Georgia’s Opportunity School District is already working

AJC Photo / Kent D. Johnson

AJC Photo / Kent D. Johnson

A relatively light year for major legislation under the Gold Dome in 2016 means the most important achievements for the current collection of lawmakers came last year. The one having perhaps the biggest effect so far is one that still hasn’t become law yet.

Voters in November will decide the fate of the Opportunity School District, Gov. Nathan Deal’s bid to force dramatic changes at schools that have produced dreadful results for years. But dramatic changes are already coming to some of Atlanta’s worst public schools, and it’s safe to say this wouldn’t be happening if not for the mere possibility they’d have been subject to a state takeover.

The Atlanta school board this week approved a radical overhaul sought by Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. All 26 schools on the state’s list of failing schools will receive some kind of attention. But 15 of them are getting what the district calls “targeted interventions,” the kind one might expect the OSD to pursue with the schools it selected.

Some failing schools are closing. Some are merging with higher-performing schools. At least one new school will open.

But perhaps the most exciting element of the plan is the one that will turn over management of five schools in the Carver High School cluster to charter-school operators. Not only will this allow APS to focus its attention and most talented leaders on the remaining failing schools. It’s exciting because the charter operators chosen are local organizations that have already proven themselves.

Purpose Built Schools, which created the highly successful Drew Charter School in East Lake, will take on four of the five schools in the Carver cluster. The fifth will be managed by Kindezi Schools, which already operates a high-performing charter school on the west side and last fall opened a second school, in the Old Fourth Ward.

This is exactly how charter schools are supposed to work. Not all of them will be successful, and the failures should be shut down. But the ones that succeed, especially in areas where traditional public schools haven’t, should be encouraged to multiply, to share their experiences, and to take over schools that aren’t performing well.

While there are several national operators that could serve our local communities well, it’s that much better when the operators are locally grown. They already understand the lay of the land, the people who work for and are served by the district, the local resources available to them, the challenges they face.

But there is little, if any, reason to believe this plan would have come to fruition absent the competitive pressures posed by the OSD. All of these strategies were available before the Legislature voted last year to put it to a statewide referendum. They simply weren’t taken.

How many more districts could be spurred to try similar innovations if the OSD is approved? How many schools with stubborn leaders could get the interventions their students need if the OSD is allowed to act?

The mere possibility isn’t enough, and it won’t even exist any longer if the measure is defeated. It’s imperative that voters not let this opportunity slip away.

Reader Comments 0

11 comments
Tycho
Tycho

Charter schools were never designed to take over anything. They were designed to be a public school feedback mechanism enabling  experimentation and innovation.  Somehow a zealous anti-public schools consortium has co-opted that idea and turned "choice" and "charter" into a strategy to privatize, monetize and voucherize the American public school system.


I don't like the hypocrisy of this trend. This "Choice" playbook uses the conversation about OCD failing inter-city schools as a means to implement every bias in the book (location bias,transportation bias,lottery bias, good minority/bad minority bias,motivated family bias,“blueberry”bias,multiple application bias,flunk or leave” bias,attrition/ “do not replace” bias and “in the know”bias) to establish a new class of "private/public schools.



AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Tycho Well said. The republican party for years has whispered its anger inducing, elitist, greedy, racist,misogynist, anti government message. Now Trump has shouted that message. 


The school choice whispering is all about racism, elitism, anti poor people, but pro individual/corporate greed - paid for with taxpayer money. It needs to be shouted so the masses can see it for what it is.

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

So glad our legislators took the year off....


I mean, there is nothing that needs to be fixed.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

@Finn-McCool I wish they only met every 3 years and just long enough for the budget and services.  For every new law,  take an old one off the books.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

I don't have any children in school, that is behind me.  However, I applaud efforts by parents and supporters of ways to get away from our dumbed-down education system.

I also offer what appears to be common sense solutions to enable better education.

First, the illegal immigrant pupils have to go.  Hopefully, Trump or Cruz will be president and that will come to reality.

Next, I have heard reports that some school systems must have multiple teachers with different language skills because students do not speak English.  This is absurd and an indication of Liberal lunacy.

If a school has pupils that do not speak English, the first class they go to is English language class.  All ages can be in this class.

They do not progress into regular education classes until they can read, write and comprehend English.

End the madness.

The tax dollar savings should be large and the results a better education for all.

Starik
Starik

@JohnnyReb Maybe we should start teaching Spanish in pre-K.  That way we would eventually become bi-lingual, and have a better education for all.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@JohnnyReb They do not progress into regular education classes until they can read, write and comprehend English.


Do you know how many American children would have to be in this class???

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

School shoppers and church shoppers seem to always have buyer's remorse and are looking for greener pastures everywhere they go.  Stop the leaky faucet is better than buying a new house.

lvg
lvg

While there are good charter schools that work with local districts, independent charters are part of the "toolkit" of privatization and budget cutting around the nation. Robert Bobb, emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools, has proposed a massive conversion of the city's schools to charters to deal with budget cuts. The rationale: Replacing all of Detroit's teachers with non-union personnel would save the district money.

Nor are charters better. In Philadelphia, a 2010 federal investigation turned up evidence of rampant fraud and mismanagement in the city's charters. The only comprehensive, national study of charters, by Stanford University, found that only 17 percent outperformed public schools, 37 percent did significantly worse, and the remaining 46 percent were no better. Likewise, Milwaukee voucher students perform worse in state tests than their public school peers. But liquidating state education funds, especially if you don't have to pay union wages or benefits, especially if you don't even have to maintain a physical building, means big money.

On education, money is lined up against students, teachers, and local communities -- from the inner city to little farm towns.

It is telling that in Wisconsin, just as the Republicans won both houses of the legislature and moved into leadership positions, top staffers left state government altogether to take new jobs -- as school privatization lobbyists. "



- See more at: http://www.progressive.org/news/2011/04/161253/republican-war-education#sthash.N2mdS9sp.dpuf

Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

@lvg "The rationale: Replacing all of Detroit's teachers with non-union personnel would save the district money."


Yeah, cause teacher's shouldn't have to be paid to work. They should do it for free.