Chalkbeat has the story of how the troubled Achievement School District (ASD) will not add any schools, and may see some leave:
No new schools will enter Tennessee’s troubled turnaround district, and there’s a likelihood some will exit and return to their local districts.
While the achievement district was once the cornerstone of Tennessee’s turnaround strategy, no new schools have been added to the district since 2016. Schwinn said that trend will continue this year because the state is in “the process of redesigning and building” the district.
Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn added that she expects new schools will be added in the future.
Now seems like a good time to remind everyone of the troubles with the ASD over the years.
First, the district simply isn’t getting results:
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.
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.
The ASD has also had some audit problems:
The audit said that the Comptroller’s office has previously “reported deficiencies in ASD’s internal controls and noncompliance with federal program requirements, resulting in approximately $721,000 of federal questioned cost.”
On March 30, 2016, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, released an audit of Tennessee’s Race to the Top grant, which included funds spent by the ASD.
“This federal audit identified similar internal control deficiencies and areas of federal noncompliance with the Race to the Top grant at ASD,” the latest Comptroller notes. “During our current audit, we continued to find similar issues relating to fiscal deficiencies and noncompliance, but we have also identified new areas of deficiencies related to human resources and purchasing cards.”
The ASD seems to also have a hard time dealing with reality:
I find the rhetoric to be a deflection from real and valid criticism of the ASD and its approach to school turnaround. While collaboration is certainly a virtue in education, a hard look should be taken at the ASD’s approach. All this nice talk about collaboration avoids these courageous conversations. I think people will find that there are some serious flaws in the way in which the ASD and its operators are taking on the arduous task of school turnaround. I agree with Mr. Manning that working together is important, but if the ASD’s has fundamental flaws and does not address them then no amount of collaboration will help.
Also, they are kinda creepy:
By creeping beyond its admirable mission, the ASD has become an example of good intentions gone awry. Focusing on the original goal of using highly focused effort to both improve struggling schools AND learn new strategies to help other schools would be a welcome change.
But, they throw cool parties:
If you happen to be a young, hip, TFA-type teacher. Non-TFA types not allowed. The video says it’s an ASD event and the video clips appear to have been filmed inside classrooms. It’s not clear who is paying for the event or why only TFA teachers are invited to attend.
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