Accountability Charter Schools Education Industry Failure Memphis New Orleans Privatization Tennessee

Chalkbeat in Tennessee Admits Failure of the Achievement School District, But State Sees a Silver Lining

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You read it here first, straight from Gary Rubinstein’s superb blog (or, if you subscribe to Gary’s blog, you read it there first. The much-hyped Achievement School District in Tennessee is a flop. The same ASD that several red states have copied, not waiting for evidence or results.

Now Chalkbeat’s Tennessee outpost covers the story, and it isn’t pretty.

“Most of the schools that were taken over by Tennessee’s turnaround district remain on the state’s priority list six years after the intervention efforts began.

Four of the six original Memphis schools that were taken over by the state in 2012 are on the newest priority list released last week. And more than a dozen schools that were added to the district later also remain on the list.

Four of six original ASD schools remain on list…

Brick Church College Prep

Corning Achievement

Frayser Achievement

Westside Achievement

For years, the district has fallen short of its ambitious promise to dramatically raise test scores at the schools by handing them over to charter operators — a goal that the district’s founder later acknowledged was too lofty. And researchers with the Tennessee Education Research Alliance recently concluded that schools in the state district are doing no better than other low-performing schools that received no state help…

Of the 34 schools that have ever been part of the Achievement School District, 17 are on the new priority list, and four have closed. Thirteen schools are not on the new list.

In contrast, Memphis’ Innovation Zone, an improvement initiative from the local district, saw more of its schools move upward: 16 out of 25 schools absorbed into the iZone improved enough to exit the list.

One thing is clear: the charter schools that took over the low-performing schools did not have a secret sauce.

For some unknown reason, the state sees a silver lining in this failed effort to vault the lowest-performing schools into the top of the state’s rankings.

“Still, the state says the Achievement School District has had a positive influence that might not be reflected in its own school’s scores. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently praised Shelby County Schools’ progress, giving partial credit to the state’s own Achievement School District for creating a sense of urgency in Memphis.”

The schools may have failed to keep their promise but they created “a sense of urgency” in Memphis, where most are located.

Yes, there must be a sense of angst, like, what do we do now that the magic bullet failed?

Is reality replacing magical thinking?

The article links to one posted by Chalkbeat in August which did a “deep dive” into the dismal results of the $100 Million spent on the ASD.

“Six years after the state took over six of Tennessee’s lowest-performing schools, all of those schools continue to struggle, new state test results show…

“Of the schools in the original state-run district, four of the six had fewer than 10 percent of students testing at or above grade level in math or English during the 2017-2018 academic year, according to TNReady test results released last week. Meanwhile, Cornerstone Prep Lester Elementary School in Memphis performed better than its counterparts with 11.5 percent of students at grade level in English and 20 percent of students at grade level in math. Frayser Achievement Elementary had 12 percent of students at grade level in English, but just 9 percent at grade level in math.

“As a point of comparison, statewide averages for grades 3-8 had 33.9 percent of Tennessee students at grade level in English and 37.3 percent at grade level in math.”

The ASD was based on the Recovery School District in New Orleans. The research czar in New Orleans, Douglas Harris of Tulane, says that the Tennessee ASD should have been more aggressive in turning over low-performing charters to other charter operators. That would be almost every school in the ASD. Surely there mus5 be charter operators who have cracked the code of raising test scores. But then, Memphis didn’t have a natural disaster to drive out a substantial portion of its poorest families.

The bottom line in Tennessee is that none of the ASD charters was catapulted from the bottom 5% to the Top 25%. None even cracked the top 90%.

Time for fresh thinking?

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