Atlanta Prefers Government Control to Results
But Achieve Academy may close, a move that would force Zicuria and the school’s 170 or so other students from grades five through seven back to the traditional public schools they left. Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall is recommending against approving Achieve Academy’s charter, citing a weak curriculum, a history of financial mismanagement, low enrollment and other problems. The board is scheduled to vote today on the charter.
David Morgan, principal at Achieve Academy, said Atlanta school officials have been “unyielding in their position,” that the charter school must close, despite test scores that met state standards under the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Though Achieve met state testing goals, the school did not meet testing goals spelled out in its charter, district officials said. “The performance in fifth grade was particularly troubling, as 23 out of 41 students did not meet standards on one or both of reading or mathematics tests,” district official Sharron Pitts wrote in a letter to Achieve’s board chair, Dana Thomas.
Morgan said school officials point out weak scores while ignoring high scores. Seventh-graders performed well on the state’s Criterion Referenced Competency Test, with 87 percent passing math and reading. Achieve students generally outperformed schools such as Carson and Kennedy, where half the seventh-graders failed reading and where students will be sent back to if Achieve closes.
I realize that in their first year, fifth graders (who, invariably, were products of Atlanta Public Schools up until that point) were failing. But it certainly looks like they’ve gotten those same failing students up to an 87% pass rate by the time they hit 7th grade. That sounds like positive results.
So the students are happy, the parents are happy, and the kids are leaving with a higher pass rate than they came in. Even the fifth-graders, who didn’t meet the standards the school set for themselves, passed state and NCLB guidelines, which not all Atlanta Public Schools do.
It sounds like the school does have a bit of turmoil, between financial problems, moving every year, some leadership turnover, and losing out on one of their curriculum programs (due to a too-low enrollment number). But despite these problems, they’re getting it done.
And it appears that they’re on the right track, trying to buy a property while working with a new company, Imagine Schools. But apparently that’s not good enough for the local government:
Deputy Superintendent Kathy Augustine said the school had shown “pockets of improvement,” but she stopped short of calling Achieve a success.
She found the school’s plan for a partnership with the nonprofit Imagine Schools void of detail and full of conflicting information about such matters as whether the Saturday program would end at noon or 12:30 and whether students would be allowed a snack time. Augustine was not convinced teachers would cover the state curriculum, nor was she satisfied with the school’s plan to operate in a former church Imagine officials have said they intend to buy.
A half hour on Saturday? Snack time? These are reasons to refuse their charter? And the state curriculum hasn’t exactly made Atlanta Public Schools a success, so maybe they should stick with what actually works. I think Atlanta is searching for any reason to refuse the charter, not looking to determine if this school will actually educate children.
I think we can see through this. This school, despite its problems, is succeeding in its primary goal, educating children. If such a problematic charter school can succeed, I’ll bet the local government schools are quaking in their boots. How can they explain their failure in the face of success like this?
Hat Tip: Jason Pye