Charter Schools Tennessee

Tennessee: “Achievement School District” In Search of High-Performing Students

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The following post was written by a parent in Tennessee. The state’s Achievement School District was created by former Commissioner Krvin Huffman with the intent of taking control of the state’s lowest-performing public schools and handing them over to charter operators. The goal, promised ASD leader Chris Barbic was that the lowest 5% would be in the top 25% within five years. The clock is ticking.

The parent writes:

Tennessee Achievement School District (ASD) Superintendent Chris Barbic, like other reformers, often talks about creating opportunities for students “trapped in failing schools.” But this week Barbic is pushing legislation that would allow Barbic to recruit students from high-performing schools INTO schools the state has identified as “failing.” Barbic told Tennessee legislators on Wednesday that parents are beating down his door to get into ASD charter schools that are some of the worst performing schools in the state, according to the state’s highly touted accountability measures.

However, Barbic failed to mention that parents have submitted a petition with 78 pages of signatures to the Memphis school board asking them to remove their school from Barbic’s expanding charter school empire. Parents aren’t “voting with their feet” to attend charter schools after all.

Parents are smart to avoid ASD-operated charter schools. ASD schools are underperforming district-run schools in Memphis (http://www.bluffcityed.com/2014/09/just-facts-asd-vs-izone-performance/). Even the ASD’s most touted school in Nashville, Brick Church Middle, is underperforming its district-run counterpart, and it’s clear from an independent report that the ASD takeover of Brick Church created a terrible environment for the students and staff alike. (http://www.tennessean.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/12/22/asd-riles-parents-community-school-takeover/20648199/) Furthermore, a recent audit shows that the ASD has been mismanaging public funds, including federal money. (https://norinrad10.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/time-to-end-the-asd-fiasco/) But the ASD continues to expand over parent protest, most recently by cherry-picking the highest performing priority school in Nashville to help boost its own miserable test scores.

The ASD was supposed to be a boon for national charter school operators like Rocketship. Barbic and Kevin Huffman recruited Rocketship and others to Tennessee with the promise of dozens of schools that they would take over. Tennessee has rigged its accountability system to place over 80 schools on a “priority school” list that charters can target for takeover. So far they’ve taken over 22 schools in Memphis. But students zoned for those schools taken over by Barbic’s charter school cronies have stayed away in droves, most opting to stay with schools run by the local school board. This has upset private operators who were promised full schools if they came to Memphis.

In order to fill up the empty seats, Barbic wants to take kids out of schools that are performing well and put them in the state’s worst performing schools, all to protect the bottom lines of charter school operators. Students abandoning ASD schools are also impacting Barbic’s own bottom line. He can’t afford to hire enough teachers to comply with the state class size requirement, but he has found a way to solve this problem by increasing class sizes at ASD schools. He was recently was granted a class size waiver by the newly appointed Commissioner of Education, Candice McQueen. This week, he testified at the legislature that the ASD class sizes are 14-15 students, but the waiver allows him to expand his class sizes far beyond this number.

In Tennessee schools must be held accountable to some of the highest standards in the country – unless there is a profit motive involved – and then the powers-that-be not only look the other way, they actually work to create more opportunities for students to attend schools that the state has labeled “failing”!

If Barbic is working to place students enrolled in high achieving schools into “failing” ASD schools, he is obviously not concerned about the best interests of Tennessee’s students. He is concerned about the best interests of his charter operator buddies and his own bottom line.”

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