Frank Daniels, editor of The Tennessean, takes issue with School Board members Amy Frogge and Jill Speering who argue that poor performing schools should be left alone and continue in the hands of those who have been managing them for years. (link) I wholeheartedly agree with Frank Daniels and disagree with Frogge and Speering.
Frogge and Speering have come out against the Achievement School District plan to take over failing schools and they attack the whole concept of the state's plan to improve the worst schools. They argue that the "raw" data from some schools taken over by the ASD do not show an improvement. Daniels points out that the state has created a complex "report card" system that combines various factors to assess school performance and by that measure, ASD is performing relatively well.
Daniels points out that the ASD is in the third year of its mission to turn around the state's poor performers and he says it has a long way to go to achieve its lofty goals. It is too soon to pass judgment on the ASD, he says, and Metro schools should be supporting its efforts instead of worrying about who is nominally in charge. I agree.
I go further than Daniels however and do agree with ASD chief Chris Barbic who says there is a 'believe gap" between those who believe all children are capable of learning and those who believe that due to being handicapped by poverty and circumstances that they cannot. It seems almost miraculous the results that some charter schools have achieved. Charter schools have taken children from the worst neighborhoods, children who would have ended up school dropouts with many of the girls pregnant and the boys in reform school, and have not only seen them graduate high school, but attending college.
I am not sure that that success can be replicated again and again but it is sure worth trying. Keeping failing schools in the same management hands as they have been and doing the same thing we have been doing for sure is not working. It is time to give the radical experiment of new management and conversion to charter schools a chance. With conversion occurring one grade at a time, certainly we have not had time to determine if charter conversion under ADS is working. We need to give it a chance before declaring it a failure. Almost anything we do will be an improvement over the status quo.