In approving outside management, Atlanta charts new course for failing schools. May avert state takeover

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen takes a selfie with Gov. Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal last week. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

Atlanta Public Schools moved forward Monday night with an ambitious and unprecedented reform strategy that will likely insulate the district from Gov. Nathan Deal’s state takeover plan.

Atlanta’s decision to bring in charter companies to run five schools means around 300 teachers and other staff will have to reapply for their jobs to the new management and will no longer be APS employees.

I suspect a lot of them will not get jobs with the charter operators, who will have their own hiring criteria and will be looking for staff with a missionary zeal.

At an event last week with APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, Deal told the AJC, “I think efforts like the Atlanta Public Schools system is making will indicate that their schools should be shielded if they are making progress and if they’re trying to make progress. “

I believe the aggressive efforts by APS to avert losing schools to Deal’s Opportunity School District make DeKalb Schools more vulnerable to stake takeover. While new DeKalb Superintendent Steve Green is also focusing on improving his district’s lowest-performing schools, his reforms are not as dramatic as what the Atlanta school board approved last night.

Essentially, Atlanta is upending schools and allowing charter companies to reinvent them — hopefully in a more successful way.

As the AJC‘s Molly Bloom reported:

Five Atlanta schools will be managed by charter school groups and three others will close under a plan the Atlanta school board approved Monday. It’s one part of superintendent Meria Carstarphen‘s plan to turn around some of the city’s worst schools.

The vote makes Atlanta Public Schools the first in Georgia to hire charter school groups to run local public schools, charter advocates say. The plan closes three schools, including some that are succeeding by Atlanta standards. Students in the closed schools would be moved to two existing schools and a new school.

Concerns from the public about the track record of charter companies did not dissuade the APS board from approving Carstarphen’s plan. “There is always a reason not to do something. But there are 52,000 kids in this school system. And I believe there are 52,000 reasons we need to move forward,” said school board chairman Courtney English.

According to Bloom:

Purpose Built Schools, a nonprofit affiliated with Atlanta’s Drew Charter School, will manage Carver High School and two elementary schools and a middle school feeding into Carver for up to 15 years, under its contract with the district. Purpose Built will begin managing one elementary school this fall. The other schools will be phased in over the coming years. Kindezi, a charter school with two Atlanta campuses, will manage another elementary school that feeds into Carver for up to seven years.

Purpose Built and Kindezi will be paid about the same amount from APS per student as other low-performing schools, according to an outline of proposed contract terms. But they’ll also receive other support, like funding for “principals in training” in the years before the charter school groups take over the schools. The district will also help both groups raise money from foundations and other donors.

“All of these schools have to get on the hustle — fast, ” Carstarphen said. “We need to show dramatic improvement as quickly as possible.”

A total of 27 groups applied to work with low-performing Atlanta schools, including for-profit education giant Pearson, nonprofits like Communities in Schools of Atlanta, and groups that run charter schools in Louisiana, Michigan and Tennessee. In addition to Purpose Built and Kindezi, New York-based Rensselaerville Institute was also selected. That group was awarded a contract of up to $600,000 to train teachers and principals at up to 10 schools on instruction and school culture.

 

Reader Comments 0

40 comments
Dee Turner
Dee Turner

It's my understanding that the superintendent intends to turn one school into a K-8th grade composite school. I'm sure that this school will be in a black community because no one today would advocate  placing 6 year olds in a school with 14 year olds.  This is ridiculous and the school board should be ashamed.

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

The only surprise to me is that people are actually surprised by this.  The shift from a central office based public school system to a "sell to the lowest bidder" charter district has been taking place since New Orleans reconstituted after Hurricane Katrina.  This was soon followed by Philadelphia, Memphis, Los Angeles,Camden, Miami, Detroit, and the list goes on.  Our government - whether democratic or republican, liberal or conservative - does not want to be in the business of educating difficult to teach children anymore.  Why would anyone think Atlanta would be immune to this shift? 


