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Contrary research on Achievement School Districts

The House Select Committee on Achievement School Districts heard yesterday from experts who presented a less-than rosy view of Achievement School District (ASD) success in Tennessee.

Gary Henry of Vanderbilt University and Joshua Glazer of George Washington University both presented on the struggles of the ASD districts in Tennessee, while Malika Anderson, Tennessee Achievement School District superintendent, had more positive news for the lawmakers.

In particular, Anderson mentioned one ASD school that went from the bottom five percent in the state to the top 50th percentile.

“We can change outcomes for students if we are brave enough and thoughtful enough,” she said.

Get the background on Achievement School Districts and the proposed North Carolina bill here.

See the video of Anderson’s presentation below.

While Anderson didn’t downplay the difficulties of launching an ASD in her presentation, Henry and Glazer painted bleak pictures of Tennessee’s experiment.

Henry indicated that the ASDs in Tennessee were largely unsuccessful, while state Innovation Zones — areas where traditional public schools are operated with charter-like flexibility — showed much more progress.

Rep. Rob Bryan, R-Mecklenburg, unveiled a revision to his draft ASD bill Wednesday that includes Innovation Zones. Any district that has a school transition to the ASD could choose up to three other continually-low performing schools to put into an Innovation Zone.

Henry speculated that the success of the Innovation Zones in Tennessee might have something to due with the pressure schools might have felt from the ASD. He has said that they may have been more likely to embrace the Innovation Zones because they did not want to be put into the ASD.

See Gary Henry’s presentation below.

Glazer stressed that one of the biggest challenges for ASDs in Tennessee was the fact that they are neighborhood schools. Whatever population the school served before joining the ASD was the same population it served after. Largely, parents didn’t choose the school.

“These are charters that take over neighborhood schools,” he said. “That is not the way that charter schools are meant to operate.”

See the video of his presentation below.

There is one more scheduled meeting of the House Select Committee on April 13th. The Committee will vote on the bill then, and if approved, it will move to a House education committee.

Get some background on Innovation Zones here.

To see the live tweets from today’s presentation, go to @agranadoster on twitter.

Tomorrow, we will post the videos of the public comment from the committee meeting, as well as Rep. Bryan’s presentation of the revisions to his draft bill.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.