National group again touts ASD, says it has established “conditions for success”

Tennessee’s state-run Achievement School District was again ranked top in the nation for creating “conditions for success” for students and schools, according to the Center for Reinventing Public Education.

The CRPE promotes the portfolio strategy as an approach for managing public schools. Portfolio districts have a number of entities – which may include charter schools, for-profit operators, and the regular school district – running public schools.

The CRPE releases this ranking twice a year, and the ASD was ranked top in the nation on its last list as well. The organization evaluated the polices of 20 districts from across the county to determine if they align with “best practices.”

The components CRPE ranked districts on are: Good options and choices for all families; school autonomy; pupil-based funding for all schools; talent-seeking strategy; sources of support for schools, performance-based accountability for schools; and extensive public engagement.

Here’s a snapshot of CRPE’s report. New York City and the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans were runners-up in this version of the list.

It’s important to note that this list does not reflect how the schools are actually doing. Last year, in its first year running schools, the ASD had mixed results.

The ASD also had some initial challenges selling some local communities on its strategy. The district plans to create a community advisory council to respond to those concerns, which CRPE highlights in its report. Just what that council will look like is not yet clear. 

Greg Richmond, the chief executive officer of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said much of the potential of the state-run districts like the RSD and ASD is that they are starting from scratch. The ASD was designed from the start to be a portfolio district, while most districts on the list incorporated tenets of the strategy over time.

The ASD, created by Tennessee’s First to the Top law, is still very new: It is in its second year running schools. It was modeled after the RSD and currently runs 16 schools: 15 in Memphis and one in Nashville. The ASD plans to add several new schools next year and to eventually run as many as 50 schools in Memphis. You can see historical and projected growth in enrollment and schools in the ASD here (scroll partway down the page to find the infographic.)

The ASD’s goal is to take schools that are performing in the bottom 5 percent of the state and move them to the top 25 percent. Its strategy for doing so involves turning schools over to charter management organizations that the state-run district oversees.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.