The Atlanta school district has turned over management of one of its high schools to an outside group that has restructured it and hired new teachers.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Carver High, now called Carver S.T.E.A.M. Academy, is being run this year by the nonprofit Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, a spin-off of the Drew Charter School.
When the district’s outsourcing plan is fully in place by 2019, six Atlanta schools will be run by three charter-related groups.
The system hired outside groups because it couldn’t overhaul all of its troubled schools on its own, officials say. The decision came amid concerns that the state could take over the worst-performing schools.
Principal Yusuf Muhammad, whose presence in Carver’s hallways didn’t change after Purpose Built took over, says: “This is a defining year. I think it’s going to be tough. Every first year for a school is tough.”
The state of Georgia gave Carver an F-grade in 2017 and 2016. Student attendance can be spotty and parental involvement has lagged. The school had 588 students last year, but the number shifts as students come and go.
The school's new managers have been given the authority to choose which teachers keep their jobs and how to run the schools.The outsourcing is one part of the district’s multipronged turnaround strategy that includes extra support and funding for other low-performing schools as well as closing and merging schools.
The school facility itself has been in flux, too. The district had operated four separate schools simultaneously on the Carver campus. One of them, Carver Early College, remains under district operation.
In 2016, the Atlanta district signed a 14-year deal to run Carver and three schools that feed it — a middle school and two elementary schools. The arrangement is expected to pay Purpose Built $29.2 million this year alone.
Purpose Built’s success hinges on whether it can graduate more Carver High School students. The goal is to raise graduation rates to 75 percent in five years, 82 percent in 10 years, and 90 percent by the year 2030.
Carver graduated 74 percent of its class of 2017, up about 7 percentage points over the previous year.
Of the 69 district employees who worked at Carver last year, 29 applied for jobs this year. Purpose Built offered jobs to 21 and 19 accepted. Muhammad, now in his third year as principal, remains as well as two assistant principals.
As part of its rebranding, Carver has become a science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) academy with a focus on hands-on learning.