Rhetoric vs. Reality: ASD Edition

Over at Bluff City Ed, Ezra Howard is back with some pointed criticism of the way the TN Achievement School District (ASD) is doing business.

Specifically, Howard notes:

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.

Howard notes that schools in Shelby County’s iZone significantly outperform ASD schools and that the ASD is now taking credit for iZone’s success. Rather than address it’s own disappointing numbers, the ASD suggests that it “caused” the iZone and therefore, changed education in Memphis.

Howard offers some interesting, data-based comparisons and proposes a way forward. But the bottom line is, the ASD needs to approach education with a dose of reality, not more hyperbolic rhetoric.

More on the ASD:

Quest for Answers

The ASD’s NAC for Problems

So, About the ASD

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Quest for Answers

After the Achievement School District announced the results of its matching process in Memphis, we published an analysis of the process by Ezra Howard. That analysis called into question the matching process, noting that un-weighted scores resulted in few actual matches.

Using that quantitative analysis, a video provided by Memphis Quest (on twitter @Memphis_Quest), reviews the NAC matching process and highlights discrepancies between the ASD’s stated matching process and the actual events that occurred in matching Memphis schools with charter operators. In several cases, a majority of evaluators did not recommend a match, yet scores were averaged in such a way as to create a match. Additionally, the NAC committees did not include the recommended number of members according to the ASD’s outline of the process.

The video is 22 minutes long, and it raises serious questions about how the matching process was conducted this year.

 

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Telling the NAC Story

Yesterday, TN Ed Report presented an analysis by Ezra Howard of the Neighborhood Advisory Council’s (NAC) rubrics and the Achievement School District’s (ASD) scoring mechanism. Ultimately, the analysis found the process biased toward matching a neighborhood school with a charter management organization. Separately, several members of the NAC held a press conference calling the process “deceptive” and a “scam.”

In response to the NAC press conference, the ASD sent this press release to several media outlets:

“The ASD invited people with varying backgrounds and points of view to join the NAC and, in so doing, we knew there was the possibility that giving every member a voice in decision-making would mean that some members would not be happy when final decisions were made. This year’s community input process was redesigned with the input of a diverse group of stakeholders, including some recent critics. We agreed with the importance of strengthening parent voices in decisions about schools and that NACs should have an opportunity to evaluate the plans of school operators in areas that reflect the highest priorities for parents and community members. There is no question that the Priority schools that we engaged in this process are deserving of a meaningful intervention to significantly improve students’ opportunities for success. We are grateful to the parents, students, teachers, counselors and community members who spent the better part of two months learning about and evaluating the potential fit of operators that applied to serve these Priority schools.

We did our best to run a fair, transparent process and we believe we achieved that. Based on the scored rubrics and methodology we used to ensure parent voice accounted for 50 percent of the feedback we received from the NACs, we had four matches and one school that did not match. We will honor both the match and non-match outcomes of this community input process.

We ran our redesigned process with fidelity, and we addressed every concern we were made aware of during the process. We have always attempted to be an organization that listens and learns. Our biggest concern as we move forward is the fact that we have some members of the NAC who feel the need to go to the media rather than come to us discuss their concerns. If it’s political posturing to overturn a fair and open process, then there is little we can do to address that. If there are good faith ways we can improve, we are open to that feedback. And we welcome those NAC members who continue to have concerns to meet with our team members in the new year.”

TN Ed Report would like to hear from both members of the NAC and the Achievement Advisory Councils (AAC) from past years. Did you find the process transparent, consistent, and acted on with fidelity? Did you share your concerns honestly with the ASD from the beginning? Did you find he process to be fair and open? Please write to nacstories@gmail.com

TN Ed Report would like to share your opinion in fairly and openly. Whether they are positive or negative, your view of the process will be presented without influence. In addition to your story, please provide your name and a detailed description on the NAC or AAC team on which you served.

