Parents and community members meet at Sutton Middle School on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, to hear about the Atlanta school district's plans to rate all schools.

Atlanta school board to consider five-star school rating plan Thursday

The Atlanta school board will devote a full day to fleshing out a district-wide plan to improve schools -- an ambitious goal that starts with rating all of its schools.

The board will meet from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday at the school district’s headquarters, 130 Trinity Ave. The board will discuss a plan to create a scorecard that grades how well schools are performing as well as a menu of options for how the district should respond when schools succeed or fail. 

The rating system would be unique to Atlanta and include data that isn’t reflected in the state’s report card. A draft of the proposed rating system calls for schools to receive one to five stars based on factors such as student attendance, suspension and graduation rates, and how much schools are closing the gap between how well white and black students score on standardized tests. 

One-star schools at the bottom of the rating scale could be closed or merged with a higher performing school. Their teachers could be replaced or the district could turn to an outside organization to run the school. 

Five-star schools could be expanded or replicated. 

The school board has been studying similar school-reform attempts that have happened at other districts, including Denver Public Schools, as it creates the plan. Such changes have been controversial elsewhere because they’ve led to school closures and, in some cases, the growth of charter schools. 

About 50 parents and community members attended a meeting Tuesday at Sutton Middle School to learn more about the plan. School board Chairman Jason Esteves told the group that it will “bring a new level of accountability and transparency to APS.” 

He said the district has focused in recent years on turning around its lowest-performing schools, as measured by the state. He said it’s now time to look at every school in the district. 

“What I have heard consistently is that we have to look at more schools than just the schools that are lowest performing. We have to look across the district so that every child can go to an excellent school in their neighborhood,” Esteves said. 

A few who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they don’t think the public has enough information about the proposed rating system to provide feedback to the district. They pointed to a draft version with missing information -- such as where the district would get data to measure family engagement or the number of students participating in extracurricular activities. 

Officials said the district is still determining how it will collect the data it needs to create the new rating system. 

District officials have said the board could vote on the improvement plan as early as March, though it would take two years to fully implement it.

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