By Amelia Hamilton, Watchdog. org - In many cities around the country, innovation schools — those given more autonomy than traditional schools traditionally have — are able to make changes and try new solutions to meet the needs of their students.
Innovation zones (iZones) have a presence in both Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee. There are three schools in Nashville which make up the “iZone” created in the summer of 2011 to turn around low-performing schools by engaging in strategic redesign. Memphis iZone schools have become a model for other cities to emulate.
Four years ago, 69 out of 85 Memphis schools were in the bottom 5 percent in the state for academic success, making it the lowest-ranking city in Tennessee. The iZone launched in 2012 with seven schools, the principals of which had the authority to hire, fire, rewrite curriculum, lengthen the school day, and provide bonuses to attract teachers.
The program is working, and iZone schools are rapidly outpacing the competition in achievement. There are now 18 schools with steady gains in test scores. “These are the same kids that people said were failing,” Sharon Griffin, regional superintendent for the Memphis Innovation Zone, told the Tennessean. “Memphis is becoming a national proof point that it can be done.” (read more)