More Trouble for the ASD in Memphis

Bluff City Ed cites a Chalkbeat story noting that Green Dot is pulling out of a possible takeover of Raleigh-Eqypt High School.

The story notes that both Freedom Prep and KIPP have also pulled out of prior agreements to takeover Memphis schools.

While charter operators are pulling out of the process, the community is increasingly outspoken in opposition to the ASD takeovers.

Here’s the key takeaway noted by Jon Alfuth at BCE:

I also hope that this serves as a wakeup call for the ASD. As shown at Fairley, it is possible for communities to work with ASD authorized charters and have a positive experience. But the opposite has happened with Green Dot. Chris Barbic, the ASD Superintendent, said in the chalkbeat article, “We’re going to go back and do an autopsy once we’re done with all this.” Lets hope that autopsy helps the ASD identify how it can create more situations like Fairley and less like REHS moving forward.

Read Jon’s full story.

More stories on the ASD in Memphis:

Teachers organize against ASD takeovers

ASD faces Memphis struggles

Is the ASD working?

For more on Memphis education issues, follow @BluffCityEd

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

A Tennessee Teacher on Diane Ravitch’s Nashville Visit

Franklin County teacher Lucianna Sanson writes about her take on Diane Ravitch’s speech in Nashville last week:

This week, Nashville was honored when Diane Ravitch spoke at an event hosted by a group of local grassroots education activists: TREE (Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence), Momma Bears (a blog run by some fierce parent activists), and the TnBATs (BadAss Teachers Association) at Vanderbilt University at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19, 2014. Diane was in town to speak at a CTE conference, but she graciously spent her night speaking with, and to, a room full of approximately 400 teachers, parents, administrators, students, reporters, and concerned citizens.

 

Diane spoke at length about education reform and the venture capitalist agenda that is behind the movement. In the interest of selling this agenda, which includes privatizing public education, education reformers are fond of calling education “the civil rights issue of our time.” Ironically, they cast themselves in the mold of great civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and the Freedom Riders. Diane Ravitch pointed out the hypocrisy of this by stating that rather than uplifting African Americans and other People of Color through community schools with wrap-around services, the Reformers promote Charters and Vouchers, which re-segregates schools rather than bringing, or keeping, diverse communities together.

 

Dr. Ravitch spoke about Charter schools, an issue that is particularly troubling for Tennessee because Memphis City/Shelby County has been taken over by the Achievement School District, or ASD, which is modeled after the Recovery School District, or RSD, in New Orleans. This is very troubling because New Orleans only has five public schools remaining in the city. The communities of New Orleans no longer have any ownership or say-so about their own schools. Memphis residents are aware that their schools are being taken over, not to help their students and communities, but to make corporations richer. Residents are fighting back and speaking out against Charter school takeovers.

 

Teachers, parents, and other invested stakeholders are attending neighborhood meetings, holding signs, and speaking to the ASD, local boards, and local leaders. They are asking for their schools to be funded, not sold to the highest bidder. While Memphis is in the eye of the storm, the ASD has reached out to Nashville and is now attempting to take over schools there. The citizens of Nashville are resisting as well, and part of that resistance has taken the form of grassroots organizations holding ed reform awareness workshops, talking with lawmakers, speaking out at BOE meetings, blogging about the truth of ed reform, and working with the local state teacher’s association to raise awareness regarding these issues.

 

Diane encouraged Tennesseans to continue to work together in solidarity to fight ed reform. She encouraged us, as teachers, parents, students, community leaders, and citizens, to be pro-active in speaking up and speaking out. As a teacher, and a parent, a citizen, and a local education activist, I am encouraged by her words, emboldened by them, and inspired by them. I, as well as many others in Tennessee, have become an outspoken advocate for our public schools. In that spirit, I have included the short speech I gave from the TREE, BEARs, and BATs event. It is a call to action, a call to work in solidarity, and a call for all local activists to stay strong, stay focused, and continue to work together. As Diane reminded us, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

 

Here’s my report on the Ravitch event.

And here’s an article Sanson wrote earlier this year about the ASD.

