Tennessee’s turnaround district underwent an $11,600 makeover this year – including a new logo and website – as part of changes under leader Sharon Griffin.
Griffin, who took over leadership of the Achievement School District last year, said one of her first orders of business would be re-imagining the district, which is entering its seventh year and has been criticized by some for its slow academic progress and its takeover approach to school turnaround.
The rebranding – paid for by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, also known as SCORE – fulfills Griffin’s desire for a visual fresh start. It also speaks to how the mission of the district has changed over time.
The changes focus on the district as a whole, rather than the 11 individual charter operators that are part of the 30-school district. Griffin said she’s going to start making some major changes to create the academic progress the district’s new branding alludes to. She has said she will hold the state’s charter schools accountable for improving student performance and work to improve the district’s teacher workforce.
She’s also said she wants to make the district more accessible and transparent to parents – part of the vision behind the new website. The site now displays a districtwide calendar and features links to the district’s family handbook, information on state testing, and a news feed for press releases.
“I’m the third superintendent in now seven years, and I’m bringing a total reset,” Griffin told Chalkbeat previously. “Because some of the challenges we’ve experienced, unfortunately, have come down to consistency. What are our expectations for our schools? How will we be held accountable? How will our communities know us and see us? We’re changing. We’ve got to tell our communities that we’re changing.”
When the achievement district launched in 2012, leaders said on the website and in promotional materials that the district would move schools from the state’s bottom 5% to the top 25% within five years. Its founders have acknowledged that the original goal to vault the state’s struggling schools into top performers was overly ambitious and didn’t take into account the deep level of poverty its students face.
While the district’s new mission statement still emphasizes its goal is to turn around schools in the bottom 5%, it no longer specifies a time frame. The district has taken over 30 schools and has tasked charter school organizations with improving academic performance. Seven years later, nine have climbed out of the bottom 5%.
“Every day The Achievement School District will develop every child to reach his or her greatest potential by providing a quality, well-rounded education,” the district’s new mission statement reads, according to a district branding packet obtained by Chalkbeat.
The branding document, crafted by Kingdom Quality Communications, shows exactly what descriptive labels Griffin wants to leave behind as she reintroduces the district to its communities.
Instead of “inconsistent,” the district would be known as “dependable,” according to the document. Instead of a school “takeover district” it would be known as a “partner.”
The district’s new logo, which looks like an upward arrow with three stars, is all about representing progress, according to the document.
Some of the district’s schools have seen academic gains. Georgian Hills has been a success story for the district – the elementary school not only left the bottom 5% but moved out of the bottom 10%. Just three years ago, Georgian Hills was in the bottom 2% of schools. Last year, 13 schools in the Achievement School District stayed off of the state list of schools in the bottom 5%.
Griffin has told Chalkbeat that she wants to build off of those pockets of success, but acknowledges that the district needs to start moving faster.
“It’s year seven, and we’re not where we told people we would be,” Griffin said. “But I would not be here if I did not think it was possible to catch ourselves up. But we cannot stroll, we have to run.”