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Provost Academy Georgia Rebrands and Reboots for Swift Growth



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.”

PrintThe 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.

MONICA HENSON Provost Academy Georgia

Provost Academy Georgia

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)

May 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magic Johnson’s Partnership with Provost Academy Georgia

Mike Klein

Magic Johnson’s parents never earned high school diplomas.  However, they made it clear to four sons and six daughters that failure to graduate from high school was not an option.  “They were on top of us every day,” Johnson said in Atlanta.  Today five of his six sisters are Michigan public school teachers and the sixth is an elementary school principal.  “I am looking at all these educators in my family after my mom and my dad finished seventh or eighth grade.”

Magic Johnson is one of the most recognizable people in the world.  Famous initially for his ability to do things with a basketball that mere ticketholders could only imagine.  Famous now because in life after basketball Johnson has created businesses that employ thousands of mostly inner city people, led campaigns for AIDS research and he has invested time, money and two decades into the idea young people can be given the tools and inspiration to graduate from high school, pursue more learning and become successful adults.

Oh, yes, Johnson recently became part-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  But it was books not baseball or basketball that brought Johnson to Atlanta this week.   Johnson said his new program — Bridgescape Learning Centers, focused on dropout prevention and recovery – will become a resource at Provost Academy Georgia, the state’s newest online high school.  Provost’s parent is Edison Learning, a New York-based digital learning company that has schools nationwide.  Provost is expected to open this fall.

Bridgescape will focus on young men and women who have quit or are at-risk to quit school.   It will provide a path to a high school diploma through a state-approved online high school.  Bridgescape will be unique from other good programs that offer GEDs – general equivalency diplomas — that are not real high school diplomas.  The Provost Academy – Bridgescape model is blended learning – digital combined with individual, face-to-face instruction, computers, internet access and personalized lesson plans.

Magic Johnson

The Magic Johnson Enterprise partnership with Edison Learning was announced last fall.  Bridgescape Learning Centers have already opened in several Ohio cities.  Provost Academy Georgia is an expansion.  There could be as many as seven statewide learning centers but their locations are a work in progress.

Provost Academy Georgia was scheduled to open last fall as Georgia’s first fully accredited online high school.   However, it got caught in the state charter schools commission controversy so the opening was delayed.  Provost will announce when it is ready to accept student applications for next fall.

Magic Johnson’s financial worth is estimated at $500 million.  He could be doing other things with his time and money but this is what Johnson does by choice.  For 20 years the Magic Johnson Foundation has proposed and funded possible solutions to challenges faced by America’s urban communities.

Education is a big part of that focus.  Nationally one-in-three students – many in urban communities — will quit high school.  Some 1.2 million students drop out every year, 7,000 leave school every day, one quits every 26 seconds.  Inner city minority youth are a big part of that drop out picture.

“A huge number of African American kids are dropping out,” Johnson said.  “I want to make sure we bring them back into our program.  We know that, unfortunately, if you don’t have a high school diploma normally our kids turn to crime.  We’ve got to quit losing kids to the jail system.”

State school superintendent John Barge not only attended Johnson’s news conference, he was an enthusiastic participant.  “When we start talking about recovering the dropouts, this is probably one of the few opportunities children have to come back and earn a high school diploma,” Barge said.   It is not lost here that Barge enthusiastically encouraged an idea that is operating outside the usual state path.

Georgia recently announced that last year it had a 67% on-time high school graduation rate.   “That means over the last several years we have hundreds of thousands of people without a high school diploma,” Barge said.  “We know without a high school diploma there is no hope for these children.”

Earvin Johnson Sr. and his wife Christine moved from Mississippi to Michigan because there were jobs in the auto plants that did not require a high school education.  “Today that’s not the case,’ said their famous son.  “Today you have to have a diploma to get a job at those same plants.”  Johnson had nine brothers and sisters.  His mother worked as a custodian.  His father had a shift at General Motors.

Magic Johnson was an absolute basketball prodigy in Lansing, Michigan.  It was obvious to anyone who watched that there was something special about the 6-foot-9 young man who saw the basketball court as a canvas.  His job was to make things happen on the canvas that folks had not seen before.   From Michigan State to the NBA to life after basketball, Johnson continues to make things happen.

The Magic Johnson Foundation has funded 18 urban community technology centers, including one in Atlanta.  It has funded hundreds of college scholarships, including help for students who attend several Georgia public universities, along with Morehouse and Spelman.   The Foundation has donated millions of dollars to online learning programs, and the hardware and software projects required to support learning.

“My whole life and the mission of the Magic Johnson Foundation has been urban America,” Johnson said.  “I came up through the neighborhood.  You’ve got somebody who knows, who understands.  I’m not going to let the kids have excuses.   All of us have come together because we have one common goal, how do we graduate these young people who have dropped out, who maybe learn in a different way?  How do we make it better for young people?  They must graduate from high school.”

This is what Magic Johnson does, simply because he can and someone should.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia High School Students Lose Two Online Education Options

This article was published by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

Georgia high school students who would like to pursue full-time online education options may have seen their hopes diminished this week.  Two companies that were approved to open online high schools in August will cancel because they believe the financial model offered by the state does not work.  This is a punch to the gut for advocates of online education in Georgia.

Last month the Georgia Charter School Commission approved Kaplan Academy of Georgia and Provost Academy Georgia with the understanding that coursework costs would need to fit into available state funding, estimated at about $3,500 per pupil.  Provost planned to enroll 800 high school students and Kaplan planned 460 students. Continue reading

July 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment