Inside the risky plan to turn around Atlanta Public Schools

Starting next year, Atlanta charter schools could have a chance to prove they can succeed where traditional public schools have failed.

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has proposed hiring charter school groups to run five low-performing public schools.

It's a chance for charter schools to show their successes are due to how they teach — not the students who choose their schools. Charter schools have been accused of skimming the best students and pushing out difficult ones. The schools in Carstarphen's experiment — which technically will not be charter schools — will have to accept the students they have now, she has said.

Carstarphen's plan is risky. Few districts nationally have tried similar plans, and their results have been mixed at best. And the groups Carstarphen would hire have little experience turning around schools as poor and troubled as Atlanta's.

Atlanta already has the highest proportion of independent charter schools of any large Georgia district.

The two groups Carstarphen has selected as finalists to manage the schools — Purpose Built Schools, which is affiliated with Drew Charter School, and Kindezi — are both local nonprofits.

Teachers at the schools targeted for charter management would lose their positions, though they could reapply to the schools’ new managers. If hired back they would no longer be district employees. Their pay and benefits would be set by the charter groups.

Teachers are afraid, said Karen Floyd of the Georgia Association of Educators.

"They've done everything they can do." Yet, "They're being thrown out," Floyd said.

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