The Clarke County Board of Education quietly approved a controversial corporate-funded business program at Clarke Central High School last week.
The board voted unanimously to move forward with 3DE, a program for up to 500 Clarke Central students that uses business case studies to teach curriculum. (For example, science classes calculate the number of calories in a Chick-fil-A meal, a 3DE representative told the board in January.) Started at Atlanta’s Banneker High School in 2015, it has since expanded to other schools in the region, including Parkview in Gwinnett County. Supporters say that 3DE students outperform their peers on standardized tests and graduate at higher rates, but some board members and parents had expressed skepticism about the corporate, venture capital and education privatization funding behind the program.
“I’m all for it, but this is a real radical shift in one of our schools,” said board member Greg Davis, who urged administrators to bring teachers into the process. Another board member, Linda Davis, said 3DE could reach students who aren’t currently being reached.
Instead of starting the program next school year, as Clarke County School District Chief Academic Officer Brannon Gaskins had previously proposed, the new agreement calls for it to start in 2021–22. That will give CCSD a year to recruit students and train teachers and administrators. They’ll visit Parkview, which is the closest 3DE school to Clarke Central both geographically and demographically, and Parkview teachers could also come to Athens.
There’s also an out clause: The board can cancel the agreement in June. “These next three months will be [for] information gathering that is shared with the board,” President LaKeisha Gantt said.
Interim superintendent Xernona Thomas briefly mentioned the recent visit from Cognia, the school accreditation agency, which sent a five-person team to Athens Jan. 26–28 to investigate allegations of micromanagement by board members. “It was a very productive visit,” Thomas said. There is no timetable for Cognia to produce a report, she added.