East Atlanta is booming. What does Atlanta Public Schools have to do to benefit from boom?

East Atlanta is booming with young people and families. There are more festivals, restaurants and community groups. Will that mean a renaissance for public schools in the area?

I sat down Tuesday with Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen for an hourlong video interview that will appear on AJC.com shortly. One of the questions I asked Dr. Carstarphen was based on a note I received from longtime east Atlanta resident Ralph Green.

Green was responding to a column I wrote noting that Burgess-Peterson Academy, an elementary school in east Atlanta, had test scores rivaling those of Drew Charter School; the schools are 1.5 miles apart.

Yet, APS was not seeing an enrollment surge at Burgess-Peterson despite the increase in young families moving into the neighborhoods. In fact, APS is proposing to consolidate some elementary schools in southeast Atlanta despite what appears to be a baby boom.

Why? Because those new families are choosing private or charter schools for their kids, says Carstarphen.

After reading Green’s noted, I asked him if I could share his explanation for why young professionals were bypassing even a strong school like Burgess-Peterson. His view: The lack of a strong middle school was causing parents to opt for charter schools that went through middle or high school.

Carstarphen has identified elementary schools as a weak link in Atlanta, and hopes to shore up the early learning and pre-school opportunities for low-income children, many of whom are now arriving at kindergarten and first grade without the fundamentals necessary to thrive in school.

Evidence shows strengthening elementary schools eventually improves the entire pipeline, but can that improvement happen quick enough to convince wary parents to commit to their neighborhood schools?

By Ralph Green

I have lived in east Atlanta for 35 years  My four now grown daughters all attended Atlanta Public Schools.  They attended APS before the creation of charter schools.

There is no question the charter schools in southeast Atlanta (Drew, Atlanta Neighborhood Charter, and Wesley International Academy) are a drain on the traditional neighborhood public schools. But the quality of education these schools are offering is not the only reason and often not the main reason that parents send their children to them.

I live in the Burgess-Peterson school zone. Many parents I meet in the neighborhood are sending their children or planning on sending their children to Drew. They are doing so not because they think Drew is a better elementary school than Burgess-Peterson Academy.  (The fact is Burgess is doing a great job and is an exciting school.)  Parents are sending their children to Drew because of their concerns about middle school and high school.

Once their children are at Drew, which now goes through high school, they don’t have to worry about making a school choice or ever getting their child into a successful secondary school. This is one of the main reasons Drew created its own high school.  The fact Drew now has  a middle school and high school helps create the demand for its elementary school.

I have heard conversations in which parents of toddlers are talking about the good things they’ve heard about Burgess-Peterson. Then, one of them will bring up the question of middle school.  Their child may be 10 years away from middle school, but the parents are worried if they don’t go to Drew from the start, they will not be able to get their child into Drew later.

There are children who start at Burgess-Peterson because they could not get into Drew.  Their parents put them on the Drew waiting list. No matter how happy the parents are with the school experience at Burgess-Peterson, when the call comes from Drew, the child transfers. The parents are worried this is their only chance for Drew Middle School. These patterns affect other elementary schools in southeast Atlanta and stunt public education initiatives at all levels.

If the APS superintendent wants the traditional neighborhood public elementary schools to survive and excel, she will have to deal with the lack of functioning middle schools.  She will have to create and sell to the parents in southeast Atlanta a successful middle school opportunity.

 

Reader Comments 0

34 comments
Educator4Life
Educator4Life

Until the "middle school" issues are resolved, this cluster will remain divided. After their children complete 5th grade, parents have no desire to send their kids to King. A newly remodeled building won't change what occurs on the inside. It begins with leadership and being honest about change. If the elementary schools are sending quality students to middle school, then there is no reason middle school can't be successful.I have my own thoughts about what quality looks like on the elementary level, but that conversation is for another post!

Charlotte Manning Harrell
Charlotte Manning Harrell

The Governor shouldn't run the schools. Work should be done to get the attendance zones balanced economically so that all students have a more equal opportunity in all school.

