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From left, John Merrow, Chris Barbic, Andre Perry, and Daniel Varner at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville.

J. Zubrzycki

Takeover schools would eventually return to districts—as charter schools, Barbic says

Just what is the long-term plan for Tennessee schools taken over by the Achievement School District?

According to Chris Barbic, superintendent of the ASD, the schools will eventually be transitioned back to the districts they were originally part of—but as charter schools.

The ASD currently runs 16 former district schools in Memphis and one in Nashville, and plans to expand. It is tasked with taking schools ranked in the bottom five percent in the state and moving them into the top 25 in the state in terms of test scores.

Charter schools in the ASD would be transferred back when their 10-year charters are up for renewal. The fate of its six direct-run schools, which would be up for transfer after five years, is less clear. Barbic said the performance of those schools this year will help clarify their direction. ASD officials have discussed the possibility of eventually converting the schools  directly run by them over to a new charter management organization.

Barbic, Andre Perry, the founding dean of urban education at Davenport University, and Daniel Varner, the chief executive officer of Excellent Schools Detroit, discussed challenges and possibilities for state-run districts such as the ASD at a conference of the Education Writers Association in Nashville on Monday. The conference is a gathering of hundreds of education reporters and advocates across the country and was is being hosted by Vanderbilt University this year.

The ASD is one of just three state-run districts in operation. The other two, the Recovery School District in Louisiana and the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan, do not have clear “exit strategies” or plans to return their schools to their original districts.