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

 

Inglewood Parents Write Dr. Register

Parents at Inglewood Elementary School have submitted an open letter to MNPS Direct of Schools Jesse Register regarding the possible conversion of that school to a charter school.

Here’s the text of the letter:

RE: Inglewood Elementary Families Resoundingly Reject Charter as Future Pathway
Dr. Register:
On Septemember 5, 2014 Inglewood Elementary PTO started a letter writing campaign, an online petition (http://goo.gl/HceEvM) and a paper petition to persuade you and the MNPS School Board to allocate appropriate resources and allow the current administration/faculty the time to utilize those resources in an effort to improve the test scores of our students and to make sure that they are as prepared for the next stage of education as any other child in the city. To date our combined petitions have more signatures than families in the school. Our letters numbered so many that they created confusion in your office.
As the “3rd Way” was announced our message became more refined and our voices grew stronger. On September 24, 2014, you heard the same message from Inglewood PTO, the faculty and the caretakers of our community, in three separate meetings. The message was two-fold: 1. we do not want a charter school to convert Inglewood and 2. we want the appropriate resources and the time to use them. At the end of your day at Inglewood you stated very clearly that you believed a charter was the wrong direction for Inglewood:
“It sounds like this community does not want this school to convert to a charter school. So, we need to hear that,” said Register. “I would be very hesitant to recommend a conversion here. There are some other places where a conversion might work, but I don’t think so in this community. Nashville Scene SEP 25, 2014
One month later on October 27, 2014 Andrea Zelenski reported that you had changed his mind: “Register Flips, Hasn’t Ruled Out Giving Inglewood Elementary to KIPP” Nashville Scene. What was more striking to the 200 people who attended our meeting with you, and
the 200 who signed our paper petition and wrote letters to you, was another comment in the same article:
So we take that (community voice) into consideration and I acknowledge that feedback from the meeting. That was faculty and community members, very few parents there.  
The PTO’s response to that was to show any obviously confused naysayer that the overwhelming opinion of our parents is NO CHARTER CONVERSION.
We, the stakeholders in Nashville public education, are at a critical moment in the discussion. The East Nashville Advisory Board has been seated and Achievement School District has made an announcement regarding the school they will choose to convert. Inglewood PTO is still collecting data but below are preliminary results that make our case loud and clear. Answering the question: If you (the parents of Inglewood students) could choose what type of school Inglewood Elementary becomes which of the following would it be?
School wide prelim results:
STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) Litton-> Stratford 20.2%
STEaM (science, tech, engineering, arts, math) Litton->Stratford 52.6%
Charter (Publicly financed, privately run with emphasis on discipline, school as team, longer days, and high test results) KIPP Middle-> KIPP High 7.9%
Paideia (active learning method featuring presentation, practice and discussion, most similar to a college liberal arts education) East Middle-> East High 13.2%
STEM or STEaM 3.5%
STEM or Paideia 1.8%
leave as is .9%
Grade level breakdown of the 4 primary choices:
Pre-K   K         1         2           3         4
STEM 26.1% 29.2% 28.6% 14.3% 16.7% 7.1%
STEaM 39.1% 66.7% 57.1% 47.6% 50% 64.3%
Charter 4.3% 0%       7.1%    14.3%  16.7%   7.1%
Paideia 13% 4.2%      7.1%    19%    11.1%      21.4%

Results are preliminary findings from a survey sent home to all Inglewood Elementary parents via daily folder.
Again, the parents of Inglewood Elementary are telling you, Dr. Register, Dr. Coverstone, Randy Dowell, and others who might have questioned our understanding of the situation and resolve to have our voice heard that we do NOT want a conversion to KIPP or any other charter. As we have said since early September, we DO want the appropriate resources, which MNPS has begun to supply, we do want the time to use them, and we do want the support to make sure our wants align with our needs. Lastly, we want to remain a part of AND become a vital player in the rising Litton-> Stratford pathway.
Sincerely,  Inglewood Elementary School PTO

This is not the first time Inglewood parents have expressed displeasure at the proposed direction of their school.

They earlier expressed concern about being handed over to the ASD.

Additionally, Jai Sanders, of the Inglewood PTO is involved with East Nashville United’s efforts to slow down or stop conversion of East Nashville schools into an “all-choice” zone.

