APS meeting draws 500. Parents care, but is that enough?

The AJC reports that 500 people attended the Atlanta Public Schools community meeting last night, many of them to support of Coan Middle School, which is slated to close under the school chief’s proposal.

Superintendent Erroll Davis spoke at the meeting. (He will be at another meeting tonight at 6:30 Carver High School.)

Redistricting always sparks a crowd because the issue rallies not only current parents in the system, but parents of younger children who will eventually attend the schools.

I’ve heard from several parents whose children are too young to attend Coan, but who hoped that the school would improve by the time their kids arrived there.

The problem is that Coan is at only 30 percent capacity, and it costs a lot to operate half-empty schools. Under his plan to close 13 under-enrolled Atlanta schools, Davis said APS would save $6.5 million.

So while the community members were arguing for the potential that Coan offered –  it’s in a good location in an neighborhood with increasing appeal to young families — Davis was acting on the reality of the situation.

Not sure how to reconcile those different vantage points.

According to the AJC:

Wednesday’s meeting focused only on schools that are zoned to feed into Jackson High School and Grady High School. Many in attendance demonstrated the cluster route they desired by sporting bright green T-shirts that read “Mary Lin Elementary, Inman Middle & Grady High.”

“What makes our good schools good is the level of parental engagement,” Davis said. “The feedback has been voluminous.”

Davis will hold a similar meeting Thursday night at Carver High School to discuss schools that feed into Carver and South Atlanta High School.

Davis again shot down assumptions that race and class weighed in on his decision-making. “Most of our schools are in African-American neighborhoods, and if we close the schools that I recommend, most of our schools will still be in African-American neighborhoods,” Davis said. “Race is not a factor in this.”

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

118 comments Add your comment

Happy Kine and The Mirth Makers

March 22nd, 2012
9:49 am

Parents caring probably is far from enough. The APS mentality, this culture if you will is entreched. Dismantling of the entire system is the only solution and that isnt gonna happen.

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
10:07 am

The demographers never indicated Coan should close. Davis made this decision despite what those who gathered the data suggested.

At last night’s meeting, Davis let those from north of the tracks go on and on about how open the entire process has been. Please! Those south of the tracks were kept in the dark about Coan’s potential closing until after the first couple rounds of maps. Those in the south are not being told how much busing their kids four highway exits will cost. Davis keeps touting a half million will be saved by closing Coan, but busing has to cost at least that much per year. Again, hiding fact is not transparancy.

Maybe transparacy is only for those who live in affluent neighborhoods.

Davis keeps sayling ML kids shouldn’t have to move to a lesser-performing school, but will not answer why it’s okay for KW/EL kids to move to Manyard Jackson.

Obviously, what he really means is it’s okay for poorer kids to move to a lesser performing school, but he’s got to watch out for the affluent kids.

Speakers from south of the tracks were cut off abruptly and told not to talk about issues that didn’t praise Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis had no interest in listening to concerns from south of the tracks.

Finally, Mr. Davis meandered on after each question, but gave very few answers.

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
10:09 am

In case this point wasn’t clear enough, when Mr. Davis claims class had no part in his decision, he lies. Period. Last night showed definitively that when affluent people talked, Mr. Davis listened. When the less affluent spoke, she stopped them, ignored them or gave them silly non-answers. Mr. Davis may not realize he gives more attention to the affluent, but anyone who observed him last night had no doubt that he has that prejudice.

Mr Charlie

March 22nd, 2012
10:11 am

Omg! Envolved parents make better schools? Race has nothing to do with redistricting because most of the students are black? Why must you liberals go through such lengths to defy common sense and make everything so difficult. Hurray for mr Davis. Is there really hope?

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
10:14 am

One more thing…

On moving KW/EL kids to Manyard Jackson…

Davis claims this puts them in a cluster, which he says is a good thing. But many of us cannot help but view this as Mr. Davis taking the better school away from our kids and corralling them far away, with other poor kids. While Mr. Davis may not be doing this consciously, it’s very obvious, especially after watching him treat affluent and non-affluent differently last night, that this man carries that prejudice.

