How The Broad Foundation Created Ripples in Tennessee

The Broad Foundation is a national philanthropic organization that seeks to dramatically transform public education in America. Among their various approaches is the Broad Prize, which celebrates school districts that demonstrate significant movement toward a better school system. The prize attracts national attention. Previous winners include the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system, Gwinnet schools in Georgia and Aldine Independent School District outside of Houston, Texas.

Broad captured my attention last week when they announced the first ever Broad Prize for Charter Schools at the 2012 National Charter School Association Conference in Minneapolis. Among the nominees for the prize were charter management organizations like Aspire Public Schools and Achievement First, both organizations making dramatic changes in providing excellent educational choices for students. YES Prep Public Schools, a charter network of 10 campuses in Houston serving nearly 6,000 students that requires all students to gain admission to a four-year college or university, won the inaugural prize. Full disclosure, I worked as a teacher and district leader at YES Prep for nearly seven years and am happy to have contributed just a small amount to their award. Continue reading

There is no Magic Bullet in School Turnaround Work

In our last post, we talked about how we are building a system of schools that values flexibility at every level of the organization. This gives our leaders the agency to make critical decisions that increase student achievement. It is our belief that when teachers and school leaders have the flexibility to make these decisions, we positively impact student outcomes and elevate professions in education, attracting more outstanding leaders to join our team. Despite having flexibility, we never want to underplay the amount of difficult work we have ahead of us. Creating a system of schools that were once in the bottom 5% and catapulting them into the top 25% of schools in the state will not be easy. That challenge may give some pause. We are embracing it and taking responsibility for the achievement of our students. Continue reading

The Achievement School District Gives the Power to Principals and Teachers

In our last post, we outlined the scope of work for the Achievement School District and our goals of transforming the bottom 5% of schools into schools that perform among the top 25% in the state. As both an operator and authorizer, the ASD is working urgently to ensure that we provide our students with transformational educational opportunities.

Because of years of decision making and leadership changes, the current “system” of schools is inflexible and lethargic. We don’t mean to downplay the amazing work that is being done across the state to ensure that our students have access to educations, but because of the rigidity in decision making, our local leaders and principals are often unable to make the kinds of changes that will immediately increase student achievement. We hope to dismantle that system in favor of one that builds in flexibility at every level. Continue reading

An Ambitious Goal for the State’s Struggling Schools

The Achievement School District (ASD) represents an unprecedented effort to improve public education opportunities for Tennessee students and families. Created with bi-partisan legislation as part of Tennessee’s successful application for Race to the Top funding, The ASD is a statewide organization dedicated to taking schools currently in the bottom 5% of academic performance and within 5 years transforming them to perform in the top 25%. Approximately 85 schools are currently eligible for transformation, 69 of which are located in Memphis.

Ultimately, we will be judged on the achievement of our students. We have extremely high expectations for ourselves and for our students. In the coming years, we will create a system of schools that perform among the top 25% of schools in the state and we will do this in communities where students have been zoned to or currently attend schools performing in the bottom 5%. To build the kind of capacity and urgency we need to effect immediate and sustainable change, the Achievement School District (ASD) will work as both a school operator and a school authorizer. Continue reading