Heather Hascall Williamson
Heather Hascall Williamson

Maureen, as far as I know the attendance zone for Burgess does not overlap with the priority tiers at Drew, so I'm a little confused by this article. Meanwhile, Toomer Elementary shares the EXACT attendance zone as the Drew priority tier. Toomer has been affected far more significantly by the growth of Drew than Burgess has. I believe that both Wesley and ANCS have East Atlanta in their 2nd priority tier (or used to), but ANCS only has 409 students in K-5, Wesley has 439 in K-5. Drew has 1,014 in PK-5. (https://oraapp.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fte_pack_enrollgrade.entry_form)

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Wow.  Could you imagine what it would be like if people moved to East Atlanta BECAUSE of the public schools instead of IN SPITE of them?

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

There are plenty of middle schools

that work, so I will not negate the 

positive results of all the middle

schools doing a great job, but I

realize that some schools might

need to make slight adjustments.

p8
p8

Middle schools rarely work. The "theme-based" models that convinced us to change over to middle schools haven't been used in decades. Same goes for middle school "team" model. Never saw it used correctly. Sixth and seventh graders belong in elementary school; probably eight graders too. OR bring back the junior high model for eighth and ninth grade. So sad to see ten- through twelve-year-olds changing classes every hour, all day.

Astropig
Astropig

@p8


Agree completely.The junior high concept was sound.Don't know why they junked it.

bu22
bu22

@Astropig @p8 I used to think there was some educational reason.  Then I read why they really did it.  High schools were losing students as boomers grew up so they moved 9th graders in to fill the empty classrooms and shifted 6th graders into middle school.  No educational reason at all.

bu22
bu22

@p8 Given the executive function and maturity levels, it is a real disservice to throw 6th graders into the middle school model.  With the new superintendent's experimentation, maybe she should look at re-doing a cluster with a K-6, 7-8, 9-12 model.  Middle schools are ignored.  They often throw the least experienced teachers in to the toughest years for both student and teacher.

NightWatcher
NightWatcher

This matches my experience as an APS student.  Elementary school was fine.  Middle school was hairy and much more dangerous.  And following that Middle School, we were destined to be sent to a major HS which often ended up on the news due to fights or other violence.  


The APS system of feeder schools inevitably does this: they always funnel kids to grinder schools with younger kids coming in from what had been safe elementary schools facing seasoned middle schoolers who saw the new kids as nothing more than prey.   And when the fresh middle schoolers move up to the high school, older kids with nothing to lose just go open season on fighting, robbery, assault, rape, you name it.  


We opted out.  Lacking the resources to do private school, we did home schooling instead and never had to weigh education against the risk of being beaten to a pulp in a school hallway.   I'm grateful my mom made that choice.  And with the influx of people with deep pockets, I am glad they have the ability to send their kids to a safe place.


A kid can excel academically much more when they don't have to worry if some much bigger kid is going to pound them into the floor after class. 

Kay Draper Hutchinson
Kay Draper Hutchinson

First, don't let charter privatizers or developers steal valuable property from the public schools and taxpayers. Underhanded land grabs (and especially in gentrifying areas) are part of the plan and have occurred elsewhere- especially FL.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

A note I received from a Drew Charter School parent, 3 Jan 2017:

“I have a student at this institution and I've felt a change in the institution over last 2 years that left me with the feel the institution was losing its focus and starting to slip a bit in terms of academic outcomes.  Until your presentation I've been unable to tie it to empirical data.”

What empirical data?

These data about Drew Charter School, here.

Also, these data about Burgess-Peterson Academy Elementary School, here.

The data for Burgess-Peterson suggest student learning at the school is generally more resilient and capable to recover from changing academic standards than is student learning at Drew Charter School.

Said a bit differently, the data for Drew Charter School -- as well as for all Atlanta KIPP charter schools, by the way -- suggest the nature of student learning at the charter schools aims to train especially Black children to perform to current academic standards and only to current academic standards.  Thus when academic standards change, student learning among Black students at the charter schools generally gets worse and tends to stay worse.  But not so for White students in both charter schools and public schools.