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
10:18 am

@Maureen – you ignore that there are two problems – overcrowding at Inman and underenrollment at Coan. Shouldn’t Davis at least explore and provide the numbers for the obvious solution? The children who live closer to Coan than to their present, overcrowded middle school could be moved to the closer school. Why has this obvious, common sense solution never been put on the table?

The question isi rhetorical, as we all know the answer.

A Conservative Voice

March 22nd, 2012
10:19 am

Ah, now is a great time to offer again the suggestion I made over two years ago. The APS is spread over too big of a geographic and socio-economic area. My suggestion is to split the APS into two pieces…….1) The south part of Atlanta and call it SAPS (South Atlanta Public Schools) and, 2) The north part of Atlanta and call it NAPS (North Atlanta Public Schools). Problem solved, folks. Will cut out all the infighting, have separate boards and administrations……would make it much, much easier to spot where the problem areas are and to focus on those schools……smaller is easier. No need to thank me for this suggestion…….I don’t live in Atlanta,don’t have school age children any more (whew!!!) so I don’t really have any motive to work to make it happen; however, I feel for you parents who moved to a certain neighborhood because of the schools your children would attend and now you might be re-districted. That’s a hard pill to swallow. I hope you win your fight; however, if you don’t, maybe my suggestion might be something you would consider fighting for.

Maureen Downey

March 22nd, 2012
10:33 am

@Wondering, I think that is a good point. One way to do what you are suggesting is to try a variation of what the city of Decatur did faced with a similar situation.

Turn Coan into a sixth grade academy for both Coan and Inman students and then send them all back to Inman for 7 and 8.
According to the state website, Coan has 110 sixth graders. Inman has 300. If you combined those classes into a single academy, Coan would hold 410 students, still under capacity but 100 more students than it presently has.
Inman would roughly have a seventh grade class of 400 and an eighth grade class of 400 — 800 kids all told. It was designed for 770 students but can hold more, according to the school.
I understand that parents would not like this because they don’t want another transition year foisted on their kids, but it would seem that the numbers would work out.
Maureen

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
10:46 am

@Maureen – Thank You! Maybe that’s not the solution, but our frustration on the south side of the tracks is that the common sense solutions, like yours, are sumarily rejected by Davis without serious discussion. He is only listening to the affluent side of the tracks. His attitude towards those above and below the tracks was so obvious last night, which only makes the frustration worse.

Couple that with his talking out of both sides of his mouth – moving Inman kids to a worse performing school is unacceptable, but moving KW/EL kids from Grady to Jackson is okay – and the frustration gets worse. Mr. Davis has taken what could have been an opportunity for open conversation and, in his rush, prejudice and tin-ear way, turned it into class warfare. He has the power to slow this down before it does more damage, but doesn’t seem to care.

Kirkwood Parent

March 22nd, 2012
10:47 am

@Happy Kine

After teaching in APS for several years, I left the system in utter despair for the reasons expressed in your comment. The “APS mentality” and the “entrenched culture” that I observed were so destructive and at the same time seemingly indestructible. Interestingly enough, it is the cheating scandal that has renewed my hope for APS. The scandal accomplished what all of our good intentions could not. It cut out a lot of the rot that we all knew was there and it did dismantle much of the system. Just to give you one example, Erroll Davis does not travel with a private driver and a dedicated Atlanta police officer. He appears to be engaging in a serious effort to use our resources on things that actually impact the education of children, rather than hordes of liasons and consultants who were apparently paid to walk the halls, inspect the bulletin boards, and write notes on a clipboard. He even recently indicated that “you will be able to write to work in our schools.” To those of us who have worked in those schools, that is a promising statement.

So I say, give it some time. And, if you’re in any way connected to the schools (as a parent, a teacher, a concerned member of the community), give it your full support. I may be naive, but I think we could see dramatic improvements in APS in the near future.

C Jae of EAV

March 22nd, 2012
10:48 am

Looking at this from an economic point of view, any option for keeping Coan open that results in a sustained student population that doesn’t meet or exceeds the APS standard for facility utilization is not solving the core problem. Coan is target that its become in large part because of its pitifully low level of utilization.

