redefinED atlanta believes that developing new schools and investing in equity-driven district initiatives will transform Atlanta into a city where every child can attend a great public school. This August, thanks to several new innovative schools opening across metro Atlanta, our region’s K-8 families have more educational options for their children. With the opening of Miles Ahead Charter School, years of visioning and community collaboration have come to fruition.
“The hopes that I have for my son Miles, I want for everyone’s child,” says Founder and Head of Schools Kolt Bloxson. “In some of our first community meetings, hearing the same comments and questions, I realized I was not the only parent wanting another option. So, I took it upon myself to do something about it for my child and all children to give choice and voice to my community.”
The school’s mission — to provide all students with the social and academic achievements necessary to help realize their potential for local impact and global change — grew out of those early conversations. Starting in 2019, more than 300 community members gathered and imagined the school’s graduates and what kind of education would equip them for the 21st century.
An Innovative and Supportive Structure
“Our model re-envisions the workload for teachers and students,” says Ms. Bloxson. “The mission lives in three areas, the way students learn, the master schedule and the way we support teachers.”
Multi-disciplinary, project-based learning supports deeper student engagement. Class periods are extended with fewer transitions so that students and teachers can take learning further and become content area experts. A weekly expedition day where students go on field trips or do coding or meet field scientists gives students more varied learning experiences while at the same time allowing classroom teachers a whole day for planning.
“Overwhelmingly, our families want our students to be equipped for the future,” says Ms. Bloxson. “They want their students to have access to jobs that include technical skills, to understand computer science, to have the ethics of being a globally, digitally connected citizen, to graduate having had explicit instruction to prepare them for the world.”
In addition to ensuring 21st-century skills with a focus on STEM, coding as a second language and more, the school treats students as whole people. First and foremost, students need daily support in caring for themselves and others.
The school has also created a clear pathway for growth and achievement. As students work on mastering the standards, the school’s approach accounts for the fact that no two students will have the same learning needs with a “Power Hour” for individual instruction and regularly scheduled assessments.
Support and Lessons Learned Along the Way
Getting to opening day has been a learning process. One of the big and unexpected hills was COVID-19. “The pandemic shifted the timeline significantly,” says Ms. Bloxson. “Funding, the way we did outreach, everything was a huge challenge.” Ultimately, because of all the challenges, they decided to defer opening for a year.
“Deferral was the best decision we could have made,” Bloxson says. “We’re so much stronger because of it, shoring up systems and programs and now opening our doors with over 200 students, fully staffed and ready to serve the needs of our community.”
redefinED atlanta also played a significant role in the school’s journey to launch. “They gave me an amazing partner in associate vice president of schools Emily Castillo León, who helped coach me about how to get the school open and successfully align resources,” Ms. Bloxson says. redefinED atlanta’s support also included connections to a successful portfolio of schools.
“It’s been amazing,” says Ms. Bloxson. “We’re out here on the outskirts of Cobb [County], so it’s wonderful to receive funding support and access to other national efforts to support schools. We’ve been able to open because of the advocacy that redefinED has done for us.”
Miles Ahead Charter School’s first day was Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023. “We were excited to see kids in their Miles Ahead uniforms talking about high-five habits,” Ms. Bloxson says. “And once all the kids get home safe, at that moment, I will feel like my dream is achieved — and then we’ll do it 179 more times.”