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

The ASD’s NAC for Problems

Ezra Howard offers some insight into the ASD matching process in Memphis

Personal Experience

When the Achievement School District (ASD) announced that it would restructure its Achievement Advisory Council (AAC) and rebrand it as Neighborhood Advisory Council (NAC), I was cautiously optimistic. Last fall, I sat on the Northeast Region of the Achievement Advisory Council (NE AAC) and was thoroughly disappointed with my experience. Due to an automatic match between Green Dot and Raleigh-Egypt High School, the NE AAC dealt solely with engaging the community. This ordeal was well covered by the media, specifically the decision for an automatic match, the heated community meeting, and Green Dot’s decision to pull out of the matching process. My frustration didn’t stem from fellow AAC members; they were wonderful and I have nothing but respect for them. It also didn’t come from speaking with community members, teachers, and families at schools considered for takeover; they were frustrated but needed to be heard. Rather, my frustration stemmed from receiving limited support when working with the Achievement School District and the matching charter management organizations (CMOs) as well as the lack of transparency throughout the entire matching process.

My biggest fear for the AAC process was that, as applied to REHS, it was all lip service for the veneer of community engagement. So when I heard that the AAC would make some changes and become the NAC, I was cautiously optimistic. I recognized there were new strengths in the process, like the use of scored rubrics and ensuring parents were on the council. However, there were weaknesses, like limiting the number of members in each NAC despite the size of the school or the number of grades taught. Furthermore, the ASD pledged to honor the NAC’s recommendations. Malika Anderson, the incoming Superintendent of the ASD, echoed these sentiments with a promise to emphasize community engagement. I thought this year would be different.

Continued Concern

I didn’t sign up for the NAC, however, I moved to Lisbon, Portugal with my wife in order for us to both pursue PhDs. Despite the distance, I closely followed the events from afar. I was immediately concerned when I read about the comments made by Latoya Robinson, an NAC member, in the Commercial Appeal.

Latoya Robinson said she served on one of the neighborhood advisory councils that the ASD employed to rate charter operators who applied to take over the struggling schools. Robinson said the way their input was calculated allowed for Kirby Middle to be taken over against the council’s wishes.

“We did not put down information saying that we wanted Kirby to be taken over by Green Dot,” she said.

So I filled out an Open Records Request with the ASD for the individual rubrics and the scoring sheets used by the ASD. The results were not particularly encouraging.

The Matching Process

A little background on this year’s matching process: Green Dot was matched with Hillcrest High School and Kirby Middle school. Green Dot has been active in ASD schools for less than two years. They operated Fairley High School last year (Composite TVAAS of 2) and Wooddale Middle School this year (no TVAAS). Scholar Academies began with Florida-Kansas Elementary this year (no TVAAS). All of the operators considered this year were CMOs. Achievement Schools, the ASD’s direct-run schools, were not considered for matching.

[Note: I was paying attention specifically to the quantitative data. However, I suggest everyone read the individual rubrics and pay close attention to the notes. There are some very interesting facts. Names of the NAC members were redacted, and probably for good reason.]

A Problematic Process: A Low Bar, Grade Inflation, and Erasures

ASD 1

When reviewing the NAC rubrics and scoring sheets, I was immediately surprised to find that the cut score on the rubric was 50%. A passing mark of 50% seems extraordinarily low and, honestly, reminds me of the long abandoned grade scale used by the ASD where 46 was considered passing. Second, I noticed that a couple CMOs were barely passing with scores in the low to mid 50s. Third, I noticed quite a few scores were erased from consideration due to “insufficient evidence bordering on opinion.”

Let’s take each point in turn. It seems very plain that the bar set for CMOs is really low in the matching process. To make matters worse, passing the 50% mark is almost guaranteed using the scoring rubric set by the ASD. The ASD used a four point Likert scale to measure if the CMO was meeting expectations. Each level of measurement was given a score from 1 to 4 (except Demonstration of Community Outreach, which receives a score of 3, 6, 9, 12); the scored are then added up and divided by the total to provide an average percentage. First and foremost, the 1 to 4 scale is problematic because even if a CMO fails to meet the standard of any measure by a NAC member, they still score 25%. These free points set the floor high enough that it tells a CMO that they only have to strive for 25 percentage points in order to pass. In theory, if every NAC member thought the CMO “partially met the standard” then the CMO would be matched with a school. With most scores hovering in the 50s, that’s exactly what happened.

