Meet Manning Oaks Elementary School, a beautiful school on Cumming Street named after a historic Alpharetta family. In 2008 the school was named a Georgia School of Excellence for student achievement. Today is a far different story.
For the second year in a row Manning Oaks has failed to meet adequate yearly progress, or AYP. This is a key measure outlined by The No Child Left Behind Act. Schools that fail to meet AYP for two consecutive years are lumped into a bucket identified as “schools in need of improvement.” They are subject to immediate intervention by the state.
It’s downright embarrassing that a school in Alpharetta would carry such a dubious distinction. What went wrong? There are probably a hundred factors that contributed to the fall of Manning Oaks. Keep in mind that I’m no educator, but I’ve got an idea.
The Manning Oaks School District
Kids that attend Manning Oaks are from a geographic area that is roughly defined as west of GA-400 and east of GA-9 in Alpharetta. This area, over the years, has become Alpharetta’s corridor of apartments, condos and dense housing. Let’s take a look at what you’ll find in this school district.
On the far north end, Manning Oaks draws kids from apartments and condos in Milton along Webb and Morris Roads. It includes condos off Windward near Costco and densely packed neighborhoods along North Main and Henderson Parkway. Next you’ll get apartments and condos near the school on Cumming Street. Academy Street to the south is loaded with apartments, duplexes and condos. More apartments can be found off Old Milton and Westside Parkways in addition to some condos on South Main. They all go to Manning Oaks. And don’t forget that the future Peridot and Prospect Park projects are also in the Manning Oaks district.
Manning Oaks, with its declining test scores, contains perhaps the greatest concentration of apartments, condos and high density development of any elementary school around. In my opinion the correlation between test scores and development like this is no coincidence. Most educators will agree that apartments and rental dwellings attract transient families that don’t get involved with the schools.
The educated professions that Alpharetta lured to relocate here are the reason behind our high caliber schools. I wrote about this last year and I still believe it to be true. These relos raised smart kids and got involved in their schools. You see the result of this today. It’s also a self-fulling prophecy. Our outstanding schools are a driver to attract more to relocate here.
Alpharetta is urbanizing by approving high-density projects and changing land use plans to encourage more. Some planners believe the city should strive to attract a different type of person to relocate here. There are severe consequences to this. What’s happened to Manning Oaks is the first example. The adjacent schools are likely the next to experience a downturn in test scores. The end result could be a spiraling decline in scores that may hurt our ability to attract and retain families and businesses. It need not be this way.