year at time, would address these academic needs and the anticipated growth of the Westside. Since Kennedy Middle was closed during the 2012 redistricting process, community leaders have advocated strongly for repurposing the facility and leveraging the asset as part of the community’s redevelopment efforts.  APS will do initial facility improvements this summer using nearly $2 million from current Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds. A larger scale renovation using $10 million from SPLOST 2017 is planned for future years. The community will be encouraged to participate in a planning process for the new academy including setting the vision for the school, identifying potential STEM partners and ultimately naming the new academy.

 

·       Decision: Merge Connally Elementary School with Venetian Hills Elementary. All students would attend classes on the Connally campus, following facility improvements this summer. Connally has the third lowest three-year CCRPI average (46.5) in the district. Venetian Hills’ 2014 CCRPI is 76.8. Both schools also have very low enrollment numbers. About $23.5 million has been budgeted in SPLOST 2017 for the merged Connally/Venetian Hills facility. The Venetian Hills campus is under consideration for an early childhood center.

Douglass Cluster

•       Decision: The Board approved a merger of Grove Park Intermediate School with Woodson Primary School. During the 2012 redistricting process, Woodson Primary School was created as a Kindergarten thru second grade site, serving the same attendance zone as Woodson Intermediate School, which has third through fifth grades.  Grove Park’s three-year CCRPI average is 46.5, the third lowest in the district, while Woodson’s 2014 CCRPI is 83.2. Both schools are significantly under-enrolled and need renovations. 

To ensure stronger alignment between the primary and intermediate programs, the schools will consolidate on one campus at the start of the 2016-17 school year. A proposed SPLOST 2017 could provide as much as $18.5 million for the merged site. The vacated site will be considered for an early childhood center.

Education Partners

Finally, the board’s vote allows the administration to enter into contracts with partner organizations to support the Carver Cluster in making dramatic improvements in chronically low-performing schools. The APS procurement services department solicited a Request for Qualifications to invite potential education partners to submit ideas for supporting school turnaround efforts. Twenty-seven (27) proposals were received and evaluated. Three finalists were selected to move forward in the process. Over the past five weeks, these partners have participated in community meetings as well as hosted open houses and family nights. Stakeholders were also able to provide feedback about the partners in a survey. The following recommendations were approved:

 

•       Contract with Purpose Built Schools for the management of Thomasville Heights Elementary School, Slater Elementary School, Price Middle School and Carver Comprehensive High School.

•       Contract with The Kindezi Schools for the management of Gideons Elementary School in 2017-2018.

•       Contract with Rensselaerville Institute for Professional Learning Services for Principals and Teachers.

 

The Turnaround Strategy is part of the district’s broader plans that have been underway since the hiring of Superintendent Carstarphen at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

 

“It has been a privilege to work with my committed colleagues on the board, Superintendent Carstarphen, our amazing staff, students, families and the community on a turnaround strategy that will transform APS,” said Courtney English, Atlanta Board of Education Chair. “I know that our collaboration and dedication to fully embrace this work will help us to build an APS that will improve the quality of education for our students and help to build a better Atlanta for generations to come.” 

About Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in the state of Georgia, serving approximately 50,000 students across 98 learning sites. The district is organized into nine K-12 clusters with 87 schools, 17 charter schools and two citywide single-gender academies, where students are offered rigorous instructional programs that foster success in school and life. For more information, visit www.atlantapublicschools.us.

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