Atlanta, GA – There’s much to celebrate in Georgia during National Charter Schools Week (May 6-11).
In the six months since the passage of the Georgia Charter School Amendment, a single-purpose authorizer of charter public schools, the State Charter Schools Commission, has been re-established, new independent charter schools will open their doors, and a public charter high school ranked #3 in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best U.S. High Schools.”
“There were predictions of doomsday for public education from all over the state if the Charter Amendment passed, but six months later, I have not seen any signs of the sky falling for district-operated schools,” says Tony Roberts, President and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. “Instead, the people of Georgia have spoken: they want — no, they demand — high-quality charter schools throughout the state. ”
Not Just a Metro Atlanta Movement
Though the highest concentration of charter public schools is in Metro Atlanta, there’s been a surge of interest in rural communities and secondary cities. The Georgia Charter Schools Association is training community groups on the petitioning process and assisting with proposals for new charter schools in Albany, Valdosta, Macon, Augusta and Peach County.
This fall In the City of Savannah, Savannah Classical Academy opens, offering a rigorous classical, liberal arts education with a strong emphasis on civics. Nearby, on Tybee Island, Tybee Island Maritime Academy will offer a K-8 career focused, project-based curriculum centered on the natural history of the island and coastal wetlands. Both schools were authorized by their local school district, Chatham County.
APS Grows its Charter Portfolio
Despite the continued turmoil over cheating, Atlanta Public Schools continues to be a thoughtful authorizer of mission-driven public charter schools. It has green-lighted Westside Atlanta Charter School, a school emphasizing language arts, and KIPP Vision Primary School, both opening in August 2013.
Virtual Charter Education Booming
Demand for virtual charter education is booming. The state’s first online charter high school program, Provost Academy Georgia, launched this fall. Provost is a flexible program serving students who want to finish high school early, those who have not been successful in traditional schools, or who want to accelerate their studies. It uses a blend of online and face-to-face instruction with an individualized approach to learning. Provost Principal Dr. Monica Henson reports that enrollment went from zero to more than 1,200 students in just 8 months of operation.
Provost Academy has also launched several Magic Johnson Bridgescape Learning Centers in high-need communities in Atlanta, Macon and Augusta. Hailed by Governor Nathan Deal, Bridgescape Center provide students who have dropped out of school, or are at risk of dropping out, with a free alternative path to earn a their diploma. Flexible scheduling makes it possible for students to attend school and also work.
Parent Power Surging
Another positive outcome of the Amendment is that parents are channeling their energies into initiatives for change. In DeKalb County a group of parents is petitioning for a “charter school cluster,” aligning and improving instruction in the elementary and middle schools that feed in to Druid Hills High School. The Globe Academy, featuring an immersive multiple language approach, is also opening in DeKalb.
In North Atlanta, a parent petitioner group is moving ahead with plans for Atlanta Classical Academy. The proposed K-12 charter school aims to “develop students in mind and character through a classical, content-rich curriculum that emphasizes the principles of virtuous living, traditional learning and civic responsibility.”
Celebrating Charters at Atlantic Station
On Saturday, May 18th, the charter school movement will hold its own celebration at an event called Charter Schools Rock, 2-5 pm at Atlantic Station. Representatives from more than a dozen area charter schools will be on hand to discuss their programs. The event features jubilant performances by talented students from local public charter schools.