Gary Rubinstein has been watching Tennessee’s “Achievement School District” since it started. The original promise was that the ASD would gather the lowest performing schools in the state–from the bottom 5%–and lift them to the top 25% in the state in five years. They are nowhere near that goal.


The state data was recently released, and it showed that five of the six schools in the first cohort are still in the bottom 5%. The sixth school is in the bottom 7%.


This matters a lot because several states are now planning to create similar districts, based on the model of Tennessee’s ASD. The planning is underway in Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada. There may be more.


The basic idea is that the state takes control of low-performing schools away from local districts,then hands them over to charter operators. The charters work their magic, and the schools are supposed to be transformed. But after four years, it hasn’t happened in Tennessee. Since Tennessee canceled its state tests this year due to technical problems, there won’t be a fifth year score.


When Chalkbeat reported this story recently, it said:


“The lowest 5 percent is still dominated by schools in Memphis and Nashville. Of the 84 worst-performing schools in Tennessee, nearly all are operated through Shelby County Schools, the ASD and Metro Nashville Public Schools. Chattanooga has six, Knoxville four, and Jackson two. Districts in Sevier and Fayette counties, which are primarily rural, have schools that are on a state list for the first time. As has been the case in the past, the bottom 5 percent schools are almost exclusively in low-income communities of color….


Rubinstein says this story never got the attention it deserved, and he is right. Other states would be foolish to copy this failed experiment.