Two years ago I wrote about Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) creeping beyond its original mission. I noted then that the state’s Race to the Top grant which spawned the ASD envisioned a handful of schools receiving highly targeted attention. I argued that rapid growth and a lack of clear communication contributed to a bumpy start for the turnaround effort. I concluded by offering this suggestion:
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.
Now, Grace Tatter of Chalkbeat reports the ASD is being scaled back and re-focused. She notes:
In Tennessee’s plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, the State Department of Education clipped the ASD’s wings with new policies approved this spring by the legislature. They address longstanding concerns, including complaints that the state district had moved beyond its original purpose, lacked a clear exit strategy, and didn’t give local districts enough time to execute their own turnaround plans.
McQueen also announced plans to downsize the ASD’s structure this summer by slashing its team and merging several ASD-related offices in Memphis.
It will be interesting to watch how the “new” ASD evolves. Will it really focus on building partnerships and clear communication? Or, will it revert back to the posturing that caused problems as it grew in Memphis?
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