In just two years it has become unquestioningly clear, as was predictable, that Carstarphen’s rigidly harsh school turnaround and mechanistic “backward mapping” impositions, which focus especially on Black children, is robbing the majority of those very children of an education capable to evidence the children having learned to learn and not just having learned to perform.  Carstarphen seems to have no conception of pedagogy.  In fact, I have heard her speak many if not every school reformist word, but I have never heard her speak the educationist word, “pedagogy.”

The scariest thing, though, is Carstarphen wanting to bring her impositions down upon the youngest of children, those aged birth to pre-K.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Concern about middle schools and the whole concept is a source of concern for most parents in Georgia  (except the very fortunate parents at the very few places like Drew.)

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

In this morning's paper AJC , columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald writes a column entitled, "Baldwin's ' I am not your Negro ' is a work of brilliance." Pitts further writes, " It is nothing less than a masterpiece, fully deserving of its rave reviews and Oscar nomination and it demands to be seen more than once. Trying to absorb everything it has to say in one sitting is like trying to catch Niagara in a tea cup."

'The scariest thing,' says ( director). Peck , 'is that it is so precise and dead on the point of what is happening right now. . . We have been somehow in a sort of lethargy. ' If so, then 'Negro' is a disinterment more than a work of unparalleled brilliance, it is an urgent reminder that when it comes to race and America, the truth is not 'safe' and it never was."

-----------------

See this brilliant film. It will be your loss if you do not. This film embodies the essence of higher consciousness to which we must all aspire in order to save ourselves and our world.

Lewis Cartee
Lewis Cartee

As an involved parent in both the East Atlanta Community Association (President) as well as Burgess-Perterson Academy and the greater educational environment (LSC Chair and now Governance Team Chair since 2013, Education Chair for EACA and NPU-W Education Chair), I can speak directly to the question of whether BPA has increased its academic achievement since the opening of Drew (and ANCS). In short, yes, and this can be demonstrated in many ways with the previous year's CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index) score as an very easy to compare example. For elementary schools all three, BPA, Drew and ANCS, surpassed 80 points and are tightly bunched within a small range.  
Over the last decade APS has been very intentional in there approach to BPA, starting when Robin Robbins (now Christian) was brought in as principal. Included  in Principal Christian's skill set was the ability to reach out and embrace the community, work with community leaders and start on a path towards a school that better represented East Atlanta, while at the same time growing student outcomes. Two years ago Christian was tasked with performing the same community building at DH Stanton, for which I am confident she will again be successful.  At that time David White was brought on board to continue to build upon Christian's success, and his efforts are being rewarded, as demonstrated on the CCRPI. With respect to Mr. Green's assertions that a corresponding uptick in enrollment has not come as quickly as the Superintendent would believe is due to a lack in confidence in our middle school, we have heard this from parents for many years.  As BPA has improved and been more accepted by the East Atlanta community, we have kept many of our students further into their elementary education. However, we still openly hear that the reasons we fail to have them matriculate to King Middle is due to their perception in the quality of the school.  Is this a reality? In many ways no, but perception is a real issue that can be dealt with in a positive manner through a continued and authentic approach fully supported by APS.

Astropig
Astropig

@Lewis Cartee


" I'd be interested to know if Burgess-Peterson got better or worse after the advent of Drew Charter."


" In short, yes, and this can be demonstrated in many ways with the previous year's CCRPI (College and Career Ready Performance Index) score as an very easy to compare example. For elementary schools all three, BPA, Drew and ANCS, surpassed 80 points and are tightly bunched within a small range. "


This is what I would expect from choice.When the tide comes in,all the boats rise.


(Thank you for that info.It cleared up that question in my mind)

Educator4Life
Educator4Life

@Astropig @Lewis Cartee Actually, BPA's scores have increased each year (there was a small decrease when CCRPI was introduced). Even with the implementation of the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, which is more rigorous that the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests, students still excelled academically. The main reason was the principal's dedication to providing quality instruction for the students.

Tcope
Tcope

This phenomenon is also prevalent in the decision to start private school in kindergarten or 1st grade. This is the time that there are a number of open spots for acceptance into the schools. If you don't start then, your odds of getting in drop dramatically. Those in the public that have heard about this only lately have not played the selective private school admissions game.