The floor is so high and the ceiling is so low, it makes it very difficult for a CMO to not match with a school. The scoring mechanism for the NAC rubrics is blatantly biased in favor of matches and takeovers. Furthermore, the glaringly low expectations for CMOs in this process stands completely against the rhetoric of high expectations espoused by the ASD, most recently by Chris Barbic himself. It’s hypocritical to the standards held to the schools slated for takeover, which requires a TVAAS 4 or 5 from schools on the priority list. Take Raleigh-Egypt Middle School, which scored a TVAAS of 3 this year with a TVAAS of 5 last year, which is now in the hands of Scholar Academies, which partially met expectations with a score of 54.17%. That’s absurd, but it doesn’t end there.

The sheer amount of redactions is shocking. The most appalling is Green Dot’s rubric for Kirby Middle, where several individual scores were erased and at least two whole rubrics were taken out of consideration. However, if you look at the rubrics yourself, you see that this NAC was very thorough, their reasoning is sound, and they substantiated their arguments with evidence. Take for example this apparently redacted assessment for Green Dot partially meeting the standard for community engagement:

The application demonstrated plans for parent engagement but the operator presentation of how parents are involved in the school was not convincing. When asked about engaging parents at the level required to made (sic) significant cultural changes, the operator was not able to give a strong plan of action.

The NAC member then provides a long list of concerns about community engagement with references to documentation and examples of personal experience. And would it be a surprise that the redacted scores appear to be 1s and 2s rather than 3s and 4s? Consider this assessment of “meeting, with reservations” with a rationale of “Operator understands necessary interventions for the student population. Green Dot has shown academic success at Fairley” with the strengths being “As stated they are the leaders in the school turnaround. They have demonstrated success rates in schools not only in Memphis but other cities.” With Fairley’s composite TVAAS of 2 last year, I disagree.

A Second Look

So there are two major issues with the NAC rubric scores. First, there is the low bar set for CMOs. Second, the redactions on the NAC scores appear inconsistent and biased toward high scores, ensuring that a CMO matches. So I decided to recalculate the rubric scores. I first make “not meeting expectations quantifiably unacceptable by recalculating the scores without the free points while keeping the passing score at the ASD’s 50% mark. Second, I analyzed the final NAC averages using the redacted scores. Finally, combine the former to methods to see where the NAC scores stand. All data came directly from the individual rubrics and scoring sheets provided by the ASD.

ASD 2

In order to the account for the roughly free 25 percentage embedded in the measurement tool of the NAC rubrics, I simply changed the scale from 1 to 4 to 0 to 3. In essence, CMOs are awarded no points for “not meeting expectations.” If CMOs surpass the 50% mark, simply put, this would put the aggregate score must be somewhere between “meeting expectations with reservations” and “partially meets the standard.” Even with the ASD’s redacted score, the results are not promising. Caldwell-Gutherie is the only school matched with 80.79 percent. Kirby has 48.98%, Hillcrest has 34.52%, Raleigh-Egypt Middle has 38.33 percent, 29.39%. It’s apparent that a buffer of about 25 percentage point drastically changes the outcome.

ASD 3

 

When the redacted scores are accounted for, there is a dramatic change in the average rubric score. Only Caldwell-Guthrie with 83.90% and Raleigh-Egypt Middle School with 53.75% would be considered for the matching process. Kirby with 47.22%, Hillcrest with 49.17%, and Sheffield with 45.25% would not be considered matches. Without a doubt, the redactions changed the results.

ASD 4

When you take away the 25 percentage point buffer and use all data available, there are some very interesting findings. First and foremost, only one school passes the low 50% mark: Caldwell-Guthrie at 78.53%. Every other school is below 50%. Kirby is 29.63%, Hillcrest is 32.22%, Raleigh-Egypt is 38.33%, and Sheffield is 27.00%.