Its clear to me that Dr. Davis is set on keeping his recommendation to close Coan on the table and thus the consideration in large part now shifts to that of the APS Board. The Coan community has best to see the writing on the wall and work feverishly to twart the plan using every tool available to them. If they don’t Coan will cease to exist after the close of this school year.

I think there would be unintended consequence to closing Coan given how it anchours the surrounding community. Therefore every effort should be made to come up with an approach to keep it open.

I’ve challenged the community on this blog to galvenize themselves and vote to convert into a Charter. This forces APS’ hand and compels them to keep it open. But it also compels the community at large to manage the facility & its academic program with what I’m sure will be limited support from the district as they will be upset at such a move.

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
10:48 am

One more thing, it was jarring how often, when talking about choices and actions, Mr. Davis said, “I”. Its as though he has forgotten it’s not about him. He rarely refered to the school district as “we” or put decisions in terms of students, teachers, parents or neighborhoods. It was “I, I, I” on just about every answer.

Kirkwood Parent

March 22nd, 2012
11:04 am

@CJae of EAV

I could be wrong, but my understanding is that it’s no longer possible to get a charter without the local school board’s approval as a result of the Ga. S. Ct.’s decision last year. I think there is legislation in the works to change that, which will be on the ballot in November. If that legislation is approved, I would expect a lot of support in the EL/KWD community for a charter middle school, not to force the school board’s hand, but to actually obtain a more viable middle school option for our community.

Shar

March 22nd, 2012
11:11 am

According to APS’ capacity study, Coan Middle has room for 902 students at APS’ 22:1 student:teacher ratio, and ML King has 880 capacity. Demographically, Coan presently has 307 seats filled vs. King’s 551; Coan will continue its enrollment slide until 2018-2019 when it will again break the 300 mark at 315 to King’s projected 641. In the last year of the projections, the 2021-2022 school year, Coan would serve 345 students while King would have 671.

According to these numbers, Coan will fall below 30% capacity and, at its highest projected enrollment in 2021, still fall below 40% of capacity. While I understand that the small size of the school could logically lead to greater student:teacher attention and thereby raise the quality of the educational experience and the community’s hopes for overall improvement, it also appears that the school’s enrollment zone will never be large enough to justify the level of spending needed to keep the school open as it currently stands. In effect, Coan supporters are asking APS to spend three times more per student in facility costs with no evidence that those costs will ever come in line with the APS capacity targets. How does the Coan community suggest that this spending be justified?

If Mary Lin was redistricted to Coan, it would add about 250 students to the school assuming that all the Lin kids transferred. As Coan’s test scores are roughly half those of Lin, it is likely that a portion of the Lin parents would choose to place their children elsewhere. Even without defections, making Lin a feeder for Coan would only bring the school to roughly 60% of capacity and would contradict one of Davis’ goals, avoiding redistricting students to significantly poorer-performing schools.

ML King, currently at 63% capacity, has somewhat better 2011 CRCT test scores than does Coan. However, since Coan was included on the list of schools where cheating was discovered and King was not, that comparison may not be valid. If the two schools were combined, they would reach capacity at King this year (be slightly under capacity if both were housed at Coan) and will be about 200 students over capacity at the peak of enrollment, the 2021-2022 school year. The two schools are 3.3 miles apart west on Memorial Drive.

I completely sympathize with the frustration of Coan parents, and with the desire to retain their neighborhood middle school. I think that springing this on parents as an unexpected option towards the end of this process was cowardly and ill-advised. However, it is hard to ignore the practical realities that are driving this option.

Csoby

March 22nd, 2012
11:31 am

Ahh Government Schools at its best…I live in a rural county and we are ging through the same process. Economics and an aging population are coming into play. Perhaps if parentents became more involved we would not have to pay more babysitters and could get back to teaching…but I guess as long as the government is involved…ah..why even bother..schools are another government program gone bad!!

carlosgvv

March 22nd, 2012
11:31 am

I’m guessing the decisions have alread been made and these “community meetings” are just window dressing to fool the people into believing they actually have a say in what happens.

