DeKalb gives two charter schools a new lease on life, but it’s a short-term lease

Local school boards seem to be responding to the Legislature’s less-than-gentle prodding to “adopt” the handful of existing charter schools left in limbo by a May 16 state Supreme Court ruling.

On Monday, DeKalb County granted one-year waivers to two charter schools approved by the now defunct Charter Schools Commission. Peachtree Hope Charter School and the Museum School of Avondale Estates will be able to open for a second year, but they will have to reapply to the school board for the standard five-year charter school contract. So, their new lease on life is a short-term one for the present.

It’s a wise public relations move by the DeKalb board, given the 11th hour decision by the state Supreme Court and the uncertainty facing the parents in the impacted charter schools. The high court’s decision affects 16 charter schools, only eight of which are in operation. The other eight are due to open in August, and it’s not clear how many will win local approval.

Without that local approval, the schools could still open as state charter schools under the State Board of Education’s auspices, but they would not earn any local dollars. And those local dollars account for half of the spending in most public schools in Georgia today. (The vast majority of charter schools in Georgia are already under the umbrella of local systems.)

The 16 commission charters collectively would have enrolled 15,644 students this fall, 10,000 of whom would be taking their classes virtually through online schools.

One virtual school is operating, the Georgia Cyber Academy, and two are supposed to open this fall. Brick and mortar schools represent only a third of the students stranded by the high court’s ruling.  It’s interesting that two-thirds of the affected students would be taking classes online, a growing trend in Georgia and elsewhere.

According to the AJC:

Parents reacted with relief to the unanimous vote of the nine-member school board.

“I’m very happy to see that they have embraced us,” said Canangela Robertson, whose 7-year-old son just finished his first year at Peachtree Hope. She has another boy, 5, set to start there in the fall and a girl, 2, who hopes to attend someday.

Robertson chose the charter school over a county magnet school for the arts. She said her eldest child was allowed to attend the charter school when the neighborhood school failed to make adequate yearly progress.

“I love the college prep curriculum they have in place,” she said, also citing the daily Spanish immersion and the double daily sessions of math and English. “And they also offer art and music.”

School board members questioned the charter school attendance lines and the demographics of the students at the schools, and said they hoped the long-term charter applications would address their concerns.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

29 comments Add your comment

say what?

June 13th, 2011
10:50 pm

Good news for DCSS and fof the charter school students. So the local BOEs can work with charter schools much to the chagrin of those who are anti=public schools? Government relations employee does a great job of responding to potential charter schools to ensure they are compliant.

ANGELA

June 13th, 2011
11:12 pm

Martina

June 14th, 2011
7:09 am

There’s a huge turnout expected tonight at Coweta County’s BOE meeting in support of one of the charter schools that opened last year and was on the list that could be closed.
http://www.times-herald.com/local/School-board—shifts-meeting—to-Performing—Arts-Centre—Move-to-accommodate-tonight-s—large-charter-school-turnout—1712464
We’ll see if they go the same route at DeKalb.

Dunwoody Mom

June 14th, 2011
8:42 am

Currently, The Museum School’s attendance zone is Avondale ES and Midway. With redistricting, students from Avondale and Midway have been rezoned to Knollwood. My guess is that DCSS will look to the Museum School to add that area to its charter application.

catlady

June 14th, 2011
8:43 am

I would love to be proven wrong. i posit that the majority of charter schools that are locally approved serve “those children,” and are not targeted to upper middle class white kids (with a few notable, spectacular exceptions.) Anyone with broad knowledge of the approved charter schools in Georgia want to comment? Or, anyone know of a charter school database that lists demographics of all the charter schools?

Dunwoody Mom

June 14th, 2011
8:49 am

@catlady, go this link:

http://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/fte_pack_ethnicsex.entry_form

You can get the demographics for all schools, state charters included here.

old school doc

June 14th, 2011
9:05 am

Ok, I am going to ask an obvious question, that I have not gotten a decent answer for: what happens to local schools when the motivated/bright families and students all go to the local charters, or to a private school? I think districts should either go all charter and allow the local neigborhood schools the same flexibilities, or have no charters at all. My local schools are becoming the de facto alternative school because they HAVE to acccept, and KEEP all students, unlike charters and privates. Restore discipline to the schools, no matter the SES level, and student acheivement I think will skyrocket. Currently all it takes in 1-2 fools in a class to prevent the other 22 from learning. I have seen it. Measnwhile my property values are plummeting.