What we are experiencing right now in American public education is just the start of a significant change much like the mass change from the one room school house to the comprehensive K-12 model of the last 100 plus years.  Change is inevitable. Society has changed, education must change.


Now, if you do not like the way it's changing (and I'm certain I do not) roll up your sleeves and get involved, vote, or find a way to advocate.  But simply showing up once a year at a school board meeting or complaining in a newspaper is not making a dent in the mass powers that are informing this change.

Astropig
Astropig

@Beach Bound2020 

Wrong. The RSD started in New Orleans the year before Katrina.You don't know basic facts,so how can anyone trust your conclusions?
I stopped reading after your first couple of sentences because you don't know what you're writing about.

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@Astropig @Beach Bound2020 Always better to lose your cool then to lose your mind ;) Change is a comin' that's all I was sayin'.  Like it or not, there should be no surprises about this. You seem to want a disagreement with me, but I think we are actually saying the same thing!  Ah,the irony.

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig @Beach Bound2020 Inaccurate....that should be your new screen name!!!!!! HHAHAHHAHAHAH Good to see you back! Did you have a break down and decide to post in your pig DA plum? HAAAHAh 

JBBrown1968
JBBrown1968

@Astropig @Beach Bound2020 I forgot....Union....Democrat.......Republican.....Charter School! HAHAHAHHAHH. OOOOH...... New Orleans the bastion of education! HAHAHHA!!!!!!! 

Last but not least, Change!!! HAHAHAHAH....You made my day. Welcome Back!

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@Astropig @Beach Bound2020 Do you honestly think I am writing in an anonymous blog to have people "trust" me? You don't know your basic facts.  Blog are an expression of ideas, thoughts and sometimes facts.  I need not you to trust me on anything.  I am not claiming expert status here.  Gosh knows if I was, I'd ask for a fee!  Take a deep breath and relax dude.

luludog
luludog

For more on Purpose Built Communities, see this article part of which covers  how Tom Cousins and his group, Purpose Built Communities, was brought in to replace the St. Bernard public housing complex demolished in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, i.e., replacing these desperately needed affordable public housing units, with the mixed-income Columbia Parc development with far fewer units for public housing residents. And, of course, Purpose Built installed a charter school nearby:

http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v25n3/the-long-hurricane.html

 



luludog
luludog

"Alea iacta est." The die is cast. The complete corporate privatization of the Atlanta Public Schools is now underway, proceeding with a vengeance. Of course there were many clues strewn along the path to this end which predicted this sea-change transformation: the election of four Teach for America alums to the APS school board, Governor Deal's floating the Opportunity School District proposal not yet even approved by Georgia voters; APS's hiring of Meria Carstarphen, a Michelle Rhee-type"school reform" superintendent in Austin, TX who tried these same public school privatization-charterization tactics there but was  rebuffed by parents opposing her initiatives; Carstarphen's hiring Erin Hames, Governor Deal's school privatization-charterization expert who pushed through the OSD plan; and Carstarphen hiring the Boston Consulting Group, the go-to company (where Mitt Romney got his start as a corporate "turnaround specialist") for undertaking investigations and studies of public school districts whose  conclusions and recommended "reforms" are always: privatize and charterize.


Then came Carstarphen's decision to retain millionaire Tom Cousins' Purpose Built Communities charter school education organization, to take over and run a number of APS's "troubled schools". Wow! This Purpose Built outfit really bears looking into, intense scrutiny, really. Here is a good place to start: "Warren Buffett And Corporate School Reformers To Gentrify/Charterize Indianapolis And Other Cities," by Doug Martin, September 19, 2011.

https://shadowproof.com/2011/09/19/warren-buffett-and-corporate-school-reformers-to-gentrify-charterize-indianapolis-and-other-cities/

