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National group again touts ASD, says it has established “conditions for success”

Tennessee’s state-run Achievement School District was again ranked top in the nation for creating “conditions for success” for students and schools, according to the Center for Reinventing Public Education.

The CRPE promotes the portfolio strategy as an approach for managing public schools. Portfolio districts have a number of entities – which may include charter schools, for-profit operators, and the regular school district – running public schools.

The CRPE releases this ranking twice a year, and the ASD was ranked top in the nation on its last list as well. The organization evaluated the polices of 20 districts from across the county to determine if they align with “best practices.”

The components CRPE ranked districts on are: Good options and choices for all families; school autonomy; pupil-based funding for all schools; talent-seeking strategy; sources of support for schools, performance-based accountability for schools; and extensive public engagement.

Here’s a snapshot of CRPE’s report. New York City and the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans were runners-up in this version of the list.

It’s important to note that this list does not reflect how the schools are actually doing. Last year, in its first year running schools, the ASD had mixed results.

The ASD also had some initial challenges selling some local communities on its strategy. The district plans to create a community advisory council to respond to those concerns, which CRPE highlights in its report. Just what that council will look like is not yet clear. 

Greg Richmond, the chief executive officer of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said much of the potential of the state-run districts like the RSD and ASD is that they are starting from scratch. The ASD was designed from the start to be a portfolio district, while most districts on the list incorporated tenets of the strategy over time.

The ASD, created by Tennessee’s First to the Top law, is still very new: It is in its second year running schools. It was modeled after the RSD and currently runs 16 schools: 15 in Memphis and one in Nashville. The ASD plans to add several new schools next year and to eventually run as many as 50 schools in Memphis. You can see historical and projected growth in enrollment and schools in the ASD here (scroll partway down the page to find the infographic.)

The ASD’s goal is to take schools that are performing in the bottom 5 percent of the state and move them to the top 25 percent. Its strategy for doing so involves turning schools over to charter management organizations that the state-run district oversees.