old school doc

June 14th, 2011
9:07 am

forgive my typos above…

Concerned Teacher

June 14th, 2011
9:08 am

Old School Doc, this has been my concern from the very beginning! We in the public schools must meet all rules of state and federal mandates while the charter schools get to pick and choose the rules as well as the students. You are so right. We become the “alternative” school where numbers are manipulated and classes redesigned so all is AYP. Is this realy education as it should be?

bob leblah

June 14th, 2011
9:23 am

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid! blah!! Apply the band-aid … ahhh it’s all better.

bob leblah

June 14th, 2011
9:32 am

@old school doc — You’re right. I’ve been on this board pushing privatization of the school system. Charter schools are a silly awkward step sideways to get some of the benefit of that. Parents who care about their kid’s educations attempt to seperate their kids from those that don’t. Although, I respect them for caring about their children’s education, this is the wrong direction.

What you’ve described (the brightest, not in private school) moving on is correct. Even though schools have their problems and need fixes in their own right, the great big fat problem is parenting. But no, we have to keep accommodating excuses to avoid saying something politically correct… and so we dance………

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

June 14th, 2011
9:36 am

old school doc and Concerned Teacher:

Educ-rats receive their cheese for enrolling, not teaching, kids. And they receive more for enrolling poor kids.

Establishing policies to provide for favorable teaching/learning experiences in our schools and defending these policies in court are unrelated to educ-rats’ cheese-acquisition. Besides, such establishment and defense are difficult, time-consuming, unpleasant and expensive. Why should the educ-rats bother? They get their cheese regardless of how our kids act in schools.

By the way, the educ-rats also believe that we old docs and concerned teachers are too stupid, too cowardly, or both too stupid and too cowardly to disrupt their feast.

Understanding Atlanta

June 14th, 2011
10:12 am

This is very interesting. As a proponent of choice, charter schools do have the ability of taking the brightest students out of regular public schools, but the same holds true in my opinion of magnet schools (though it is a lottery). Magnet schools operate under that same rules as public schools but typically have students that out-perform their resident counterparts.

It might be worthwhile to explore the idea of every school being a magnet/charter school with a focus. i.e. Science and Technology, Arts, Healthcare, Law, High Achievers. Then allow students and parents to choose the top 3, and assign students to a school.

Local Girl

June 14th, 2011
10:27 am

Magnet schools are allowed to have entrance requirements, but charter schools are not. Charter schools must accept ANY student, regardless of ability. They do not pick and choose the best and brightest. This is a common misconception. However, it is probably true that families that truly care about education are the ones who choose to enter the lotteries for enrollment at most charter schools.

Public vs Charter teacher

June 14th, 2011
11:13 am

Before posting comments, one should do their research: Charter schools do NOT get to pick and choose their students. They open enrollment to the same attendance zones as schools around them. Also, they do have to meet state standards, such as a certain percentage of students passing the CRCT. However, I do agree that student discipline is becoming a MAJOR issue. That’s an administrative issue though…they choose how to deal with their students. If you think other kids’ poor behavior is affecting your child’s academics, speak up! Administrators listen to parents more than they listen to teachers…being a former South Fulton teacher, I’ve experienced this first hand.

old school doc

June 14th, 2011
11:59 am

I realize that charters do not pick and choose. They do, however, benefit from self -selection. Motivated parents who seek out improved ( at least percieved so) school options for their kids often times end up at charter/private schools. And charter/private schools are not required to keep the students if they are not a good fit. The student always has the option of going back to their zoned public school, but the public schools have no right of refusal, no back up/alternative schools at the lower grade levels.

I am, by the way, in no way a proponent of using my tax dollars to subsidize private school education. The bigger private schools have development offices more organized and aggressive than many colleges– if they really valued getting SES/ethnic diversity they could have done so LONG ago. I keep waiting for an Islamic private school ( or any other non Christian denomination) to lay claim to the private school tax money– let’s see how fast all these good southern folks cry “indoctrination” ( it’s ok if you are a Christian…)!

And magnet schools? THey may give you choice, but really that choice seems to be relative to the neighborhood. The ones on the north side of town draw kids from all over the district, but how many folks from the north side actually would send their child to a magnet school on the southside? In my day we had a top notch science program at my local high school. I don’t recall seeing any folks from the north side in that program if you catch my drift.

