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September 19, 2017
Most Tennessee districts are showing academic growth, but districts with the farthest to go improved the least
It’s not just Memphis: Across Tennessee, districts with many struggling schools posted lower-than-expected growth scores on this year’s state exams, the data shows.
September 18, 2017
Most Memphis schools score low on student growth under new state test
Find out how your school fared in growth on the state's new test in this Chalkbeat exclusive.
September 13, 2017
Memphis’ new iZone chief shares his data-driven plan for fixing struggling schools
Antonio Burt returns to Memphis as assistant superintendent over the program where he started as a turnaround principal.
August 29, 2017
As Tennessee prepares to release more high school scores, McQueen calls turnaround work a challenge
The state's ed chief hints that the trajectory for high school turnaround won't change significantly when Tennessee releases district-level scores on Wednesday.
August 22, 2017
How five Aurora schools in an “innovation zone” are making budget decisions to meet their own needs
Five schools in northwest Aurora in the district's innovation zone have a redesigned budget specific to their needs as they start a second year of innovation.
June 16, 2017
New principal named for Memphis school at the center of grading investigation
Shelby County Schools turns to a veteran principal with school turnaround experience to take the helm of Trezevant High School.
June 7, 2017
Tennessee’s turnaround district is reaching the end of an era
The Achievement School District isn't going anywhere, but it’s taking a backseat to other school improvement tools for the Tennessee Department of Education.
A new way
May 17, 2017
Tennessee considers a new approach for getting local schools to improve: working with them
The State Department of Education is eyeing Chattanooga for Tennessee's first foray into a “partnership zone” approach.
April 20, 2017
Tennessee reveals quicker exit plan for schools in the Achievement School District
A school will return to its local district if it improves and stays off of two consecutive “priority lists, or if it fails to improve.
March 28, 2017
Memphians weigh in on Hopson’s investment plan for struggling schools
Shelby County Schools holds a community meeting about Superintendent Dorsey Hopson's plan to address 19 schools dubbed "critical focus" schools.
Too much too fast?
December 6, 2016
Key piece of Aurora Central High School’s reform plan not yet in place
Aurora Central High School has been working on changes from an innovation plan to improve the school, but the change to the school's learning model hasn't happened.
November 22, 2016
Seeing needs beyond good teachers, Teacher Town Memphis changes its approach and its name
The philanthropic collaborative revises its public image as its leaders rethink the ways they want to help the city's schools change.
August 25, 2016
Memphis high schools change schedules to make catch-up classes the norm
Shelby County Schools is using a new remediation approach that doesn't involve adding time onto the school day.
August 16, 2016
What’s the endgame for Tennessee’s Achievement School District? That’s the question facing lawmakers
State lawmakers will answer questions about the future of Tennessee's school turnaround district when they convene on Wednesday.
May 2, 2016
iZone chief Sharon Griffin on fixing Memphis’ most challenging schools
A Q&A on school turnaround strategies that work, the challenges of urban education, the importance of coaching and supporting principals and teachers, and more.
Aye for Innovation
April 28, 2016
Denver school board approves innovation zone, granting schools new freedoms
The schools will be overseen by a new nonprofit and will have more control over how they spend the state funding.
April 20, 2016
Here’s where Tennessee’s lowest-performing schools stand a year before the state’s next priority list
Here's the so-called "cusp" list from the State Department of Education, along with five things to know before viewing it.
April 19, 2016
Building on Innovation Zone successes, Shelby County Schools to launch separate ‘Empowerment Zone’
Shelby County Schools' prized school turnaround initiative is getting a little sister.
April 6, 2016
Hopson: Proposed budget cuts to Memphis schools could reverse years of improvements
More than $50 million in proposed cuts would impact staffing and programs including special education, the Innovation Zone and CLUE within Shelby County Schools.
March 29, 2016
To launch first new iZone school, Shelby County taps established leader
Rodney Rowan has done what few principals have managed to do — turn around a long-struggling school. Now, he’s being asked to replicate that success.
March 10, 2016
Griffin hiring more top leaders for expanding iZone
As Shelby County Schools prepares to add more schools to its school turnaround initiative, regional Superintendent Sharon Griffin is putting three lieutenants in place.
February 24, 2016
In Denver, four schools want to push the boundaries of innovation
The schools want to form an “innovation zone” that would be overseen by a new nonprofit organization that would give principals more freedom.