An Answer to Wondering Aloud

March 22nd, 2012
11:42 am

Wondering Aloud, you ask the same question over and again but you refuse to accept the answer.
Your question is “The children who live closer to Coan than to their present, overcrowded middle school could be moved to the closer school. Why has this obvious, common sense solution never been put on the table?”

The Answer: Because COAN is FAR UNDERPERFORMING. Far, far, far underperforming. The goal, stated over and again, was NOT to move kids from a high performing school to a lower performing school. Inman performs well and Coan is a disaster.

Now, you have your answer. Accept it.
GM

A Flaw in Maureen's Plan

March 22nd, 2012
11:45 am

Maureen, you haven’t thought through your plan to combine COan and Inman…what happens after Middle School? There is not enough room at Grady for an additional 300 Coan students.
The goal is NOT to have split feeders. The goal is to keep a cluster together from start to finish….
Gm

Bravo Conservative Voice

March 22nd, 2012
11:48 am

Yes! Exactlly. Do as Conservative Voice says — divide APS. APS is too big and too corrupt. It needs to be divided. Split the North and the South and have separate boards and separate districts. With smaller more manageable districts there will be less corruption because there is less money. There will no more be any “South of the tracks” and “North of the tracks.” People will just choose their district by where they choose to live.
I am so sick of the South of Dekalb avenuers playing thier tired old race cards. Every hand of every game, someone South of Dekalb wants to play their trump card, the race card. Please, get another trick up your sleeve or go to another card table and play with someone else.
GM

An anchor and an albatross

March 22nd, 2012
11:53 am

C J of EAV wrote about COAN “I think there would be unintended consequence to closing Coan given how it anchours the surrounding community.”

It anchors the surrounding community yes…but pulling it down in the mud. Coan is underperforming and out-cheating. The community surrounding COAN recognizes this and many take their kids elsewhere through transfers and private schools.
COAN is not a sinking ship. It is a sunken ship and even the rats have jumped off of it already.
GM

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
12:12 pm

@Shar – Thank you for your last paragraph. Given the way this decision was sprung upon us, coupled with the rush and lack of either transparency of planning, the decision is unjust. Unlike other communities who were given the opportunity to voice concern, Mr. Davis left us out of the process.

Practical realities? How about moving ML kids from their crowded school to their closer, underenrolled school? Why is moving KW/EL kids to a lower performing HS okay, but it’s a line that cannot even be discussed for ML kids? What makes them different? What makes this acceptable for one group of kids, but not even considerable for another? Either that’s acceptable or it’s unacceptable. Davis treats poorer students as lessers.

EL is being asked to change ES, MS and HS (twice, after another recent previous change) while other communities are being promised costly construction and resources. This is an undeserved slap in the face to our neighbors who have invested in that community. If LC, CP or IP had this happen…, oh, wait, Mr. Davis is too cowardly for us to even have to consider the end of that sentence.

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
12:21 pm

@AnAnswer… Your defense has already been taken away by the fact APS is moving our kids to a lesser performing HS. Obviously APS has no problem doing this, as they ae asking us to accept being moved to a lesser performing school. If they are moving us to a lesser performing school, how can they look us in our faces and tell us that’s an unfair thing to do? Why do we have to accept being moved to a lesser performing school, yet have to accept that other people cannot be moved for that reason? What makes us expendable? What makes us less deserving? What makes us have to accept what others aren’t being asked to accept?

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
12:27 pm

@AnAnswer – Put another way…you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. You are saying we need to accept being moved out of the Grady cluster to a horrible school, but it’s unfair to ask a community to move out of th eGrady cluster to a horrible school. Which is it? If it’s okay to do this, then it’s okay for ML and KW/EL. If it’s not okay to do this, than it’s just as unacceptable for KW/EL as it is for ML. Please explain to me why it’s unacceptable for ML but KW/EL should accept this? It’s a double standard. It’s treating the poor kids different than the rich kids.

