After six years, schools in Tennessee's state-run Achievement School District (ASD) have not shown improvement, while the locally run Innovation Zones (iZone) schools did moderately improve student achievement among some the lowest-performing schools, according to research from Vanderbuilt University.
The key findings indicate that iZone interventions had significant positive effects on students in math and science, but the effect is smaller in reading. ASD school performance, on the other hand, showed no difference than comparison schools in any subject or cohort.
The researchers also found inconsistent results among iZone schools. The first two cohorts showed positive results, while the fifth cohort had negative results, which may be the result of a lower level effectiveness of incoming teachers, the researchers suggested.
Though Tennessee’s state-run achievement school district became a model for other states, the movement hasn’t gained much traction. Nevada and North Carolina both gave the concept a try, but Nevada shuttered its achievement district after one year and there is only one school in North Carolina’s version of the program three years after it was launched. Other states, including Mississippi, are going their own direction by taking over entire districts instead of individual schools. In this model, the schools are operated by the state instead of charter school operators.
These state-led efforts have yet to prove themselves successful so many states are tweaking and adjusting original plans and scaling back aggressive policies. Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, some parents in the Providence Public Schools have requested that the state intervene, following a report showing a series of problems in district schools — showing that some still view state takeovers as an option.
Tennesee’s iZone is the locally-led alternative to the state takeover trend. The iZone schools remain under the district’s control but are similar to charter schools because they are able to choose their own staff members and have more flexibility over curriculum. The school leaders work to make connections within the community that can help both the schools and students improve. Still the success of iZone schools is hit-and-miss depending on the area and the level of leadership.