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

 

Frogge, North, Speering Challenge ASD Takeover in Madison

MNPS School Board member Amy Frogge is asking residents to speak out about a proposed takeover of either Madison Middle or Neelys Bend Middle by the Tennessee Achievement School District.

She’s posted on her Facebook page a request for community action regarding the takeover and published a letter on the issue from former Board member Mark North.

Board member Jill Speering, who currently represents the area where the schools are located, is also taking up the fight.

Here’s the post:

PLEASE HELP.  The ASD wants to take over Nashville schools that the ASD is underperforming!  Why? To improve its track record.  If we make noise, this will not happen!
Memphis is successfully fighting off ASD takeovers by charter groups. Three charter organizations have backed out of takeovers in the past 3 weeks because of community outcry!  (See links in comments.)  This is not inevitable.
The following is a Facebook post from fellow school board member, Jill Speering, who represents the schools marked for ASD takeover:
Mark North, a lifetime resident of Madison, a graduate of Madison High School, and a previous school board member wrote the following letter and sent it to elected officials about the possible takeover of Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend Elementary by the Achievement School District (ASD). We are asking the community to come together and support our Madison schools. If we work together and demonstrate our support for our Madison schools we could possibly avert a potential takeover of our neighborhood schools. We need community support! Please consider attending meetings that will be announced soon to show the ASD that the community is behind our Madison schools. If you would like to discuss this with me, please email me at jill.speering@mnps.org.
“Friends:
The Achievement School District (ASD) will announce on Friday which Metro school it is going to take over. The word on the street is that it will either be Madison Middle or Neely’s Bend Middle.
That would be outrageous. The ASD is failing, and these two schools are both outperforming the ASD. 40% of ASD students scored “Below Basic” in Math and that percentage of failure actually increased from the previous year. Also, 43% of ASD students scored Below Basic in Reading and a whopping 46.3% in Science.
In terms of students scoring proficient or advanced, each of these two Middle schools outperformed the ASD.
If the ASD takes over one of these schools and the school does not improve its scores at all next year, it will still improve the ASD’s overall score. Ironic? Yes, and tragic for the children of Madison.
Moreover, both of these two schools improved last year (as compared to 2012-13) in all three subjects and each school improved at a rate better than the ASD in 2 of the 3 subjects.
Attached is a chart showing how these two schools fared as compared to the ASD. Obviously, these schools need to improve, but their record shows that MNPS will be more successful making that improvement that the ASD.
Finally, if the ASD is allowed to continue to exist despite its dismal record, it should not be allowed to takeover schools unless its own scores are substantially better than the school it proposes to take over.
Mark North”
For more on education politics and policy in Tennessee, follow @TNEdReport

ASD on the March in Nashville

Andrea Zelinski has the story on the plans for the Achievement School District to take over a middle school in Madison.

Whether it is Madison Middle or Neelys Bend will be announced on December 12. According to the story, the ASD will talk with district leaders, teachers, and parents in the community before making the final decision.

Amid rumors that Inglewood Elementary would be handed over to the ASD, parents there rallied opposition to a takeover.

In Memphis, parents and teachers are increasingly speaking out about the ASD takeovers.

A data analysis provided earlier this year at Bluff City Ed indicates the ASD is struggling to hit its targets or even out-perform district schools.

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

ASD Flexes Muscles in Memphis

Jon Alfuth over at Bluff City Ed has an update on the ASD and its actions in Memphis and in Nashville.

Alfuth’s report includes information on the teacher group organizing against ASD takevovers and concerns expressed by Shelby County Schools Superintenent Dorsey Hopson.

Most troubling is the notes about Chris Barbic’s remarks asserting the ASD could take all 85 schools on the priority list and noting that the ASD has been essentially playing nice up to this point.

Here’s the excerpt:

The most interesting and worrisome part of the last article for me are two quotes from Chris Barbic, the ASD’s Superintendent. First, Roberts quotes him as saying

“I think its important to remind everyone that a lot of things we are doing are by choice. If we wanted to, we could take over all 85 schools next year (bold added by me for emphasis).”