Tom Cousin, an Atlanta businessman worth hundreds of millions, has joined forces with investor-billionaire Warren Buffett (number two on Forbes' list of billionaires with $67 billion ), former hedge fund operator-billionaire Julian Robertson, Jr. (167 on the Forbes list worth $3.3 billion), and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin to install in as many cities as possible their for-profit program of demolishing desperately-need existing public housing units and replacing them with mis-named "mixed-income housing" developments along with, of course, charter schools. And their profits are substantial. There is money to be made here all up and down the line here and the opportunity for these billionaires to implement their philosophy first trumpeted by economist Milton Friedman that "we don't need public schools; private corporations can do it better - and make a profit." Good luck with that.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@luludog So do you have anything against these people other than their unfortunate circumstance of being rich?

Dee Turner
Dee Turner

@luludog  And sadly, most of these corporate types aren't concerned about students.....only the "bottom line".

dg417s
dg417s

As I said in the last blog - I was at the board meeting last night and Mr. Westmoreland stated that while he got a great education in Atlanta, other students aren't. They have to do this - in other words, Atlanta Public Schools cannot do their job, so contract out to the lowest bidder. For what it's worth, these schools can still be taken over by the state even under this new plan. Then what? We haven't fixed the underlying problem that is leading to low student achievement - namely outside factors that keep a student from focusing on why they are in school. I don't see any improvement coming to these schools' CCRPI because this it the wrong solution to this particular problem. 


As a side note, I will be surprised if these communities don't rise up and vote their board members out next year. The communities did not want this particular reform - and they had the people there to prove it. The board members did not represent the wishes of their constituents and there will be a price for that.

Dee Turner
Dee Turner

@dg417s  I hope that you are correct. These board members and the superintendent need to go!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I'm just going on memory here, and so lack any sources...but wasn't Meria Carsterphen severely criticized by Dallas parents (largely Latino) when she tried to institute the same switch-over from public to charter schools back in Texas, before she came here?  And isn't a majority (4?) of the Atlanta School Board graduates of the Teaching For America program that also supports charter schools? 


This all seems pre-planned to move the APS over to charters.

Astropig
Astropig

This is VE Day- Victory Over Eduacracy. Make no mistake,this is unconditional surrender by the old order.May we rejoice and get hoot-owl drunk tonight!


Thank you, Governor Deal.

Legong
Legong

@Astropig 

Welcome back. Parents have been shy a defender "lo these many weeks."

Astropig
Astropig

@Legong @Astropig


Been just standing on the sidelines,watching the educrats lazy,sloppy response to the OSD.I've learned that if your opponents are determined to cut their own throats,it's your moral duty to stand back and watch-or hand them a sharper razor.


Can't wait for November 9th-VJ Day-Victory...Over Journalists.



sneakpeakintoeducation
sneakpeakintoeducation

@Astropig @Legong

If by lazy you mean that the "educrats" (i.e. educators, public and parents who care) have taken a look at the results of the other states/cities where OSD's have been instituted and have recognized that they have failed to do anything to improve educational outcomes for our children, then you are correct.  All that has been successful is the handing off of public entities to corporations who are not accountable to the public and get to raid the public coffers.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Funny that the Governor's "ed guru" who designed the takeover leaves her job (but stays on consult with the state) to go into private consulting and gets paid a boatload to "help" APS and "it just so happens" that now the Gov says looks like APS is safe.


You can't make this up.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady


How's that "Deal's a crook" strategy working? Getting any traction with that?

Legong
Legong

Parents can only rejoice that the Governor's plan has already borne fruit, even before its expected approval by voters. 

The usual naysayers will bray about the effects education reform will have on the failed status quo ... but parents see the Opportunity School District as a much needed ray of hope.


dg417s
dg417s

@Legong The state ranked 48th in the nation will take over schools.... yep... lots of hope there.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Not likely the machination with an inexperienced private sector group will help the kids much, but it hopefully will at least avoid a governor takeover ("HI!! We're from the state and we're here to help you!"), which would just about guarantee a worse future for them.