Coalition endorses APS plan to rate schools as district eyes improvement

Atlanta Public Schools

Atlanta Public Schools

A local coalition of nonprofit and educational groups endorsed a plan to rate Atlanta schools -- a model that could lead to closing struggling schools and expanding successful ones.

A group called "Atlantans for Excellent Schools" this week announced its support of the improvement plan. The advocacy work comes a few weeks before the Atlanta school board is scheduled to vote March 4 on the plan, opposed by some who think it will lead to more schools being run by charter groups.

The coalition consists of United Negro College Fund, Grove Park Foundation, Center for Civic Innovation, Communities In Schools of Atlanta, the Rev. Charles A. Harper III, and RedefinED Atlanta, the nonprofit that covered the $235,000 consulting cost to create the plan.

“Atlanta families are ready for proven approaches to excellent schools that put students first and ensure every student is able to attend excellent schools,” said Debra Edelson, Grove Park Foundation’s executive director, in a written statement. “By identifying what’s working in schools and improving on new ideas, we can replicate practices that work, end practices that don’t, and plan for schools that meet our promise that all students will be able to attend excellent schools within a generation.”

Grove Park Foundation is helping Atlanta Public Schools raise millions for the new Woodson Park Academy school building, to open in 2020. The school will be run and staffed through a contract that the district signed with KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools, a nonprofit group of public charter schools.

Communities In Schools provides social services support and resources to Atlanta students through a contract with the school district.

APS leaders have spent months developing a plan to rate all of its schools using some data that’s not part of how the state grades schools. The APS scorecard would judge a school’s success based on factors such as teacher quality, parent engagement, students’ social and emotional skills and standardized test scores.

The school district would use the rating results to determine which schools need to be reworked or expanded. If the board approves the plan, it would take several years to fine tune the rating system and implement it.

Critics contend the plan will lead to school closures and the outsourcing of schools to be run by nonprofit charter operators, as has occurred in other districts that have adopted similar approaches.