January 29, 2016 11:00 AM
While some school districts continue to excuse away failure and fight accountability, Atlanta Public Schools is thinking way outside the box. School Superintendent Maria Carstarphen has a long letter outlining the changes that APS is embracing. She’s proven both with a stare down with the popular and powerful Mayor (Beltline settlement announced this morning) and an entrenched but failed bureaucracy that she inherited that she’s willing to do what it takes to signal there’s a new day for Atlanta’s public school children.
I encourage you to read her entire memo here, but a sample:
Last semester, we announced a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to solicit interested and qualified education partners who can provide turnaround services, intervention, and supports to dramatically improve student achievement in the short and long term.
At the Feb. 1 meeting of the Atlanta Board of Education, we will present three potential education partners who emerged as finalists to support turnaround work. The Rensselaerville Institute’s School Turnaround program, a nonprofit leadership development initiative designed to assist principals to achieve rapid improvement at low-achieving schools, submitted a proposal to support schools and leaders across the district. The other partners are non-profit organizations with track records of strong student achievement and have submitted proposals to work with schools in the Carver Cluster.
Purpose Built Schools, an arm of Purpose Built Communities and a partner organization with Charles R. Drew Charter School, has proposed to operate Thomasville Heights and Slater elementary schools, Price Middle School and Carver High School. The Kindezi Schools, which runs two successful charter schools in Atlanta, has offered to operate Gideons Elementary School. While both organizations are current charter operators, APS, through this RFQ process, is only considering partnerships that would involve Kindezi and/or Purpose Built Schools serving neighborhood schools with traditional attendance boundaries, not charter schools.
We will spend the next five weeks exploring the big ideas proposed by these partners, and we will do so through community meetings and open houses.
APS isn’t waiting on an Opportunity School District to force change. They’re getting ahead of the curve. And that is the entire stated purpose of the OSD. School takeover by the state isn’t the first priority or goal of the legislation, but the last. The priority is to get the local districts to take seriously and do whatever it takes to get their failing schools fixed. Good for APS to be doing exactly that.