To Wondering Aloud

March 22nd, 2012
12:50 pm

Your OWN community doesn’t attend COAN. Parents transfer OUT of Coan, If you think Coan is such a good school, then why is everyone transferring out of it? If Coan is so good, why are test scores scraping the bottom of the barrel? If Coan is so good, why did more than 30 percent of the teachers have to CHEAT to get students to get passing grades on a ridiculously easy to pass CRCT test?
Why? Because Coan is a rotten, lousy school.
It is a disgrace to educatiion and it needs to be closed.
GM

To Wondering Aloud

March 22nd, 2012
12:53 pm

Here is an easy answer for you — move.
Move into a good school district or a better school district. Pay the high property taxes that go to support a good school and get sucked out of teh good school to support poor neighborhoods. Volunteer to make your school good. Do your homework with your kids. Read to them. Good schools aren’t magic. it takes hard work and caring. Forcing ML to Coan won’t work. Ml can’t gix all that is wrong with Coan.
GM

LCParent

March 22nd, 2012
1:01 pm

@Wondering Allowed – First, not all Coan kids go to Grady as it is, so don’t make it sound as if the entire middle school is suddently being asked to shift.

But more to your point, I don’t know a signle CP/IP/LC voice who advocated for kicking anyone out of Grady. You want to point out perceived hypocracy by Davis, that is fine. But do so w/out trying to tell other neighborhoods where their kids should go.

frustrated APS mom

March 22nd, 2012
1:24 pm

Is there anyone out there that really likes the idea of a 6th grade center? Really, truly likes it? Or are they all just going along with it because they are afraid of the alternatives? I’m in this boat too in Buckhead and I’m wondering why anyone would logically choose a 6th grade center. I have kids at a primary campus and a main campus right now and it is a major pain logistically. I love the primary and it is worth the hassle in my opinion, but it really is just like having them at different schools most of the time. So now our cluster is going to do a k/1, a 2/5, a 6th grade center, then a 7/8, then a 9/12… all so they can stay together. All 1500 or so of them. Dumb! Let’s do something radical like turn the North Atlanta building into a k-8. Let’s talk about less transition instead of more. Turn Coan into one too. Let people choose it in a lottery. It will create a little breathing room for all the schools.

Chris Murphy

March 22nd, 2012
1:30 pm

Coan’s kids were not all zoned for Grady. Coan’s zone is Edgewood, Kirkwood, East Lake, Villages at East Lake, and East Atlanta; only KW & EL were zoned for Grady, and that since 2005. In Coan’s zone, only 240 of 680 middle schoolers would have continued onto Grady in the old plan. And that is what the disagreement is about, make no mistake: no one showed up at Coan – aside from volunteers from Emory- before the redistricting left them out of Grady, completely.

Maureen, I’d figure a journalist would have a few facts together; guess I’d be wrong. Moving the school populations around has a domino effect: any move effects others, too. Shar had the best explanation here, see above. Coan can’t be kept open without affecting King, etc. King has a new zone coming out of this process, too. Davis has promised big things for King and Jackson in terms of facilities, leadership and programs. It’s a good plan (now to see if his underlings can carry it out).

The strategy of using a cluster model to give students and their parents ‘ownership’ of their schools as they move up through the cluster is a good one. Keeping Coan a split-feeder works against any group have that feeling of ownership. Parents in that area have shown support for Drew Academy, a K-8 charter that is one of the city’s highest performing schools, with the same demographics as Coan, at about half the cost.

Davis was respectful, except when he had to keep repeating the same answers for those who felt asking the same questions was somehow proving a point, aside from their disagreement with him. Note also that Davis’ plan leaves in place 3 under-capacity elementary schools in that zone, closing only one. The area there is under-populated, as far as school age kids goes- that is the overriding fact.

intown parent

March 22nd, 2012
1:46 pm

To LC Parent -

To the contrary – there are a number of well-placed intown parents who want folks redlined out of Grady HS – but they are not so suicidal to say it openly in public with their actual names attached. These folks cross a number of political lines (so are at odds with each other) but wouldn’t have problems pushing anyone out if they thought they really could. And they actually have been trying… sniff the wind a little harder…

Mr Charlie

March 22nd, 2012
1:50 pm

Davis said it and it is worth repeating. Parental involvement = good schools. God it was refreshing to hear a APS adm say that.