Serene Alami Varghese
Serene Alami Varghese

Thanks for highlighting SE Atlanta schools! I'd like to add that Burgess Peterson's enrollment *is* growing. They added 3 new teachers from last year to this year, which, for a small school, shows a big jump. It's really exciting!! BPA has amazing results bc we've been lucky to have incredible leadership and the school culture is amazing. Add caring, sweet teachers and incredible parent support. It's a wonderful place❤

Astropig
Astropig

"If the APS superintendent wants the traditional neighborhood public elementary schools to survive and excel, she will have to deal with the lack of functioning middle schools.  She will have to create and sell to the parents in southeast Atlanta a successful middle school opportunity."


...Which is exactly what those of us for choice have been promising for years.Yes-she WILL have to deal with the lack of middle school opportunity.Very much so.But do you think that she would do it if the charters in the area didn't provided the needed competition to make improvement obvious even to the eduacracy? Do you believe that she'd do this on her own if  lots of education dollars and ed jobs were not at stake?


And I don't know where to go to find the historical data,but I'd be interested to know if Burgess-Peterson got better or worse after the advent of Drew Charter.(If better,I'm sure that fact will be finessed here,if worse,then look over there,not here.Nothing to see!)


I'm sure its kind of unintentional,but this piece just confirms what a lot of us have been saying for a good bit-charters can provide good outcomes,but its their effect on  nearby zip code schools that multiplies their efficacy.



time for reform
time for reform

If it's charter or private schools that these young families want ... then why not give them more charter schools and tuition vouchers or tax credits?

Isn't that the obvious solution?

bev1972
bev1972

The obvious solution is to shore up the middle school - whatever it takes. It is in everyone's best interest to have strong public schools at all levels. Although difficult, it is possible.

time for reform
time for reform

@bev1972 

Charter schools are public schools. And it is in everyone's best interest to offer parents more choices.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@Astropig @E Pluribus Unum @time for reform

The point is you don't get a choice

in  the form of transportation that suits your schedule for arriving to work.

If you are not happy with the efficient

service of MARTA because you want

more privacy on your commute,we don't give  you  a voucher to take

Uber or Lyft- People generally state that you can pay for Uber yourself, or

purchase a car with your own money.

Astropig
Astropig

@E Pluribus Unum @Astropig @time for reform


So I should be forced to ride MARTA because it' a paragon or efficiency, with clean,functional carriages and happy,cheerful, well paid employees?There are never any drunks,criminals or crazy people that will share the ride with me?


Roll me one outta yo'sack.

E Pluribus Unum
E Pluribus Unum

@Astropig @E Pluribus Unum @time for reform

You have a choice to ride Marta, or pay for alternative transportation

 out of your own pocket .(Somebody else can also pay for your transportation.) Georgia does the same thing for college-You get the HOPE Scholarship if you go to the University of Georgia with great high school grades, but you don't get a voucher from the state of Georgia to attend the University of Florida. 


NightWatcher
NightWatcher

@bev1972 The middle AND high schools have to be shored up.   The high schools in particular throw fresh middle school graduates into a very different, very adult and often much more violent and dangerous school and basically say, good luck!  


If you have smart kids, why would you want to ever send them to a place like that?

WardinConyers
WardinConyers

O Lord, do I know about middle school.  I taught it, 4 years in DeKalb and 3 in Clayton.  I also taught 3 years of elementary in Rockdale and I can tell you, something happens to kids over the summer between grade 3 and 4, and it is exacerbated in 5th.  While teaching middle school, I was constantly dealing with kids who were devoid of any social skills.  And the parents were no better because they were the reason for it.  Every now and then I would have a student who knew how to behave. I left that school without a job to go to because I couldn't stand it. Fortunately, I landed on my feet with a college job. About 3 years before I retired with 33 years experience, the last 13 years being at the college level, we noticed that the bad behavior we witnessed in primary grades was beginning to seep into the college level.  Unfortunately, to the college, enrollment was king so the powers that be admitted a lot of students who had little hope of succeeding.


If only something could be done about parenting at the earliest stages of child development. I'm certain poverty has a lot to do with it, children having children, etc. Lord help us.