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Lindsay Wagner of NC Policy Watch asks whether North Carolina will be next to copy Tennessee’s floundering “Achievement School District.”
The idea is that the state will take over low-scoring schools, put them into a special district, and hand them over to private charter operators. All teachers will have to reapply for their jobs.
The ASD has encountered community opposition in Tennessee. Teachers leave, parents leave, enrollment declines, and there is no turnaround.
“Tennessee established an Achievement School District (ASD) five years ago in an effort to turn around failing schools, targeting schools primarily located in Memphis and Nashville.
How it works: the state identifies its bottom five percent of schools based on their students’ performance on standardized tests and marks them ‘priority schools,’ placing them within the state-controlled Achievement School District with the goal of lifting them up into the state’s top 25 percent within five years.
In most cases, however, the state doesn’t run the priority schools—instead, Tennessee contracts out their management to private charter school operators.
“It’s been so disruptive to the community,” parent advocate Lyn Hoyt, who is founder and president of TREE, Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence, a group dedicated to fighting for strong and equitable public schools, told N.C. Policy Watch.
“Schools in the ASD have a very hard time getting community buy-in,” said Hoyt. “A charter management company comes in and takes over a school, forces the teachers and staff to reapply for their jobs, and there is just no choice in the matter. The school has to take on a whole new persona under new management.”
Hoyt says that because the charter takeovers tend to be very sudden, parents become angry that their beloved neighborhood schools, which often serve as cornerstones of Memphis communities, become quickly transformed into unknown entities. Teachers hoping to hold on to their tenure rights tend to leave for more stable work environments if they can find them, and parents who have the means tend to pull their kids from the ASD charter schools in search of alternative options, leaving even larger concentrations of low-income, at-risk youth in the ASD schools.
Since the creation of the achievement school district, four charter operators have pulled out of Memphis—at least two because they saw troubling enrollment decreases, said Hoyt.”
The ASD has achieved nothing of consequence. By any objective measure, it has been a failure. Why should North Carolina copy Tennessee’s failed ASD?