It seems apparent that the assessment tool for the NAC rubrics are not only biased, but highly massaged. I believe these three additional forms of analysis illustrates how the NAC truly perceived the CMO and potential matches, and that view is quantifiably poor. It also points to the importance and impact of how a test is scored.

There is another interesting observation that I want to put on the table. In the case of each of the five schools scoring below 50% in my assessment, there are two individuals in each group that score the CMO significantly higher than their peers. Sometimes the scores are two or three times higher than the others and there are two very impressive perfect scores for Caldwell-Guthrie. I may be wrong, but if I were a betting man, I would bet the farm that the two highest scores in each NAC are the two “community members.” The difference these community members make ranges anywhere from 7 to 23 percentage points. If I am correct, then the community members’ assessment of the CMOs may not be representative of the parent members on the NAC.

I went through some of the names of the NAC members and some of the community members also sat on the previous AAC (some of whom I worked with and are those for whom I still have great respect). Several individuals on the NAC appear to be members of the contentious Memphis Lift. Memphis Lift, which is funded by Democrats for Education Reform, headed by Chris Barbic’s wife. Apparently, as one NAC member noted, Lift assisted some CMOs in community organizing activities as well. Despite the community member’s background, the data suggests these outliers, which appear unrepresentative of majority of the NAC members, were highly influential in the outcome of the NAC rubrics.

Conclusion

Whichever way you view it, the NAC results are very problematic. The entire process seems to favor CMO matching from the outset. With low cut scores, a buffer of 25 percentage points, numerous redactions, and influential members that may not represent the consensus, CMO matching seems to be a foregone conclusion from the beginning. Simply looking at the data, the NAC and the matching process calls into question authentic and meaningful community engagement. The rubric data undermines everything the NAC proclaimed to be and refutes the constant message of high standards, accountability, data-centric approaches, student-centered mindsets, transparency, and community engagement espoused both by the current superintendent, Chris Barbic, and the incoming leader, Malika Anderson. At best, it’s disingenuous; at worse, its strategic community disenfranchisement.

Quite frankly, the NAC appears to be the same thing as the AAC, lip service. Now we have the data to prove it.

The Need for Action, The Need for Change

When I sat on the AAC, Margo Roen, then Deputy Chief Portfolio Officer, said she was surprised that I didn’t write a blog post about my AAC experience. I said, half-jokingly, that I didn’t want to be mean, but now I’m angry. Honestly, anyone looking at this data and reading these rubrics should be angry too. The ASD seems to be speaking out of both sides of its mouth. It sets the bar pretty high for priority schools trying to avoid a takeover, but sets the bar laughably low for matching operators. It claims to care about community engagement, but then puts extreme limits on the community voice and agency. It claims urgency for action, but asks for patience when it comes to turnaround.

I wanted to believe in the education reform espoused by the Achievement School District. I want kids to shoot from the bottom 5% to the top 25%. I do not take joy in the fact that academic institutions view the ASD’s effect as “statistically insignificant.” I am not happy that NAC rubrics illustrate low opinions of charters and a scoring mechanism that undermine the matching process. But something quickly needs to change, because Tennessee families continue to be sold a bill of goods by the ASD and out-of-town charters.

I have a simple suggestion for our legislature, because it seems very apparent that it will take a bill to entice honest operation by the ASD. Raumesh Akbari, as most educators know, passed a widely praised bill that took schools with a TVAAS composite of a 4 or 5 off the table for turnaround. There should be a bill that reflects the same for the expansion of the ASD. For any operator wishing to expand in the ASD, an aggregate TVAAS 4 or 5 must be necessary for all schools. Allowances could be made for new operators. However, for those already operating in the ASD, growth must be required. Second, an NAC-type structure is necessary, but must be heavily restructured and regulated outside of the ASD. There’s nothing wrong with the shape of the NAC, but the measurement tool makes very little sense and shows clear bias.