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
2:08 pm

@LC Parent – You are wrong. KW/EL parents were frozen out of Grady cluster meetings pretty much from the start. The official statements from many of the communities supported “the proposed Grady cluster” instead of the present Grady cluster. Saying we support the cluster without KW/EL is, in my book, advocating for us being kicked out. Your silence (with the exception of a certain person who was forced to resign for suggesting something that would keep us in the cluster) was overwhelming. We got the message.

Again, why are we supposed to accept something three times over that your community isn’t even being asked to consider? Please don’t tell me, as a stakeholder and taxpayer, that it’s none of my business. Running the schools in a way that benefits EVERYONE EQUALLY and as economically efficiently as possible is my business. You do not own the decision of whether your kids to to Inman or Coan just because you live in a certain part of town.

If something is fair for our kids, it should be fair for your kids. How dare you say that we cannot expect you and your kids to do what we are being forced to do. Unless you are going to publicly protest the injustice for KW/EL kids, then you cannot demand we not ask for the same treatment.

Turning a blind eye to an injustice is the same as condoning the injustice. Your silence indicates you are okay with how our kids are being treated, which is the same as our asking the same be considered for your kids.

Sharon Pitts must Go

March 22nd, 2012
2:12 pm

I support Mr. Davis…he is cleaning up a huge mess that Hall and her thugs overlooked…they were too busy cheating and claiming bonuses and awards to worry about zoning issues.

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
2:12 pm

@To Wondering Allowed – I’m sorry, but are you really stating that the access to education in Atlanta is based on how much one pays in taxes? Do you understand the concept of public schools? Your taxes are not tuition for ML.

BTW, I’ll compare my tax bill south of DeKalb with anyone else’s anytime. One can easily look at the DeKalb County Tax site and see there ain’t no big difference. Your assumption on that is waaayyyy off. You’re not paying City of Decatur or Ansley Park taxes in IP/CP/LC.

yes i am worried

March 22nd, 2012
2:21 pm

I don’t have a dog in this fight but I am worried that Davis has stars in his eyes when he talks about parental involvement, strong clusters etc.

With all due respect, the parental involvement at a school like Sarah Smith or Morningside can not be replicated in a school with 80 percent free and reduced lunch. My own children attended an elementary school with 40 percent free lunch and we couldn’t match Smith or Morningside’s parental involvement. I worry that Davis is naive or just trying to make excuses for some of his decisions.

Wondering Allowed

March 22nd, 2012
2:23 pm

@yes – The latter.

Maureen Downey

March 22nd, 2012
2:24 pm

@Chris, I am not as sold on the concept that children have to be kept together from elementary through high school. The dread of split feeders — which came up in DeKalb as well — seems odd to me as high school is often when kids break away from the familiar, finding new friends and new interests.
To the me, the important consistency would be k-8. (And I am a big fan of k-8 schools.)
Maureen

Mr Charlie

March 22nd, 2012
2:29 pm

Actually wonder, you just said it. I would imagine cost per student is higher at Coan than other schools. Your taxes are high because it is inefficient, but the level of education is horrible. Why? If students at Coan were achieving well, you might have a case, but it is not. It is just a failure no matter how you slice it.

Intowner

March 22nd, 2012
2:33 pm

@Wondering – What are your thoughts for K-8 in the Kirkwood/East Lake area?

Kirkwood Parent

March 22nd, 2012
2:41 pm

@yes i am worried

Good parental involvement at a school that is 80% disadvantaged absolutely can and does happen. Drew Charter (83%) has great parental involvement. From what I understand, Whitefoord (95%) also has good parental involvement. It’s harder to get the same level of involvement but it is possible and it needs to happen. I think Davis is being optimistic, but not necessarily naive.

Maureen, since you brought up consistency and the need for it in k-8, there was an idea floating around that would get Coan to capacity by having a k-8 there for KWD and EL kids. The numbers get Coan close (combine the 400 k-5 at Toomer next year + 300 currently at Coan). Plus, lots of parents don’t like the idea of sending their 11-year old to an unwieldy 900 person middle school.

