Corporate education reform specializes in grandiose promises, hype, and spin. No reformer was bolder than Chris Barbic. Reflecting his self-confidence, he took over Tennessee’s Achievement School District and predicted he could raise the bottom 5% of the state’s schools into the top 25% in only five years.

After only four years, Barbic quit. He said that turning around neighborhood schools was harder than he expected. It is easier to have a choice school where the school chooses, although Barbic didn’t say that.

Gary Rubinstein was first to analyze the ASD data, and he found that after three years, the original six schools had not improved. Barbic’s ambitious goal was out of reach.

Rubinstein wrote:

“Four of the original six schools are still in the bottom 5% while the other two have now ‘catapulted’ to the bottom 6%. Perhaps this is one reason that Chris Barbic recently announced he is resigning at the end of the year.”

So what is the response in Tennessee?

Andy Spears writes that the ASD took over Neely’s Bend, a middle school that was improving and outperforming the ASD schools.

“Some in the Tennessee General Assembly have taken notice. More than twenty bills dealing with the ASD’s practices were filed in the 2015 legislative session. One of them passed. Ironically, that legislation would have prevented the ASD from taking over any school on the priority list that had scored a 4 or 5 on the state’s accountability indicator. Neely’s Bend’s 2015 score was a 5.

“Unlike other school districts, the ASD is not accountable to an elected School Board. The Superintendent reports directly to the Commissioner of Education. This lack of accountability is likely what prompted soon-to-be former ASD Superintendent Barbic to say, *I think it’s important to remind everyone that a lot of things we are doing are by choice. If we wanted to, we could take over all 85 schools (on the priority list) next year.*

“I think it’s safe to say that this communication strategy combined with the results at Neely’s Bend will cause the legislature to take another look at the runaway expansion of the ASD. It’s certainly not too late to both return Neely’s Bend to the community that loves it AND delay further expansion without new accountability provisions.”