Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) is one of the most high profile ‘turnaround’ experiments in the country. Launched with the amazing goal to ‘catapult’ schools with test scores in the bottom 5% of the state into schools with test scores in the top 25% of the state in a five year time period, this district has gotten a lot of attention and there are plans to replicate it in various states.
Here is an image that used to be on their website back when they started:
Back when it was formed I wrote an open letter to the former superintendent, actually a friend of mine, Chris Barbic and told him that this was an absurd goal that can only be accomplished by some kind of trickery.
It hasn’t been easy to track the progress of these ASD schools. I remember when they were three years in, there was an article in which Barbic claimed that three of the six original schools were on track to meet the goal of being in the top 25% after five years. Last summer Barbic resigned a few months after former commissioner Kevin Huffman resigned also. Chris recently got a new job as a ‘senior education fellow’ with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and Hastings Fund which has been known for their pro-charter anti-union school reform platform. Chris will now have access to millions of dollars to help other ASD type efforts to flourish.
Nine months ago I used some public data to estimate the progress of the ASD and by my calculations, four of the original six were still in the bottom 5% while two were in the bottom 6%. This was a pretty big revelation, though I don’t think it got so much attention since these were my calculations and they were not the official ones using whatever weighting they did to determine the schools were originally in the bottom 5%.
Then, a few weeks ago, Tennessee released a new list. This list validated my conclusion that the ASD schools had made very little progress. According to this list the ASD is doing even worse than I had estimated. Four years into the five year experiment, five of the six original schools are in the bottom 2.5% while one of the six is in the bottom 7%.
Next year marks the end of the five year experiment and since Tennessee had to cancel its tests this year because of technical glitches, there won’t be scores to show that they did not, to put it lightly, make their targets.
It was good that Chalkbeat, TN wrote about this new list. I’m not expecting this to be reported by Education Post or The Seventy Four anytime soon.