I am a strong proponent of discipline in the schools. For a variety of reasons, many kids are not appropriately disciplined at home. If the schools are charged to do so ( ie teach self respect and self-discipline) then a serious attempt to work with the child/family must be made at the local school. After that they should be sent to alternative schools overrun with every type of social/psychiatric/tutoring/parenting support imaginable. Money well spent. And I would rather our kids learn tough lessons at a young age (when the consequences are not too great) than learn them on the streets or in prison.

Lynn43

June 14th, 2011
1:11 pm

There will be no charter school discussion or vote tonight in Coweta County.

Laura68

June 14th, 2011
3:19 pm

I’m the board chair for a charter school applicant in DeKalb County. We’re a volunteer board that’s been trying to get approval in DeKalb County for three years. It’s not true to say that all charter schools are exclusive or accept only some students, to the detriment of other public schools. Our school is a k-8 public charter school that accepts any student who lives within the school zone.

I’m a supporter of charter schools because they have boards dedicated to that school. I used to work with many private schools around the country. Money is not the most important benefit private schools enjoy–many of them are as poor as any public school. Private schools benefit from personal investment on the part of community members who care about that school. They have governing boards of parents, graduates, and community leaders dedicated to that particular school. Charter schools are public schools that have a governing board, like private schools, to protect and promote that school’s mission and goals in serving students.

Ideally, a public charter school is a partnership between the charter school board and the district that provides a successful and innovative choice for parents and kids. DeKalb County should have educational options. And every public school should be held to a high standard regardless of the children served.

Ed

June 14th, 2011
8:55 pm

Just to clarify–the Museum School in the past academic year accepted students from only part of DeKalb County (you can look it up on their website). Charter schools chartered by DeKalb BOE do NOT (any longer–formerly this was true) get to draw from only “the same attendance zones as schools around them.”

Chances are–I would certainly hope–that the BOE, if it renews the TMS charter, as I hope it will, will require TMS to use county funds for the benefit of all of the county, and be open to all of the county. While I do realize transportation issues impose a de facto limit on attendance to any charter (or magnet), de facto is not the same as de jure.

And no, TMS’s current enrollment does not “represent” the whole county. It is impossible to represent any entire population by drawing one’s sample from less than 10% of that population–that’s fundamental math.

Cere

June 15th, 2011
12:44 pm

I think that, in DeKalb at least, the school system should either have ALL charter schools or NO charter schools. DeKalb’s charter (and I’ll lump in magnet and theme schools as these are all more or less specialty schools of choice that require some kind of effort to apply and attend) schools have so depleted the populations of their own neighborhood schools as to cause these schools to have to consolidate — closing some. The communities in the areas with closed schools have to suffer the blight of abandoned property as well as the challenge of merging with another school, including a longer bus commute in some cases.

But the happy people who got what they wanted for their children do not see the correlation. In fact, it is some from this happy group who actually are protesting the closure of the schools they themselves deserted!

For more on the subject – read this blog post – it’s the best we could do with the data we’re provided (and had it not been for the Citizen’s Task Force, we would never have had access to this data at all.)

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/05/north-vs-central-vs-south-whats-deal.html

Cere

June 15th, 2011
12:44 pm

I think that, in DeKalb at least, the school system should either have ALL charter schools or NO charter schools. DeKalb’s charter (and I’ll lump in magnet and theme schools as these are all more or less specialty schools of choice that require some kind of effort to apply and attend) schools have so depleted the populations of their own neighborhood schools as to cause these schools to have to consolidate — closing some. The communities in the areas with closed schools have to suffer the blight of abandoned property as well as the challenge of merging with another school, including a longer bus commute in some cases.

But the happy people who got what they wanted for their children do not see the correlation. In fact, it is some from this happy group who actually are protesting the closure of the schools they themselves deserted!

For more on the subject – read this blog post – it’s the best we could do with the data we’re provided (and had it not been for the Citizen’s Task Force, we would never have had access to this data at all.)

http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/05/north-vs-central-vs-south-whats-deal.html

Public vs Charter teacher

June 15th, 2011
3:40 pm

Ed: What public school includes the entire county? Every public school has attendance zones, including charter schools.
I think the real question should be, as a nation, what are the factors that make charter schools work? Then every school should do this. Look at KIPP for example, they have many students that are low SES and perhaps below level, and they re successful. I think the common denominator for a good education is involved parents…

Darren Beck

June 15th, 2011
7:28 pm

Way to go districts! The era of charter vs. traditional has got to end and this is an amazing opportunity for some great strides forward in Georgia and modeling for the rest of the country. Don’t let one of the 16 schools be prematurely closed. If they are bad schools, by all means close them, but please do not mess over the kids waiting to get into those seats at those schools. It is immoral to do so. Everyone needs to roll up their sleeves and make this a resounding and astounding success for the kids of Georgia!

