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ASD, priority schools in Memphis, Nashville land federal school improvement grants

Shelby County Schools and the state’s Achievement School District will receive federal School Improvement Grants to help support low preforming schools on the state’s priority list, the Tennessee Department of Education announced Monday.

The ASD will receive $1.3 million while Shelby County’s check will total $900,000.

Both districts have schools on the state’s priority list, meaning they’re among the 5 percent lowest performers in the state.

Shelby County Schools has 50 priority schools compared to the nine priority schools under the ASD. Districts that applied for grants were awarded based on need.

“We looked at the strength of the application and track record of success,” said Ashley Ball, deputy director of communications for Tennessee Department of Education.

Shelby County Schools communications department told Chalkbeat Monday afternoon a specific spending plan had not been developed for the grant money.

In October Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said the district expected to receive a federal grant largely due to improvement efforts of iZone or Innovation Zone. The iZone is the district’s home-grown school turnaround effort , under whichschool leaders have the autonomy to hire teachers, create a longer school day, and make curriculum changes.

The ASD said its grant was earned by several of public charter operators, which will open schools in 2015-16 academic year. The schools have different plans for spending the money.

The federal grant money can be used, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, to help districts with community outreach, teacher and administrator recruitment and exploring additional resources.

“We believe this additional financial investment will help districts provide our Priority Schools with specific supports,” said education commissioner Kevin Huffman in Monday’s press release. “For the past several years, our state has been focused both on improving overall performance of all kids in Tennessee, while closing achievement gaps and supporting students that are the farthest behind; we have seen results from these efforts and are excited to help districts plan for additional interventions.”

Also receiving the grants were Metro Nashville Public Schools,$1.3 million; Knox County Schools $1 million; and Jackson-Madison County Schools, $400,000.

Metro Nashville has 15 schools on the state’s priority list, Knox County has four schools on the list and Jackson-Madison County has two schools included on the list.

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