- Tennessee's Achievement School District (ASD), tasked with transforming low-performing schools by either operating them or letting charter organizations take over, now faces political roadblocks that could threaten its very existence.
- The Achievement School District mainly operates around Memphis, and by comparison, district-led turnarounds in other urban areas like Nashville and Chattanooga "have academically outpaced the state's," Education Week reports.
- The state's Democrats want to hit the pause button on any new school takeovers by the ASD until better results can be achieved, with some saying that the number of schools run by ASD should be "small."
The value of state-run districts isn't just being called into question in Tennessee. According to Education Week, there's also "debate over whether Louisiana's state-run system has improved New Orleans students' academic outcomes," and Newark "is set to soon retain control of its district after the state ran its schools for several years." On the flip side, both Nevada and Texas have "laid the groundwork for setting up their own turnaround districts."
Turning around the worst schools in Memphis is by no means easy. Tennessee is home to 80% of the worst-ranked schools in the U.S., and the ASD was founded in part to help the state qualify for a federal Race to the Top grant. Three years ago, as noted in the New York Times, the creation of the ASD led "parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders [to] hail signs of progress in the seven months the achievement district has been in existence," but that optimism and advancement apparently hasn't been sustainable. "Even with drastic overhauls, turnaround is difficult," the Times noted.