The worst part about it is that the ASD could have taken this exact approach to takeovers this year. A great example is the direct-run Achievement Schools. After some inconsistent results and a few rocky starts, all five of the Achievement Schools scored a composite 4 or a 5 last year. However, no schools were considered for the Achievement Schools in the matching process. Barbic is right to celebrate that fact in his opinion piece on Saturday; but his use of Whitney to prop up the cadre of charters considered for this year’s matching process is inaccurate and misleading. Green Dot’s Fairley High School has a TVAAS of 2 and Scholar Academies has no real track record in Tennessee. By all accounts, that should be unacceptable. Ultimately, it makes me think the expansion of the ASD is less about children and learning and more about adults and business plans.

NAC Rubric – no redacts, unweighted

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

RESOLVED: No More ASD

The Shelby County School Board last night passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on ASD expansion in the district until the ASD can show evidence it is improving student progress.

The statement about the ASD was part of a broader resolution calling for a comprehensive strategic plan for the district.

Here’s the full resolution:

RESOLUTION REQUESTING THE SUPERINTENDENT TO DEVELOP A COMPREHENSIVE SHORT-TERM STRATEGIC PLAN  IN SUPPORT OF DESTINATION 2025
WHEREAS, Shelby County Schools (SCS) is currently faced with an ever-evolving landscape – including, but not limited to fiscal inadequacies, consistently changing state mandated academic standards, and declining enrollment, etc. – impacted by a community facing persistent socio-economic challenges that require the District to realign and shift its focus in order to best serve this dynamic student population; and
WHEREAS, according to 2014 Census data, approximately 33.2 percent of Shelby County’s school aged children live in poverty, with over 80 percent of them attending SCS schools, which in turn directly impacts a student’s academic and behavioral performance, requiring development and implementation of solutions designed to appropriately and adequately address these potential impediments for our students’ educational and life success; and
WHEREAS, SCS faces a number of fiscal challenges from different fronts – OPEB liability, projected budget shortfall and diminishing revenue due to the loss of students to ASD schools and charter schools; and
WHEREAS, To ensure the academic welfare of its’ students, SCS’ focus is on investing in strategies that create a fair and equitable learning environment for all students in Shelby County; and
WHEREAS, although the challenges seem daunting, SCS continues the work of educating students as demonstrated by an increase in the graduation rate to 75 percent; achievement of District TVAAS Level 5 status; and solid results in the iZone (Innovation Zone), where a recent study by Vanderbilt’s Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development found that SCS iZone schools showed moderate to large positive effects in reading, math and science as opposed to the State’s ASD model who’s ability to effectively drive student academic achievement is questionable at this point; and
WHEREAS, the Shelby County Board of Education wishes to continue to propel the current forward momentum to a larger scale effort by developing short-term strategies to achieve the District’s long-term objectives under its Destination 2025 Strategic Plan.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED That the Shelby County Board of Education instructs the Superintendent to develop a Comprehensive Short-Term Strategic Plan to present to the Board that explores and/or considers strategies and/or opportunities to address the District’s challenges – fiscal inadequacies, consistently changing state mandated academic standards, declining enrollment, high poverty among its students, etc. – which include, but are not limited to the following:
– Equitable Distribution of OPEB Liability

– Expansion of the iZone Model –

School Capacity and Utilization –

Grade Configurations/Programmatic Structures –

Collaboration with Charter Operators –

Co-existence with the ASD and a moratorium on the ASD takeover of additional schools until they show consistent progress in improving student academic achievement – (emphasis added)

Strategic Legislation –

Wrap-Around Service Model –

Additional school choice options  –

Equitable Learning Environment
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED That the Shelby County Board of Education requests that the Superintendent present a timeline for the implementation of the proposed Comprehensive Short-Term Strategic Plan.
Submitted by:
Stephanie Love District 3
December 15, 2015

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

So, About the ASD

A new study out of Vanderbilt calls into question the effectiveness of the Achievement School District.

Specifically, the study notes:

While there were some changes year-to-year — up and down — there was no statistical improvement on the whole, certainly not enough to catapult these low-performing schools into some of the state’s best, which was the lofty goal.

Those results echo the findings reported by Gary Rubinstein in his analysis of the schools under ASD management the longest.

Rubinstein noted:

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%.