Chris Murphy

March 22nd, 2012
2:50 pm

Maureen- you proposed zoning changes without taking into consideration the schools involved. King MS is one; Hope-Hill ES (to be merged with Cook ES) is one other. The Grady cluster will now include the Old Fourth Ward, going down to Decatur St./DeKalb Ave. (Given that, the proposed Grady cluster was not gerrymandered for race or class.) That doing what you propose would leave 2 under-utilized MS’s in SE ATL, plus 3 under-utilized ES’s is just too much for one area ( and you and another poster don’t acknowledge that only 40% of Coan’s kids were zoned for Grady, anyway). SW & W ATL have similar concerns and issues, and if Davis followed your model he’d be back to figuring out just where the money was going to come from: the projected operating budget is $66 million short next year. You can argue with a cluster concept, but you have to be informed enough of all the shifting going on across S. ATL to get why the changes were proposed as they are.

Yes, it hurts KW & EL. Yes, it will be tough for Coan kids (although them walking to Jackson last night kinda takes away the “it’s too far” argument). None of the issues brought on by this process would be more than an inconvenience if APS was a competent school system to begin with. I say, better for Kirkwood to dry their tears now and get on the bandwagon to force APS to give the Jackson cluster the attention, leadership and support we need and deserve.

bootney farnsworth

March 22nd, 2012
2:57 pm

perhaps if they had shown this much interest in their kids/school BEFORE things went to hell…

bu2

March 22nd, 2012
2:59 pm

I’m also not sold on the issue of split feeders. It seems to be taken as gospel in APS and DCSS. Its a particular problem in DCSS because many of the middle schools are former HS and don’t fit well with their related HS zones.

Splitting could solve the 6th grade annex (which makes no sense to me). Buckhead doesn’t want a have and have-not MS which is the real reason for the 6th grade annex. If NAMS included Morris Brandon, Bolton and the western halves of E. Rivers and Jackson while Sutton MS included the eastern halves of those schools along with Sarah Smith and Garden Hills, you could have a pretty even SES mix in the two schools. And all of the schools in that cluster are IB, so you wouldn’t have a ciriculuum issue. But given people’s mobility, how many kids stay in the same place for 12 years? My HS only had 12 out of a class of 625 who were even in the same school district all 12 years.

Maureen Downey

March 22nd, 2012
3:07 pm

@Kirkwood. I wrote this a few years ago, but still agree with it:

In philosophy and practice, many middle schools resemble maximum security prisons. They keep students in line until their three-year sentences are up and then push them out the door to high school with what amounts to an ill-fitting suit and bus fare.

Because middle schools believe their students are prisoners to their raging hormones, they don’t expect much of them academically. In surveys, administrators and teachers describe their main job as getting adolescents through middle school rather than getting them ready for high school. “It is not learning, but sympathy for students or control of students that sets the school’s agenda, ” says Hayes Mizell, a middle school reform expert and Distinguished Senior Fellow of the National Staff Development Council.

Today, 9 million U.S. children attend middle schools that typically encompass grades 6 through 8. A model that gained popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, the concept of middle schools — and their underlying assumption that the onset of puberty called for a new phase of schooling — is now under fire.

The research suggests that kids don’t benefit when the transition to adolescence is compounded by a second transition to a new, larger school. Along with the social isolation they experience in middle schools, children lose valuable academic ground.

In achievement tests, only about one-third of U.S. eighth-graders achieve proficiency in core subjects: 27 percent in mathematics, 32 percent in science and 33 percent in reading, according to a new RAND Report on the state of American middle schools.

This failure to adequately prepare students for high school has sparked a national re-examination of middle school. Defenders contend that too many schools label themselves middle schools without the concomitant flexible schedules, interdisciplinary instruction, planning time and age-appropriate extracurricular activities. Others are less convinced.

“We have had enough time in enough places to get middle school right, and yet I can’t tell you 10 places that really feel good about their middle schools, ” says Mark Musick, president of the Southern Regional Education Board, a 16-state education organization based in Atlanta.

Among the urban districts abandoning middle schools in favor of traditional k-8 models are Cincinnati, New York City, Baltimore, Cleveland, Oklahoma and Philadelphia.

