Thursday, December 4, 2014

Councilmembers Anthony Davis, Karen Bennett and Bill Pridemore say no to Charter replacements for two failing schools

After so many years of being a failing school, the State of Tennessee can take over a failing school and administer it. These lowest performing schools subject to takeover by the State are schools performing in the bottom of the 5% of schools in the state. They become part of a state-wide school district called the Achievement School District. The ambitions objective of the ASD is to move the bottom 5% of schools in Tennessee to the top 25% by 2018.  After being taken over by the State, the schools are given to charter operators to operate and manage.

In this letter that Council members Anthony Davis, Karen Bennett and Bill Pridemore sent to the State superintendent of the Achievement School District asking that the state not take over the subject schools, they state that a Lead Charter School has been placed on a Metro Schools "watch list"  and that the schools not be taken over by the ASD and not turned over to Lead.

The Nashville Scene reports that they asked Dr. Cloverstone to explain and verify that a Lead Academy school was on a Metro "watch list" and they got this reply:

The standards for charter schools are quite a bit higher than those the state applies through its Priority Schools status.

We automatically notify any charter schools that fall below satisfactory even for one year so that we are on record with concerns should a downward trend develop, but you are correct: the school’s 3-year status is still Satisfactory, and until that falls below Satisfactory, we will not take any further corrective action.
So much for the "watch list" complaint.  I know change is always difficult, even when it is change for the best, but it appears to me that what is best for these failing schools is to turn them over to Lead or some other charter and watch them improve.

This spring Lead Academy graduated its first High School class and every student was accepted to a four-year college. This are students who most likely would have been pregnant or dropouts or in reform school had they not been in Lead Academy. Few of those who did graduate would have been accepted to a four-year university.  Lead creates an expectation of excellence and expects their students to work hard. They create a different school culture. I know some parents do not want to do the hard work associated with having a child in a demanding environment. Some parents think mediocre is good enough. Somebody has to be in the bottom 5%, I assume they reason. Community leaders should not pander to those who think a bad school is good enough for their child.

Below is the letter:

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