Some at-risk Atlanta schools could avoid state takeover

Some of the two dozen or so Atlanta schools at risk of potential state takeover because of poor performance likely have improved enough to avoid that fate, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said Thursday.

But preliminary College and Career Readiness Index ratings also suggest that other schools scored poorly enough to risk that fate themselves. The State could take them over, close them, run them itself or convert them to charter schools if Georgia voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District plan in November.

The district has embarked on an expensive and far-reaching effort to improve Atlanta schools. Like the outermost ripples from an ocean liner hanging a u-turn, the progress hints that the district may be straining towards recovery from a districtwide cheating scandal, a dysfunctional bureaucracy and too many schools that failed to educate children.

“I am encouraged by what we’re seeing,” Carstarphen said during a Thursday meeting with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board.

She made her comments based on preliminary results from the College and Career Ready Performance Index ratings, due to be released April 14. The ratings are based on test scores and other measures. Schools that earn an “F” under the rating system for three years in a row would be eligible for state takeover under the Opportunity School District.

School districts have received preliminary rating data. Atlanta Public Schools declined to release the preliminary ratings to the AJC in response to an open records request, saying the state said not to release them and that the ratings were proprietary research data.

Carstarphen and Atlanta school board members are hoping for more improvements in the coming years, as their turnaround plans take effect, with an intense focus on the lowest performing schools.

The plans include hiring charter school operators to run five schools, closing and consolidating schools, running intensive tutoring sessions, and giving principals and parents more say over how their schools operate. Some of those elements could spread to more schools.

“I’ve got to see how the implementation’s going before I say I want to open up the door.”

But “are we going to do more over time?” Carstarphen said. “Absolutely.”

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