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Gary Rubinstein: The Collapse Of Tennessee’s Achievement School District

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Gary Rubinstein has been tracking the progress—and the hubris—of the Tennessee Achievement School District. The ASD was created with millions drawn from Tennessee’s $500 Million Race to the Top Grant, the first in the nation. The basic idea was that the ASD would create a special district for the state’s lowest performing schools, turn them over to charter operators, and within precisely five years, these schools would be “catapulted”into the top 25% of the schools in the state.

The first cohort of six schools were in the bottom 5% of schools in the state.

“Two years into the five-year mission, the superintendent at the time, TFA alum Chris Barbic, declared in an interview that of the original six schools, two were on target to get to the top 25% in five years while one of the six schools, Brick Church Elementary, was on a trajectory to reach the goal after just four years.

“Three years into the five-year mission, the improvements that he had based these projections on did not continue and Barbic was saying that they underestimated how difficult this would be, even admitting that the ‘immigrant poverty’ he worked with as a charter school founder in Houston is very different than the ‘generational poverty’ he works with in Tennessee.

“Four years into the five-year mission, Barbic resigned from the ASD, citing among other things, his health as he had recently had a heart attack. He soon got hired by the John Arnold foundation to work on education issues for them.”

In the fifth year, the state testing system was messed up by technical glitches, so there were no scores. So the ASD got six years to work its magic.

Now the scores are out, Gary analyzed the results, and one thing is clear: the ASD was an abysmal failure.

Of the original 6 ASD schools, one is in the bottom 7%, the rest are still in the bottom 5% with two of them in the bottom 1%.

This is what is called a total and complete failure. It was not “for the kids.” It was for the ego-gratification of arrogant deformers.

Gary writes:

“There are actually other states considering starting their own ASDs, I just read that Mississippi is working on it. Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada already have them in the works. There was one in Michigan which folded and there is still the original one in New Orleans which continues to post awful test results.”

Most of the ASD schools were in Memphis. Jeannie Kaplan reported earlier today that author David Osborne was in Denver touting Memphis as a reform Success. Six out of six of the state’s lowest performing schools are still the state’s lowest performing schools. If this is success, what does failure look like?

The definition of a reformer today: Never look at evidence, never admit failure, never learn anything new, just keep pushing privatization, lower standards for teachers, and high-stakes testing. Fail, fail, fail, and do it again.

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