Second, he also states that they don’t have to do a matching process but that they have chosen to do so, and laments that they are being “beaten up” for what they are doing. He also says that they (presumably the community) “would be beating us up for not doing it (the matching process).”

These quotes trouble me because they perpetuate the message Memphians have been getting that “we (the ASD) have the power, and you should be thankful that we’re including you.” While I don’t know what else was said in the interview, it worries me that this is the type of rhetorical language that we’re seeing in the wake of a strong anti-ASD outpouring. Barbic does qualify his first quote by stating that they’ve chosen to work with SCS instead of pursing the total takeover course of action, but the lead sentence makes it clear who really has the decision making power.

In the end, the ASD opposition is all about who has the power to improve our schools, and quotes like this don’t do anything to alleviate the idea growing locally that the ASD is engaged in a hostile takeover of Memphis.

The entire update is worth a read.

I tend to agree with Jon that the challenge to the ASD is essentially about power. Parents, teachers, and even SCS leaders feel like they lack the power to make decisions about the schools.

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

A TN Teacher Talks ASD

A Tennessee teacher has some questions about the Achievement School District:

Why is the ASD in Tennessee?

Submitted by Lucianna Sanson, President of the Franklin County Education Association

Why is the ASD, modeled after the RSD in New Orleans, here in Tennessee in the first place? What is the true rationale for bringing Charters to our state? We don’t need the ASD. We need strong community schools with wrap around services. We know how to run our schools. We need money to support our public schools, not Charter Authorizers that make money off of them.

Teachers, students, parents, and vested community stakeholders don’t want their community schools sold, they want them funded. If the ASD were truly transparent the Charter Authorizer would admit they are in TN to take our tax dollars to turn a profit, not turn our under-funded, under-staffed, under-paid, under-appreciated public schools around.

Who benefits from the ASD? Who pays for the ASD? Why are the majority, if not ALL of the schools selected in the “matching” process located in low-income communities, namely communities where the majority of students are black or brown? Why are experienced teachers pushed out and replaced with Teach for America recruits, green from college with no experience in the classroom?

Tennesseans, don’t be fooled into thinking these Charters are good neighborhood investments. As Anthony Cody points out in his new book, The Educator and the Oligarch, parent “choice” is simply a “charm offensive.” Parents and teachers are lured into believing that ed reform and Charters are a good use of our tax dollars. They are not. They are a good investment for the venture capitalists who make money off our students and public schools.

Do you have thoughts on the ASD or other education policy issues in Tennessee? Let us know, propose an article, and share your thoughts here.

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

 

 

The ASD Responds

Bluff City Ed does a phenomenal job of covering the Memphis education scene and we’ve published information from a number of their stories on Tennessee’s Achievement School District.

Today, Bluff City Ed has a response from the ASD about some of the criticism the District is receiving.

Here are a couple highlights:

On performance:

If you look at our 2nd year charters, their average composite proficiency growth over two years is 11.2, compared with an average growth of 2.2 over three years in the 10 Priority schools on our matching list.  All three of our 2nd year charters had Level 5 growth last year.  Two are off the Priority list.  I say this not to suggest that every ASD school is where it needs to be—far from it—but that when it comes to ASD charters with at least two years’ experience running schools, these schools are showing real promise.  Where our schools aren’t performing, we’re going to hold ourselves accountable.  It’s just way too early to draw major conclusions about school performance and policy implications.  There may be a time for a mea culpa or a moratorium, but not after two years.

On Contentious Meetings:

We had loud, contentious meetings last year, too.  It’s absolutely right for people to come in skeptical, emotional, and confused by this.  It’s a lot to take in.  For teachers, especially, it’s difficult news.  Understanding this, our goals aren’t to claim we have every answer, but to stand humbly before parents, teachers, and community members; to listen and learn; to make sure we’re sharing every bit of information we have; and to always keep our focus on what’s best for kids.

Elliott Smalle, the ASD’s Chief of Staff, says a lot more about issues like co-location and the future of the ASD. The entire post and response is worth a read.

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

 

Memphis Teachers Organizing Against the ASD

Chalkbeat has the story on a group of teachers in Memphis organizing against the Tennessee Achievement School District’s takeover of schools there.

