Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityTennessee spent nearly $1B on underperforming schools program, data shows it's not working | WZTV
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Tennessee spent nearly $1B on underperforming schools program, data shows it's not working

Classroom file image (FOX 17 News)
Classroom file image (FOX 17 News)
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Four Tennessee schools are now returning to local control after getting taken over by the state ten years ago. The Memphis-area schools were brought into the Achievement School District with the promise from state leaders to turn things around.

But the schools are now returning to Shelby County Schools with no significant improvement in test scores.

“The state has failed miserably in running schools and the state should not be in the business of being a school district, period,” State Rep. Antonio Parkinson said. “The Achievement School District came in and aggressively divided these communities and took over these schools, and then they performed worse than the schools they actually took over.”

The latest data from the Department of Education shows each of the four schools report less than five percent of students performing at grade level. ASD as a whole reports just 4.5 percent of students performing at grade level.

That’s lower than Shelby County schools, with 11 percent of students testing at grade level.

Unacceptable, says JC Bowman with the Professional Educators of Tennessee.

“The Achievement School District, in my opinion, is a failure, and it’s time to pull the plug on it, and i hope there’s legislation to do that,” Bowman said.

The Department of Education started the Achievement School District more than a decade ago as part of the Race to the Top initiative. The program involves a state take over of the bottom five percent of schools. The schools return to local control once test scores improve.

These four schools are returning because they’ve hit the ten-year limit to the program, not because of student achievement.

State budget archives show the state has spent close to a billion dollars on the ASD since the program began in 2010.

Gov. Bill Lee pumped an added $25 million to its budget in 2020.

“For us to continue to invest your tax dollars into this failed experiment to me is sacrilegious, it shouldn’t even be happening, period,” Rep. Parkinson said.

FOX 17 News reached out to the Governor’s office, asking if the governor will continue to support this program despite its lack of results.

The office referred us to the Department of Education.

Dept. of Education leaders were unavailable to interview, but said in a statement:

“We are focused on doing what is best for all Tennessee students and ensuring they get what they deserve. The department has been working closely with Shelby county schools to focus on how to make this a seamless transition for the families, parents, staff, and educators and to best serve our students and ensure they receive a high quality education.”

Most ASD schools are in the Memphis area, and two are in Nashville. The Nashville schools are not on deck to return to local control just yet.

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