Charter Schools Teach for America Tennessee

Tennessee Dad: It’s Time to Dump the “Achievement School District”

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T.C. Weber, blogger known as Dad Gone Wild, says it is time to end the Achievement School District experiment in Tennessee.

Then-State Commissioner Kevin Huffman persuaded his friend Chris Barbic to launch the ASD as an all-charter district made up of the state’s lowest performing schools. Barbic had created the YES prep charter chain in Houston. He promised that the ASD schools would all be in the Starr’s top 25% in five years.

The ASD has been embroiled in community protests and financial mismanagement from the start, writes Weber. It is nowhere near its goal.

He writes:

“I will show you more of what we’ve come to expect from the Tennessee’s ASD, which is more sloppy work and inattention to detail. Since inception, its been nothing but one issue after another for the ASD. In the past they’ve failed to report their per pupil spending, even though all other districts were able to. Back in September, reporter Ezra Howard analyzed the state data and showed that local efforts in Memphis were performing better than the ASD. October came and Bluff City, an education blog out of Memphis, reported the city in near revolt against the ASD. To close out the year, they engineered a hostile takeover of a Nashville school. Perhaps a few more Happy Hours are needed.

“When looking at this audit it becomes clear once again that the Achievement School District’s forte is not in the details. Details like, failure to have contracts overseen and ensuring that they are in compliance with regulations, allowing Charter Management Operators to get paid before they paid their vendors, and billing salaries to the wrong programs. The amounts of money are albeit small and therefore for many not that concerning, but I would argue that, when coupled with the entire body of evidence, it shows a pattern of behavior. A pattern that is not beneficial to the students or the tax payers of the state of Tennessee.”

Weber concludes:

“Governor Haslam has made a welcome change at the top of the Department of Education, but like with any illness, the body can only heal when all of the infection is removed. Chris Barbic and the Achievement School District were brought here by Kevin Huffman through their shared experience as Teach For America members. Time proved that Kevin Huffman was not a good fit for Tennessee. Time has also shown that TFA is not a great fit for Tennessee. They are a part of the past and Tennessee needs to look forward. It’s time to add the Achievement School District to that list of failed experiments and embrace policies that will take us into the future, before the damage is irreversible.”

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