August 9, 2022

Jackie DelPilar: Tennessee spent nearly $1B on underperforming schools program, data shows it’s not working

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The Achievement School District of Tennessee was supposed to show how reformers at the state level could turn low-performing schools into success stories. Instead, it has yielded an unending story of failure. Reporting for WZTV in Nashville, Jackie DelPilar reports on the latest chapter of ASD.

Four Tennessee schools are now returning to local control after getting taken over by the state ten years ago. The Memphis-area schools were brought into the Achievement School District with the promise from state leaders to turn things around.

But the schools are now returning to Shelby County Schools with no significant improvement in test scores.

“The state has failed miserably in running schools and the state should not be in the business of being a school district, period,” State Rep. Antonio Parkinson said. “The Achievement School District came in and aggressively divided these communities and took over these schools, and then they performed worse than the schools they actually took over.”

The latest data from the Department of Education shows each of the four schools report less than five percent of students performing at grade level. ASD as a whole reports just 4.5 percent of students performing at grade level.

That’s lower than Shelby County schools, with 11 percent of students testing at grade level.

Unacceptable, says JC Bowman with the Professional Educators of Tennessee.

“The Achievement School District, in my opinion, is a failure, and it’s time to pull the plug on it, and i hope there’s legislation to do that,” Bowman said.

The Department of Education started the Achievement School District more than a decade ago as part of the Race to the Top initiative. The program involves a state take over of the bottom five percent of schools. The schools return to local control once test scores improve.

These four schools are returning because they’ve hit the ten-year limit to the program, not because of student achievement.

State budget archives show the state has spent close to a billion dollars on the ASD since the program began in 2010.

Gov. Bill Lee pumped an added $25 million to its budget in 2020.

Read the full story here.

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