In 2014, Ezra Howard did an analysis of the ASD after two years of management and found that the results were not significantly better than what would have been expected had the schools remained under district management.

Based on his reading of the results, he noted:

 First, can the ASD reach 55% P/A in order to be in the top quartile? Maybe. In order to reach that magic number of 55% P/A in all three of these subjects, the ASD would have to average 11.07% gains in Math and 12.67% gains in ELA over a 5 year period. However, in the last two years, the ASD has averaged 2.92% gains in Math and 0.72% gains in ELA.

Second, is the money being spent on ASD a worthwhile investment. Howard notes:

an exorbitant amount is spent on results that are, at best, no different than what the data suggests we could have expected had these schools not been taken over by the ASD.

Now, we have three years of data and analysis by both Gary Rubinstein and Vanderbilt researchers. All of which suggest that Howard’s preliminary analysis was on-target.  The ASD is moving slowly at best, and not markedly better than district schools.

In spite of this, ASD officials noted in response to the Vanderbilt study:

For its part, leaders of the Achievement School District say there’s not enough data “to draw any decisive conclusions” and that their work is making a “positive difference.”

That sounds awfully cautious for an outfit that touted its success in a blog post and media release earlier this year.

As the ASD continues, the question is:  Will the Tennessee General Assembly allow this model to continue, or will it set some limits in order to push the district to demonstrate more success before further expanding its reach?

More on the ASD:

Expansion Teams

That’s Not That Much, Really

ASD vs. Nashville Middle Schools

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

 

 

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

 

 

The Simple, Painless ASD Conversion Process

Well, ok, the Achievement School District’s (ASD) conversion process is neither simple nor painless. But, you wouldn’t know that if you watched the ASD’s latest video promoting the process of conversion taking place right now.

I’m going to break the two-minute video down into four claims it makes and then analyze each. The four key claims are: The ASD is an intervention designed to provide the best for kids in persistently low-performing schools, the community gets a school back after an ASD charter conversion, the conversion is good for kids, and those who are skeptical should give charter operators a chance.

1) Intervention provides an improved opportunity for kids

It might be more accurate to say that the intervention provides a different opportunity for kids. As analysis noted here suggests, the schools under ASD control the longest still rank among the lowest-performing of all schools in the state.

Earlier this year, I wondered what might have happened if the ASD had stuck to its original design and focused on short-term, intensive support and intervention at the most persistently struggling schools.

Instead, the ASD can now say it provides a different name on the building, that’s the opportunity they offer kids.

2) Following a Charter Conversion, the community gets a school back

Except they don’t. Originally, the ASD plan was to intervene in schools, manage them in cooperation with the local district, and then turn them back over to the district within five years. By using the state’s charter law, the ASD now turns schools over to charter operators, who have a 10-year charter. Then, the district decides after 10 years whether or not to renew the charter. At that point, the schools is not the same — it’s now a charter school, likely with a new name and new management, and quite possibly, with frustrating results for kids. Ask the community at Neely’s Bend in Nashville if they feel like the result of the Thunderdome-style school matching process is a school that belongs to them. How will they feel in 10 years, when three groups of 5th-graders have completed their journey through 8th grade at a school changing to a charter grade-by-grade?

And how do they feel knowing that before the conversion happened, Neely’s Bend was already outperforming ASD schools?

3) ASD Conversions are Good for Kids

This may be true … if you believe that adding additional disruption to the lives of children who already face disruption on a regular basis is a good thing. As a charter conversion proceeds, the teachers at the school being converted are “invited” to reapply for their jobs. At ASD charter conversions, less than one in five teachers remain through the conversion process. No matter the reason, this initial turnover damages the stability of a school and the community that calls it home. Building names change. School leaders change. Approaches to learning change. And, while these schools were struggling before, as noted above, it is difficult to see new forward progress post-conversion.

4) Give Charter Conversions a Chance

The data about lack of improvement notwithstanding, outgoing ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic’s own words may be the best counter to this claim:

“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.”