The ASD has faced a particularly challenging environment this year as it prepares to takeover 9 more Memphis schools.

The Shelby County Teachers Coalition, as the group is calling itself, points out that ASD schools are getting mixed or disappointing results and that the disruption ASD takeovers cause is bad for kids and their communities.

For his part, ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic says he welcomes the dialogue, even if it is rather intense:

“So much of this conversation is right—people asking great questions, voicing support for their schools, and expressing deep emotions about education, schools, and community,” ASD superintendent Chris Barbic said in an e-mail to his community Monday. “We don’t believe authentic community engagement is a neat and tidy process.  Not if it’s done right.  It’s totally understandable that last week’s meetings spurred people’s emotions and generated good, hard questions. We commit to standing with communities and, together with our operators, answering these questions and listening to parents’ input.”

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

What Can Nashville Learn from New Orleans?

That was the theme of an event last night sponsored by Tennesseans Reclaiming Education Excellence (TREE) and Gideon’s Army for Children and held at the East Park Community Center.

The event featured parent activist Karran Harper Royal of New Orleans and Dr. Kristen Buras, a professor at Georgia State University who has studied the Recovery School District in New Orleans.

Between 60 and 70 people were in attendance for the event, including MNPS School Board members Will Pinkston, Amy Frogge, Jill Speering, and Anna Shepherd.

The event coincides with a discussion happening in East Nashville regarding MNPS Director of Schools Jesse Register’s proposal to create an “all choice” zone for schools there. Parent advocacy group East Nashville United has been critical of the plan and continues to ask for more information. For their part, MNPS says it wants to continue dialogue on the issue.

Royal spoke first and outlined the systematic takeover of schools in New Orleans by the Recovery School District. The Recovery School District is the nation’s first charter-only district. The takeover began with a state law that allowed for the takeover of low-performing schools, similar to a Tennessee law that allows the Achievement School District to takeover low-performing schools.

As schools were taken over, they were handed over to charter operators or reconstituted with charter management. Entire staffs were fired and replaced and students were moved to different locations.

Royal said some of the successes claimed by the RSD are deceptive because the district would close schools, move out the students, and bus in new students. Then, the RSD would claim they had improved the school when achievement numbers were released even though those numbers were not from the students who had been attending when the school was taken over.

Royal also claimed that the choice of a neighborhood school was foreclosed for many families, but that in two majority-white ZIP codes, families are still able to choose a school close to their home.

Buras used her time to expand on an op-ed she wrote earlier this year about the parallels between New Orleans and Nashville. She pointed to data suggesting that the RSD has done no better than the previous district in terms of overall student achievement. This point is especially important because the RSD has had 9 years to show results. Tennessee’s ASD has also shown disappointing results, though it is only now in its third year of operation.

Among the statistics presented by Buras:

  • In 2011-12, 100% of the 15 state-run RSD schools assigned a letter grade for student achievement received a D or F
  • 79% of the 42 charter RSD schools assigned a letter grade recieved a D or F
  • RSD schools open less than three years are not assigned a letter grade
  • Studies of student achievement data have shown no impact on overall student achievement and some even show a widening of the achievement gap

Buras also noted that the RSD was used as a tool to bust the teachers’ union. The district fired some 7500 teachers and new teachers in the RSD report to charter operators. The resulting turnover means nearly 40% of the city’s teachers have been teaching for 3 years or less.

Both Royal (who was at one time on the RSD Advisory Board) and Buras noted that the RSD started with the mission of improving existing schools in New Orleans. However, like the ASD in Tennessee, the RSD began gradually acquiring new schools before data was available to indicate success.

The presentations served as a warning to parents in Nashville that while reform and innovation can be exciting, it is also important to closely monitor school takeovers and choice options to ensure they meet the community’s needs.

It’s also worth noting that the experiment in New Orleans and the ASD’s experience in Memphis on a smaller scale both indicate that just offering more choice does not solve education problems or improve student achievement. Any plan or innovation must take into account community input and feedback. Additionally, while choice plans are often sold on the perceived benefits, it is important to be mindful of potential drawbacks, including disruption and instability in communities that badlyneed stability and support.

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