N GA Blues

June 16th, 2011
11:37 am

@Public vs Charter teacher: In the 1980s, I went to magnet middle and high schools that did have “the entire county” as their attendance zone. No transportation aid was provided. Parents worked out car pools, older kids drove themselves and their siblings, or for those lucky enough to live on a mass transit route, there was the city bus. The building was the oldest high school in the county, built in the early 1900s, and it didn’t even have a regulation-sized gym, much less a football field or even a track. We were surrounded by the downtown business district. We didn’t complain about our lack of “up to date” amenities; we were grateful to be given the opportunity to learn with peers who also WANTED to be in school and from wonderful teachers who pushed us every single day. We had rich kids, poor kids, and even homeless kids— and we throve.

You can scream that we were cherry-picked all you want, it won’t change the fact that at a very rough estimate, 80% of kids aren’t cut out for full four-year college. About 20% aren’t really cut out for even a two-year degree or a skilled trade apprenticeship. The fact that the American public educational system has been trying to pretend otherwise for several decades—to push higher education as a goal for every student, and to make every school be all things to all students—has a lot to do with what’s screwed up. The bell curve is the bell curve.

Wandless

June 16th, 2011
6:31 pm

The school board must believe that DeKalb residences are stupid, ignorant or both. How you are a litigant in a law suit, win the lawsuit. Then do what you fought against, and won? It makes no sence to any fairly intelligent person.
Let’s get to the real issue here. It is about race, it is always about race. If DeKalb County funds the Museum School, it is participating in and sanctioning an act of segregation. These are harsh words and accusations, as they well need to be. The Museum School is located right next to Avondale Elementary School. You remember the school that was going to be closed because of low enrollment. How ironic that the Museum School opened last year practically in Avondale’s backyard. On one hand you have Avondale Elementary School with available seats, and on the other hand you have the Museum School housed in trailers. Yes, I said trailers.
Walk by these schools and observe the students during recess or physical education. Both groups of students will be filled with joy and laughter as they go about the business of having fun. Then look a little closer, and you will observe a marked contrast. The students from Avondale are almost all African American, and those from the Museum School are almost all White. It is segregation at its finest. If the Museum School parents do not want their children to attend Avondale, fine. Then they should pay for their students to attend any private school that they like. However, tax payers ought not to be forced to participate in this blatant act of planned segregation.

Wandless

June 16th, 2011
6:32 pm

Typo, ment residents

Wandless

June 16th, 2011
6:34 pm

typo, meant residents

Public vs Charter teacher

June 17th, 2011
10:33 am

While it is interesting that Avondale Elementary was about to close and The Museum School opened it’s doors right beside it, The Museum School is not almost all white. It’s a 60/40 mix. Please remember that The Museum School’s attendance zone is for Avondale Estates Elementary School and Midway Elementary. Let’s look at the difference between North Fulton and South Fulton schools…same county yet highly segregated. What should we do about that? Perhaps having schools where parents HAVE to be involved, even if it is to fill out an application and get their child to school is the way to go. Having taught in a South Fulton, all black school, involved parents make a huge difference. Can you imagine a country where parents are made to take part in their child’s education? Wow! We could once again become a world competitor! Again I say, shouldn’t we be concerned about the child’s education? If it works, what is the problem? Georgia is 49 in the country…we must do something drastic…I ask you this, if charter schools aren’t the answer…what is?

Wandless

June 18th, 2011
1:07 pm

Statistics from the Georgia Department of Education (2008-2009) seem to support evidence that The Museum School’s racial make-up is not reflective of the schools that it allegedly serves. According to the data from that period of time the racial make-up of Avondale and Midway were as noted: Avondale 88% Black, 6% White, the balance made-up of other racial groups. The data for Midway: 90% Black, 1.9% White, and the balance made- up of other racial groups. Therefore, if The Museum School was truly reflective of its serving schools, you would expect that there would be 89% Black students, 4% White students, and the balance made- up of other racial groups. We all know that is not the case at The Museum School. Again, I contend that the DeKalb School Board is sanctioning and supporting racial segregation.