Dear SC: Don’t Believe the Hype

South Carolina’s State Supreme Court has ruled that the education system in that state is not adequate for all students. Now, the legislature must find a solution that will deliver on the promise of equal access to education.

As P. L. Thomas notes, among the possible solutions being floated to help improve the situation is an Achievement School District, modeled after similar districts in Tennessee and Louisiana.

In fact, in a recent op-ed, one teacher and education blogger who Thomas notes is at least loosely affiliated with Students First, puts forth an Achievement School District as a key solution to the state’s education woes.

The piece directs readers to a website that advocates for the creation of an Achievement School District (ASD) in South Carolina.

That site, under the heading “Proven Results” cites Tennessee as a place where an ASD has positively impacted the education landscape.

What results? Well, the results outlined in a press release from the TN ASD touting its own success.

What is not mentioned is a thorough look at the numbers offered by Gary Rubinstein. The key finding from Rubinsteins analysis:

As you can see, four of the original six schools are still in the bottom 5% while the other two have now ‘catapulted’ to the bottom 6%.

The schools under ASD control the longest didn’t improve all that much. In fact, contrary to the attitude reflected in the pro-South Carolina ASD op-ed, Tennessee’s first ASD Superintendent, Chris Barbic said:

“As a charter school founder, I did my fair share of chest pounding over great results,” he wrote. “I’ve learned that getting these same results in a zoned neighborhood school environment is much harder.”

Another item not mentioned is that Tennessee’s ASD took over a school that was outperforming other ASD schools.

That’s a result, I contend, of the ASD expanding beyond its original mission. If policymakers in South Carolina do go the ASD route, they should build in safeguards against this sort of unchecked expansion.

Finally, South Carolina’s lawmakers should ask if the sort of educational disruption caused by an ASD does more harm than good.

Certainly, South Carolina must take action to improve the education environment there. However, as they explore creation of an ASD, I would suggest they proceed with extreme caution.

For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

 

 

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