A similar rethinking of middle school ought to be taking place here in Georgia after the state Department of Education’s announcement on Monday that fewer than half of our middle schools made the grade on state tests. And the state of Georgia is an easy grader.

In choosing to revive the old k-8 model, many districts cite their own research that shows kids do better in a prolonged elementary school setting. A study using data from the Maine Educational Assessment found that eighth-graders in such elementary school settings outperformed eighth-graders in all other grade configurations.

In its own three-year review, Philadelphia found that k-8 schools led to higher achievement on the Stanford Achievement Tests, high school placement and freshman-year letter grades.

Two years after Cleveland resumed k-8 schools, sixth-grade students in k-8 schools posted pass rates 18 percent higher in reading and 23 percent higher in math than their counterparts in 6-8 schools.

Oklahoma City reported improved discipline and conduct when early elementary and middle grades merged, probably because older children were more aware of how they acted around younger kids and saw themselves as role models.

Certainly, middle school underachievement reflects more than awkward grade configuration and can’t be reversed by simply rearranging the chairs. “It’s not as though no middle schools work effectively, ” says Mizell. “It’s just that we don’t have enough of them.” Too many middle schools lack a deep and meaningful curriculum and have too many unqualified teachers, especially in math and science.

Still, the structure of middle school itself bears reconsideration. The RAND Report on middle schools concluded on a desultory note: “While many well-intended and reasoned reforms have been implemented in U.S. middle schools, we are not doing very well compared with the rest of the developed world.”

bootney farnsworth

March 22nd, 2012
3:09 pm

here’s an idea: with all the money in this town, why not have the parents petition Simmons, Blank, Marcus, ect to fund the school?

Beverly Fraud

March 22nd, 2012
3:17 pm

A quick primer on APS and its “corporate culture.”

-Think of it as being much like the North Korean government, except that the North Korean government is more benevolent toward its citizens.

-Think of it as being much like the Somalian government, except that the Somalian government is more organized.

Apologies to the governments of North Korea and Somalia for the comparison.

oldtimer

March 22nd, 2012
3:26 pm

Worked wth HS kids in TN who had been through K-8 schools…..loved the concept…very community oriented and kids came to high school very well prepared….

Kirkwood Parent

March 22nd, 2012
3:31 pm

Maureen,

I’ve been citing things like this and the Education Next article “The Middle School Mess” to anyone who will listen to try to get some traction for a KWD/EL K-8. Given what KWD/EL are being asked to give up in the redistricting, I think it is fair to ask for K-8 consideration. Erroll Davis seems like a reasonable, honorable man who sincerely cares about educational outcomes for children in the system. I suspect he would be open to a K-8 plan for our community. Problem is, I think it would have to go along with acceptance of and commitment to the Jackson cluster. Most people are still not willing to give up the fight to stay in Grady at all costs, although we are now realizing that there are in fact costs.

oldtimer

March 22nd, 2012
3:34 pm

Just read your last post….as a retired middle school teacher…you hit the nail on the head. I loved 6 and 7th grade in Dekalb…when they were in ES. 6th grade in Clayton was wonderful. Loved 8th grade GA History in Dekalb HS. But in 1989 we put 6-7-8 together and someone decided they all wired at that age not to preform like they had two years earlier.
I love the whole community thing in the K-8 schools in TN, though I was in a rural county. These kids were far better prepared than the ones who went to Middle School.
Make Coan a k-8 school…set up a lottery to “get in”……

catlady

March 22nd, 2012
3:36 pm

Our small neighborhood school (K-7) did quite well in preparing kids for high school. Honor grads were disproportionately from the small school, although there was no SES difference in their favor (in fact, the richest kids went to “town school.”) It might also allow more supervision of the older students, as “everybody knows your name.” Our older students took leadership positions in the school, and were admired by the younger kids. We had about 325 students–a great number.

catlady

March 22nd, 2012
3:39 pm

Parental involvement continued all the way through, as well, and there was an investment in what was going on there. It was an important place for the community. Oh, I forgot to add it was a rural, mountain school, rather than a close in distance urban or suburban school. Yet there was very much a sense of buy-in, even when classmates lived 20 miles apart!