Six years ago, fueled by Tennessee’s Race To The Top money, the Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD) was launched. Its original mission was:
They promised to accomplish this feat in five years time. That was six years ago.
The ASD chooses schools from the bottom 5%, known as ‘The Priority List’ and either take them over themselves or, generally, hand them over to charter operators. The first five schools opened in 2011: Cornerstone Prep – Lester Campus, Brick Church College Prep, Humes Preparatory Academy, Corning Achievement Elementary School, Frayser Achievement Elementary School, and Westside Achievement Middle School.
In the summer of 2014, two years into the experiment, then superintendent Chris Barbic claimed in an interview on Nashville Public Radio that three of the six original schools were on track to make it to the top 25% on schedule with one of them, Brick Church, a year ahead of schedule.
Because of a testing snafu in the spring of 2016, there was not enough data to determine after five years how many of the ASD schools ‘catapulted’ straight to the top 25%. But based on other data that was released, things were not looking good. I made the best estimates I could with the data I had, but it was not looking good.
Barbic resigned four years into the experiment as did his replacement Malika Anderson a year later and they were both inducted into the reformer hall of fame known as Jeb Bush’s ‘Chiefs For Change’.
Though my own calculations made it clear that the six original ASD schools had not made it out of the bottom 5% after six years, it doesn’t become ‘official’ until Tennessee releases its next ‘Priority List’ which it does every three years. But a few days ago, they released something just as good, the so-called ‘Cusp List’ showing all the schools in the bottom 10% which includes what percentile each school is at.
Here are the results:
|Humes (closed down and became Frayser Achievement Elementary School||1.3%|
So four out of six are now in the bottom 3%, one is in the bottom 5% and one has catapulted into the bottom 9%.
If you go to the ASD home page, you no longer find that their mission is to catapult the bottom 5% schools into the top 25% in 5 years. According to the internet archive ‘Way Back’ machine, they changed the mission sometime between December 2016 and February 2017.
Reformers claim that with increased autonomy people get increased accountability. Since Barbic and Anderson have already resigned, they can’t get fired. I think a fitting accountability for them would be, at least, to be shunned by their reformer friends, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen. I don’t know what Anderson is up to, but Barbic landed a job with the John Arnold Foundation. I recently saw Anderson’s name on a list made by reformers of who they think should take over New York City Schools.
The ASD model is still being replicated around the country, actually. In a way, it was written into the new Every Student Succeeds Act where states have to make an intervention plan for ‘the bottom 5%’ an idea that seems to have originated with this failed ASD experiment.