NewAPS-LogoGeorgia voters will decides on the state’s proposed Opportunity School District (OSD) referendum to turn around failing schools during the 2016 general election. Atlanta Public Schools, which has 26 schools on the failing list, is already hard at work to make sure its houses of learning remain under local control.

Under legislation passed earlier this year, schools persistently scoring below 60 on the Georgia Department of Education’s accountability measure, the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI), for three consecutive years would be subject to takeover.

The OSD would take on no more than 20 schools per year, but is limited at governing 100 at any given time. Schools would stay in the district for no less than five years but no more than 10 years, and would then return to local control.

Last month, APS launched its “New School Turnaround Strategy Project” led by Boston Consulting Group. The school board also hired Erin Hames, the governor’s former policy and legislative affairs advisor, to consult with APS on how to get the schools back on track and avoid being taken over by the state.

APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said on her blog, @ATLSuper, that the district is “developing an aggressive and targeted course of action for school improvement. If we can achieve that, state intervention will be unnecessary.”

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen

However, Carstarphen recognized that getting all 26 schools off the state takeover list would be a challenge. If voters approve the OSD referendum next November, the state will likely begin taking over schools beginning with the 2017-18 academic year based on CCRPI data.

Carstarphen said generous donors are paying for the Boston Consulting Group’s work. Parents should keep an eye out for surveys, focus groups and town hall meetings on the issue. Carstarphen said she would collect feedback from our teachers and principals, especially those who are “in the trenches” every day.

On the hiring of Hames, Carstarphen said she would be a “key component in challenging us to do the tough and smart work as well as help us navigate the system to avoid the OSD.”

“It won’t give APS an automatic pass, but I think it gives us the leverage of advice from an expert who understands the decisions surrounding the creation, mission and structure of the OSD,” Carstarphen said.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.