Since 2011 I have been following the biggest, and most predictable, disasters of the education reform movement — the Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD). It was formed in a perfect storm of reform theory. First, Tennessee won Race To The Top money. Then they hired a TFA-alum and the ex-husband of Michelle Rhee, Kevin Huffman to be their state commissioner. Then he hired TFA-alum and charter school founder Chris Barbic to design and run the ASD. The initial promise of the ASD was that they would take schools in the bottom 5% and convert them into charter schools in order to ‘catapult’ them into the top 25% in five years. They started with 6 schools in 2012 and grew to over 30 schools within a few years.
They completely failed at this mission. Chris Barbic resigned, Kevin Huffman resigned, Barbic’s replacement resigned, Barbic’s replacement’s replacement resigned. Of the 30 schools they nearly all stayed in the bottom 5% except a few that catapulted into the bottom 10%.
Chalkbeat TN recently had a post with the enticing title ‘All 30 schools in Tennessee’s turnaround district would exit by 2022 in a massive restructuring proposal.’ It would seem like this is good news. The ASD was such a costly failure, costing about $100 million over the years I think, the only thing to do was to put it out of its misery and dissolve it completely.
But I’ve been studying reformers enough over the years not to get too excited about this. The headline would make the most optimistic readers think that the 30 schools going back to the district would again become public schools. The charter schools supposedly traded flexibility for accountability so their failure to deliver on their promises should result in them being sent packing.
But according to the article, it is not clear yet if being returned to the district means that they will become public schools again. Also they say that there still will be an ASD after this. Now there can’t be a school district with zero schools, so what’s going on?
MORE on the TN ASD>
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