As this year’s school days were closing out, one of Provost Academy Georgia’s online students wrote a note saying, “I have never been this happy in all my years of growing up. I need more positive adults like you in my life.” The student who wrote that note lives on her own and plans to attend college. “We are really, truly, saving lives,” says Provost Superintendent Monica Henson.
Provost Academy Georgia is also growing up.
This summer Provost is expected to change its relationship with Edison Learning, the national organization that incubated Provost for two years. The Magic Johnson Bridgescape Learning Centers name will disappear in favor of new branding. Provost will fully manage its entire financial model and back office infrastructure. Edison will continue as a curriculum vendor.
The Georgia school and its Edison Learning parent have been in discussions for months. “Our partnership with Edison Learning is evolving,” said Henson. She expects Edison will continue to provide tech support and affordable internet access to financially eligible students. Provost will continue to use the curriculum vendor Apex Learning for advanced placement courses.
Provost will also launch a small pilot project this fall with Marietta City Schools to improve graduation chances for at-risk students. “We are delighted to work with them,” said Henson. “I have been looking for two years for a district partner to set up this kind of prototype.”
The biggest change from a public perception is discontinuation of the Magic Johnson connection. Provost operated brick-and-mortar Magic Johnson Bridgescape Learning Centers in Atlanta, Augusta, Macon and Savannah. The new name is Graduation Achievement Centers of Georgia.
Johnson licensed his name to Edison Learning for its work primarily in city settings but Provost increasingly sees its opportunities being in less populated Georgia. “We expect to dramatically expand outreach to rural students,” said Henson. “We’re very grateful to Mr. Johnson for his support. We wouldn’t be where we are right now without his help and support.” Johnson made one trip to Georgia in April, 2012 to announce the initiative at a State Capitol news conference.
Provost Academy Georgia is a learning hybrid with an emphasis on hard-to-serve students who failed in traditional settings. The typical student is a high school dropout. The typical freshman is at least 16 years old. Some are at-risk youth who were accepted into National Guard Youth ChalleNGe programs at Forts Gordon or Stewart. Some are under juvenile justice jurisdiction.
Provost students universally either ran out of traditional options or they burned bridges. About 1,100 students enrolled in the Provost online academy this year. Another 600 enrolled in the former Magic Johnson Bridgescape Centers. This fall’s estimated enrollment is 2,175 students.
The fifth and newest Graduation Achievement Center will be the partnership that the Marietta City Schools board approved last week. This fall Provost will take classroom space at the city system’s Performance Learning Center, housed in a former school. Provost will start small with 25-to-50 students. Some could be Spanish speaking students with limited English skills.
“We aren’t satisfied with our current graduation rate. It’s been hovering around 60 percent,”
said John Waller, director of secondary curriculum and special programs for Marietta City Schools. Waller said Provost will target “any student who is overage and under-accredited. If this reaches students who otherwise wouldn’t graduate it’s the right thing to do.”
Universally, Georgia charter schools will tell you they have great students, great parents and lots of financial challenges. Provost is no different. The four Magic Johnson Bridgescape Learning Centers that opened in 2012 closed in February this year when the state’s financial aid formula was no longer sufficient to support the brick-and-mortar model.
Provost 2013 – 2014 funding was based on 942 students who enrolled during the previous school year. But when the Academy enrolled more than 1,700 students this past year the financial aid formula did not work. Keeping the four brick-and-mortar centers open would threaten the entire Provost Academy model, so they were closed and about 20 staff members lost jobs.
This spring the state agreed to fund Provost going forward based on 2,175 total enrollments which is what the Academy expects this fall. Provost will receive about $4,779 per online pupil and about $7,821 per brick-and-mortar pupil at the five Graduation Achievement Centers. The statewide average for full time funding is $8,440 per pupil in traditional public school systems.
Last year Provost awarded 20 high school diplomas to its first graduation class. At least 40 students will graduate this month and the number of 2014 graduates could increase after end-of-course retakes are scored. Henson is encouraged about the road immediately ahead: “We are now in a financially stable position going forward.”
(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.)
(Published Friday, May 30, 2014)
A while back in our American experience heroes mattered. Kids could name the astronauts. You knew about Alan Shepard, the first American to travel to outer space. You could recognize his photo. You knew about John Glenn, the first American to actually orbit the earth. You could recognize his photo. I wonder how many people today can name an American astronaut. Do we still have American astronauts? Now do we just call them cosmonauts? I cannot name one.
I remember having all kinds of heroes as a kid in my formative years, the Fifties and Sixties, probably none greater than Mickey Mantle. To me, Mickey Mantle was baseball, powerful, fast, and able to drive a baseball into eternal orbit. The Mick made the covers of LIFE and TIME. The Mick was supposed to hit 61 home runs; instead it was Roger Maris. Later we forgave him.
Leaders were heroes. Dwight Eisenhower was one. Douglas MacArthur was another. Men who fought for them spent the rest of their lives honoring their commanders. Can you name even one current American military hero, someone who is universally respected like Eisenhower and MacArthur? The closest I can get is perhaps the late Norman Schwarzkopf. There are a lot of people today who would ask you, who is Norman Schwarzkopf? How quickly we forget.
How often does anyone of us engage in conversations about heroes? Do you have one? Do your kids have heroes? When was the last time you heard someone say, you know what, I think So and So is a hero. Many today are more comfortable bashing and trashing. It seems much easier to tear someone down and rip them to shreds than universally honor someone. The song said Abraham, Martin and John were heroes. The song was correct.
Heroes should exist on several levels. My first video hero was Mighty Mouse because you knew and felt in your heart that Mighty Mouse would save the day. Mighty Mouse was actually a spoof on Superman; did you know that? Other heroes followed, the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry. None, however, were the equal of Wyatt Earp. That long Buntline Special, the hat, the way that Wyatt Earp walked, this lawman had the total package. It took a while to develop the distinction that Wyatt Earp on TV was actually an actor, he wasn’t the real Wyatt Earp who was pretty much a gunslinger himself with better PR and marketing.
Mr. Leland was a hero. I have no idea whether Mr. Leland had a first name. He taught seventh grade math. Mr. Leland was quite likely the only person in the entire world who had even a snowball’s chance in hell of making me understand whatever all that stuff was that he was talking about on the blackboard. Somehow I got just enough of it to reach eighth grade. Even then I somehow knew that having Mr. Leland was my only chance. I was otherwise doomed.
When you search “American Heroes” the first results are for a 1980’s television series and a 1997 movie. Adjust your search and you begin to find organizations that honor heroes. One internet definition of hero says it is “a person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” That seems kind of weak. I remember learning about Helen Keller and thinking that what she accomplished was indeed, quite heroic.
Bill Harmon was a hero. Early in my college years I connected with this former Oklahoma City newspaperman who apparently recognized that young, very naïve me had the determination to become a Chicago newspaperman. It happened. My mentor and hero Bill Harmon provided more valuable real world knowledge than anything learned in a traditional classroom.
I started this line of thought because as Memorial Day weekend approaches we once again are being bombarded with the true fruit of the holiday – that is, mattress and automobile sales, well, actually, sales for everything and anything. This ought to be a weekend to celebrate American heroes like Charles F. Klein. My late father spent four years in the United States Marine Corps; his address was usually some tiny Pacific island, helping to fight Japan. This weekend I will pause to honor my late father, my hero, along with so many others who aided my path.
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