Tennessee created the so-called “Achievement School District” in 2012, to take over schools in the lowest 5% of the state, based on test scores, and hand them over to charter operators. The head of the ASD at the time, Chris Barbic, who had run the YES Prep charter chain in Houston, promised that these low-performing schools would be in the top 20% within five years. The five-year mark is approaching, and none of the schools is in the top 25%. It is not clear that any of them have moved out of the bottom 5-10% (moving to the bottom 10% would be progress, though not much). Gary Rubinstein called ASD the “Underachievement District.” See here for his 2016 post. Barbic left before the five-year marker, and the ASD carries on. Unfortunately, despite the meager (or nil) results of the ASD, several states have created their own versions of the ASD. If it failed in Tennessee, why notcopy it in Georgia and Nevada?

The latest news from the ASD is that it is laying off 29 employees. This is not a sign of good health.

The state-run Achievement School District is losing 29 employees including 13 who are involved in the direct running of the first schools in Frayser taken over by the district in 2012.

The changes, which include another 16 positions in the central office, are the most significant change to the district for the bottom 5 percent of public schools in the state in terms of academic achievement.

All but two of the 33 schools in the ASD, including two alternative schools, are in Memphis.

As expected, management says that this move will strengthen the organization for future success. They are “right-sizing” and “streamlining” the organization for the future.

Although the ASD consists of charter schools, parents did not choose them. Their local public schools were taken over without their consent, and that takeover is certainly not school choice. Consequently the ASD has faced considerable parent and community hostility.