The ‘portfolio’ model of education reform was pioneered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the creation of the Recovery School District (RSD) in 2005. Then Tennessee, fueled by Race To The Top money, brought in TFA alum and Michelle Rhee ex-husband Kevin Huffman who hired TFA alum and YES prep founder Chris Barbic to create a similar thing called the Achievement School District (ASD) in 2012.
Even though the Tennessee ASD has been a complete failure by every metric possible (unless you count Huffman and Barbic getting high paying consultant jobs after resigning in shame as one of your metrics), other states around the country have followed their ‘lead’ and proposed or created ASDs of their own. There was one created in Michigan, North Carolina, and Nevada and others proposed in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Not surprisingly, the ASDs have all been utter failures. And since it is hard to keep such failure a secret, states are starting to wake up to this fraud. So it is somewhat good news that another ASD has bitten the dust, this time in Nevada.
On June 3, 2019 Nevada passed SB321 abolishing their ASD. The official description is that it is “An act relating to education; abolishing the achievement school district; requiring an existing achievement charter school to convert to a charter school under the sponsorship of the State Public Charter School Authority or cease operations; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.” So even though their ASD is officially ‘abolished,’ it is not like those schools are converted back to public schools. Instead they are now under the State Public Charter School Authority which, I’d guess, has even less accountability than there was under the ASD.
But my sense is the fewer ASDs the better. The fewer there are, the lower the chance that some of them will lie about their success and that those lies convince other states to replicate the model.
As far as the Tennessee ASD, it has been the biggest trainwreck in education reform history. But now even the Tennessee media which has been really slow to realize the scam that was going on for so many years is finally writing about this. Here is a recent article from The Tennessean exposing the failures of the ASD.
The new commissioner of education of Tennessee is a TFA alum, much like Kevin Huffman was. She has recently announced a seven city ‘listening tour’ where they will get community input on what should be done next. When the Tennessee ASD started, the plan was to ramp it up to about 100 schools. They started with six schools and grew to over 30 schools in the first four years. But they have stalled at that number and are not taking on any new schools this year.
On the latest available Tennessee state data, the ASD had not just the lowest test scores , an 11.6% success rate, but also the lowest growth score of a 1 out of 5 on their Tennessee growth measure invented in Tennessee by William Sanders on which most other growth measures are based.
Things have changed a lot in the past four years. It was just a little over four years ago that Michael Petrilli moderated a panel called ‘Turnaround Districts: Lessons from Louisiana, Tennessee, and Michigan.” Since that time the Louisiana RSD was mixed with the other New Orleans schools, most likely so they can make it more difficult for the public to analyze the data from the original RSD schools. The Michigan ‘EAA’ was dissolved a few years ago, and the Tennessee ASD is fighting for its life. For sure this panel discussion and the fanfare around these supposedly visionary leaders has not aged well.