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Tennessee was one of the first states to win a grant from Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top. It won $500 million. It placed its biggest bet on an idea called the Achievement School District. The big plan was to have the state take over the state’s lowest performing schools and do a turnaround. The ASD was launched in 2012 with much fanfare. Its leader promised that the lowest performing schools would be turned around within five years. Reformers loved the idea so much that it was copied in Nevada, North Carolina, and a few other states. Most of the schools were converted to charter schools.
As Gary Rubinstein explains here, the ASD was a complete flop.
“Two years after they launched, an optimistic Chris Barbic, the first superintendent of the ASD, had a ‘mission accomplished’ moment when he declared that three of the original six schools were on track to meet the goal on or before the five year deadline. But the projected gains did not pan out and now, six years later, five out of six of the original schools are still in the bottom 5% with one of them not faring much better. Chris Barbic resigned in 2015 and his successor Malika Anderson resigned in 2017.
“The ASD was, at one time, an experiment that Reformers were very excited about. In 2015, just before Barbic resigned, Mike Petrilli hosted a panel discussion at the Fordham Institute celebrating the lofty goals of the ASD, the RSD, and Michigan’s turnaround district.
“Year after year, all the research on the Tennessee ASD has been negative (except for research that they, themselves, produced). In 2015, a Vanderbilt study found the district to be ineffective. In 2016, a George Washington study agreed. And now, as if we need any more proof, a new 2018 Vanderbilt study found that schools in the ASD have done no better than schools in the bottom 5% that had not been taken over by the ASD.”
A complete flop.