January 20, 2016
New ASD superintendent asks state lawmakers for patience on school turnarounds
Malika Anderson's first charge as ASD superintendent is to fend off bills to limit — or totally abolish — the district.
January 13, 2016
D.C. Public Schools officials tour Memphis iZone
The mounting success of Shelby County Schools' iZone attracts national attention from other districts exploring school improvement initiatives.
until next year
December 23, 2015
Advocacy groups counter mounting criticism of ASD with year-end rallies
Two Memphis organizations push back against heightened opposition to the state-run turnaround school district.
December 16, 2015
Latest iZone expansion will leave few Memphis priority schools to improve on their own
Shelby County's Innovation Zone will absorb three more priority schools, growing turnaround efforts by the local district, in addition to the state's turnaround work.
December 8, 2015
Vanderbilt study: iZone more effective than ASD in turning around struggling schools thus far
A new study shows that iZones have had sizable positive effects on student test scores in Tennessee, while effects of the Achievement School District have been marginal.
October 30, 2015
Arne Duncan talks turnaround work in the trenches of struggling Memphis schools
The outgoing U.S. education chief makes his fourth trip to Memphis, where schools must overcome poverty and other mitigating factors to provide a culture of learning.
October 29, 2015
When Arne Duncan visits Memphis, he’ll see part of his legacy as U.S. ed chief
The outgoing education secretary will see firsthand one of America's battleground cities in the movement he spearheaded to transform public education.
October 28, 2015
iZone leader Sharon Griffin named Tennessee supervisor of the year
Sharon Griffin, who helped to create the Innovation Zone for Shelby County Schools in 2013, is Tennessee's 2015 supervisor of the year.
August 11, 2015
Six charts showing test scores in schools that Tennessee wants to turn around
A chart-by-chart analysis of efforts to improve failing schools in Memphis and Shelby County, based on the latest TCAP scores
August 3, 2015
Strong iZone scores viewed as chance to grow Shelby County’s turnaround initiative
Most schools in the district's Innovation Zone saw their student test scores rise, but additional funding to expand the program is anything but certain.
July 27, 2015
Five things to watch for when district and school test scores come out Wednesday
On Wednesday, the state unveils its district-by-district and school-by-school scores across Tennessee. Here are five important things to watch.
July 7, 2015
With Shelby County budget settled, Hopson reflects on process
Dorsey Hopson hopes the fiscal bleeding slows as a result of the district's most recent budget-cutting process and priorities.
July 7, 2015
More states look to Tennessee’s Achievement School District as a school turnaround model
Across the nation, more lawmakers look to Tennessee's pioneering district as a model to improve struggling schools in their own states, even as the ASD's impact in Tennessee remains murky.
May 18, 2015
Stanford-bound senior from Memphis Melrose talks about his public education and how students can defy the odds
Dellarontay Readus discusses how he overcame frequent moves and academic challenges to earn a full scholarship to one of the nation's premier universities.
April 29, 2015
For state’s only dual language program, turnaround efforts present challenges
Sometimes, when one innovative academic program bumps into another innovative academic program, worlds collide.
April 16, 2015
Laptops are providing new instructional tool for Shelby County students in ‘blended learning’ pilot
Shelby County Schools' 'blended learning' pilot program nears the end of its first school year with personalized computer instruction, high hopes for student testing, and a major new funding source.
April 8, 2015
Shelby County expands education reform efforts amid $125 million shortfall
While Shelby County Schools are cutting staff and services under a $125 budget shortfall, the district is expanding and investing in its Innovation Zone.
March 31, 2015
Shelby County closes three Memphis schools, moves students from three others
The Board of Education for Shelby County Schools votes to close three low-performing schools and transfer students out of three others, impacting more than 2,000 students.
October 2, 2014
Hopson says current I-Zone schools will not become charters
Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson II told the board today that the district plans to pursue additional government and private funds to support its Innovation Zone, a set of turnaround schools that have shown dramatic growth on state tests in each of the past three years.
September 12, 2014
Innovation Zone financially unsustainable, SCS officials say
At a board committee meeting yesterday, Shelby County administrators told board members it would cost $28.5 million over the course of three years to expand the programs currently being used to turn around low-performing schools in its Innovation Zone—and that bringing in charter schools, which fundraise on their own, might be a more efficient strategy for the district. Board members are skeptical.