Admittedly, the mission of the ASD is inspiring. Work diligently with the most persistently struggling schools and get them on track. By contrast, the ASD, as currently operating, isn’t doing much of that. Instead, building names change, conversions take place, and schools and lives are disrupted. The shiny, happy video makes some strong claims amid little substance. Digging deeper reveals a reality that is much different.

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

 

Expansion Teams

In a much anticipated announcement made late on a Friday afternoon, Tennessee’s Achievement School District revealed which charter operators will get to takeover franchises in its growing Nashville market.

Chalkbeat’s Grace Tatter reports:

The Achievement School District has authorized two charter organizations to open schools in Nashville, which remains relatively unchartered territory for the state-run school turnaround district.

District leaders announced Friday that KIPP Nashville and Knowledge Academies will launch their first ASD schools in the 2017-2018 school year.

The expansion news comes on the heels of rather disappointing results from the ASD’s Memphis franchises. Add that to the turnaround posted by MNPS-managed Neely’s Bend Middle, and the ASD had to do something to inject some excitement into an off-season that will see the departure of long-time ASD leaders like Superintendent Chris Barbic and Chief of Staff Elliot Smalley.

Tatter adds that the ASD will go through a community-matching process to pair-up the charter operators with already functioning MNPS schools:

KIPP Nashville and Knowledge Academies will receive community input on which schools they should be matched with in fall 2016.

Of course, the matching process last time around proved to be a rather intense spectator sport.  With such heated community involvement, it’s no wonder the ASD wants to bring new operators into the Nashville mix.

Yes, this late Friday announcement is sure to please those fans of ASD’s school-matching cage matches. Parents, teachers, and community members can look forward to exciting matchups between schools competing for the right to possibly be adequately served by a charter operator they didn’t want and no one asked for. Will results improve? Early returns from Memphis say no, but tune-in as the Nashville market becomes the latest testing ground for the ASD’s school competition games.

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

 

 

That’s Not That Much, Really

So, statewide TCAP results are out and as soon as they were released, the Achievement School District (ASD) touted its gains.

Embedded image permalink

But, what does all that mean? How are these schools doing relative to the goal of taking them from the bottom 5% of schools to the top 25% within 5 years, as founder Chris Barbic boasted before his recent revelation that educating poor kids can be difficult.

Fortunately, Gary Rubinstien has done some analysis. Here’s what he found:

By this metric the top performing ASD school from the first cohort was Corning with a score of 48.6 followed by Brick Church (47.9), Frayser (45.2), Westside (42.1), Cornerstone (37.6), and Hume (33.1).  To check where these scores ranked compared to all the Tennessee schools, I calculated this metric for all 1358 schools that had 3-8 math and reading and sorted them from high to low.

The values below represent the school’s overall score and their percentile relative to the rest of the state, in that order.

Hume 33.1 1.5%
Cornerstone 37.6 2.6%
Westside 42.1 3.2%
Frayser 45.2 4.1%
Brick Church 47.9 5.2%
Corning 48.6 5.5%

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%.  Perhaps this is one reason that Chris Barbic recently announced he is resigning at the end of the year.

So, the schools that have been in the ASD the longest, making the greatest gains, are at best in the bottom 6% of all schools in the state. That’s a long, long way from the top 25.

But here’s something else. Back in December, the ASD decided to take over Neely’s Bend Middle School in Nashville. The school had been on the priority list, after all, and it was declared the victor in a school vs. school battle against Madison Middle.

I reported earlier in the week about the impressive gains at Neely’s Bend. In fact, the state’s TVAAS website shows Neely’s Bend receiving a 5 overall in its growth score — the state’s highest number.

I wondered where Neely’s Bend might fall in comparison to Rubinstein’s analysis of the ASD schools that had been under management for the past three years. Turns out, Neely’s Bend’s proficient/advanced composite for reading and is 54.4.

Yes, you read that right. Neely’s Bend’s score is 5.8 points higher than the best performing school that’s been under ASD control the longest.

Neely’s Bend is being taken over and converted to a charter school and yet the school posted significant gains (above district average), has a TVAAS overall score of 5, and has a higher percentage of students at the proficient/advanced level than the BEST schools under ASD management.

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