September 10, 2014
Memphis school improvement efforts in spotlight as Duncan finishes back-to-school tour
"I moved to Memphis thinking I’d change lots of lives every year. But really, my life has been drastically changed," said teacher Brittany Ordue.
August 7, 2014
Riverview principal uses military theme to improve test scores
This is the second time that Riverview principal Rosalind Martin has used the theme “Bootcamp to Improve Student Literacy.” The first school where she…
May 29, 2014
Blended learning pilot means a new role for teachers in 16 Memphis schools
At the Shelby County district building on Wednesday, school board members were digging deep into 10th grade English language arts—and the questions at the…
March 25, 2014
Shelby County and Nashville reveal plan to use charters to help improve iZone schools
For the first time, the Innovation departments of Tennessee’s two largest school districts are planning to turn some of their lowest-performing schools over to…
November 27, 2013
Teach For America contract in Memphis area approved, despite concerns
Shelby County's merged school board voted 5-2 to keep its contract with Teach For America at last night's board meeting, despite concerns about the program's recruitment fee.
May 28, 2013
Gap App winners think they can solve low middle school scores
Winners of the Gap App Challenge pose with Chancellor Dennis Walcott at Tweed Courthouse on Tuesday morning. The city Department of Education thinks it has found software developers who are solving the perpetual problem of middle school math. The department today announced four winners from its Gap App challenge — a competition inviting developers to submit programs that could help middle schools raise math scores, which remain stubbornly low. Developers submitted 200 apps to the challenge since it was first announced in January. The developer of the "Best Instructional App," KnowRe, has created an adaptive learning platform that offers Algebra 1 students different questions and challenges based on their previous answers. In the "Best Administrative and Engagement App" category, top-rated developer Hapara has created an interface that lets teachers see their students' work easily. "Our product is built exclusively on teacher and student feedback," the group says in an informational video.
December 11, 2012
New York City won't get federal funds to "personalize learning"
If New York City wants to expand its use of technology to tailor instruction to students' individual needs, it will have to do so without special federal funding. The city was not on the list today when the U.S. Department of Education named the winners of its Race to the Top-District competition, aimed at rewarding districts that "personalize learning." One reason: The city Department of Education did not supply requested information about its budget. The city had been one of 61 finalists in the competition, which netted nearly 500 applications from school districts and consortia of districts from across the country. It had asked for $40 million to expand and augment existing initiatives, including the Innovation Zone, and build innovative schools from the ground up. Applications were scored by independent reviewers according to stringent rules set out by the U.S. Department of Education, and New York City's application got high marks in most categories. The reviewers lauded the city's vision, its prior record of success making major changes, and its analysis of where and why a move toward personalized learning would be useful. But it lost points because the city did not outline a clear timeline for carrying out the plans, show how the funds would benefit all students, or demonstrate that it had gotten buy-in from community partners with which it promised to collaborate.
November 14, 2012
City's Race to the Top-District bid centered on iZone expansion
Students at Brooklyn's Olympus Academy, a transfer high school, use online learning to move ahead at their own pace. The city is asking the U.S. Department of Education for funds to support additional efforts to "personalize education." Pitting itself against school districts across the country, the city has asked the U.S. Department of Education for $40 million to expand and augment its existing education technology programs. The city's biggest commitment in its application for Race to the Top-District, which city education officials filed last week, is to add as many as 100 schools to its three-year-old “Innovation Zone.” The application also promises to build innovative schools from the ground up and train teachers on how to use technology to improve instruction. Race to the Top-District is the latest effort by the Obama administration to entice state and local education officials to adopt its preferred policies. In the first Race to the Top grant competition, in 2010, New York State netted $700 million to overhaul teacher evaluations, add more charter schools, bulk up teacher preparation programs, and develop a statewide data system. Last year, the state fell short in its bid to win Race to the Top funds earmarked just for early childhood education. The current round — the first open to individual districts — is focused on "personalized education." City Department of Education officials say the Innovation Zone, which this year contains nearly 250 schools, makes the department uniquely positioned to turn federal funds into higher student achievement. "It’s something that we’ve been doing for three years," said David Weiner, the Department of Education deputy chancellor in charge of innovation. "We really believe that that puts us in a great place to capitalize on what we’ve learned."
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