Leader of Tennessee’s state takeover district: It’s a catalyst for needed change

As superintendent of the Tennessee version of the Opportunity School District, Malika Anderson says the communities served by her schools “are getting an infusion of energy, of innovation, of resources, of expertise, and of undivided attention and intervention for their schools and their children.” (ASD Photo)

Malika Anderson has served as the superintendent of Tennessee’s Achievement School District since January.  She previously served as the ASD’s deputy superintendent and director of school turnaround for District of Columbia Public Schools.

In this column, Anderson responds to a recent essay by two Nashville school board members critical of the ASD’s track record in Tennessee.

By Malika Anderson

In a recent post on the AJC Get Schooled blog, two Nashville school board members cautioned Georgia voters on supporting the Opportunity School District proposal based on their views of how Tennessee’s Achievement School District (which is structured similarly to the Georgia proposal) is serving communities that have had underperforming schools for decades.

As the leader of the ASD in Tennessee, I’d like to offer my perspective.

The Vanderbilt study cited in the column about our district’s work is mostly an overview of the how the challenges inherent in school turnarounds are being addressed in our state. Although it implies that the study is critical of the ADS’s performance, the study draws no conclusions on performance, other than essentially: “It’s too soon to tell.”

The study does, however, state this conclusion on how ASD leaders are responding to the challenge of improving school quality for families trapped in underperforming schools: “Operators have responded to the challenges of the ASD environment with more sophisticated school-level designs that included instructional adaptations, computer-assisted learning, additional wraparound services, and new strategies for communicating with parents and building community trust.”

Malika Anderson

Malika Anderson

Yes, the work to turnaround the state’s lowest-performing Priority schools is hard. Yes, it is charting new ground. And yes, creating new meaningful, sustainable ways for students and the adults who love them to co-create great schools in every neighborhood after decades of being sidelined is decidedly messy.

The important thing, however, is that — for the first time in decades — these communities are getting an infusion of energy, of innovation, of resources, of expertise, and of undivided attention and intervention for their schools and their children.

And the most important thing, of course, is academic progress.

Among the schools that have been in the ASD for at least three years — student achievement scores have already jumped nearly 10 percentage points from where they were before the ASD was created.

Moreover, our third-year and second-year schools showed the highest possible student growth scores—with last year’s gains outpacing the Shelby County traditional public schools for the first time–and all at a lower cost to taxpayers than district-run schools.

In addition, the ASD has encouraged local districts to step up their own efforts — with student achievement scores among all of the state’s Priority schools also up nearly 60 percent from when the ASD was first created.

That did not happen by accident. There was no structured plan for improvement before the ASD.  It happened because the state came together to create the ASD to be a catalyst for change — and it is working.

None of this is easy. And we know turning around low-performing schools takes time. But we’re learning and getting better every day.

That is the experience of the ASD in Tennessee.

And as long as communities work together—with student success at the center of all we do—more kids, more families, whole neighborhoods and communities, and the entire state will win.

 

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@redweather

Same ol' same ol'.

1. You have to apply - online. Read the app and FAQ's and determine level of parent education and determination needed to complete process. This is the first screen of all charters. https://choosebostoncharterschools.schoolmint.net/school-chooser/faq/

2.Screens out discipline problems. http://edushyster.com/control-experiment/#more-7370

3. Of course a school of students with determined parents who are held to longer hours, provided tutoring, and held to strict discipline standards perform better than the opposite.


k483
k483

When we frame a school as "failing" based on the students' standardized test scores, we are being subjective at best. When we believe it takes a constitutional amendment to repair such problems, we are overreaching at least.  

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

What amazes me is all these people who have "just discovered" poor kids and the problems they bring to school!  Of course, some believe that the schools CAUSE the problems for these kids.


I labored in those fields for over 4 decades.  Let ME tell you about these kids.  I "discovered" them long ago.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

As suspected… “Superintendent Anderson is an alum of the Broad Center’s Leadership Residency in Urban Education[.]”

Now, consider this response to Protect Yourself from ASDs by brackenkaren:

“The REAL problem is the agenda of the ASD sold to the public and the legislators is not the REAL agenda of the ASD. Take for example the background of Chris Barbic. He worked with Teach for America and he is a graduate of the Broad Superintendent Academy. Eli Broad is all about privatizing public education and I am sure Mr. Barbic graduated from the Broad Academy meeting all the requirements of a Broadie. After graduation Broad finds jobs for its graduates in leadership roles in education in order to create the transition. Some of these graduates have no class room experience nor do they have an education background. Sometimes Broad even agrees to pay part of the salary for the newly hired infiltrator. The REAL agenda is to end all traditional public schools and eliminate elected school boards. So while they sell choice what they are really giving is an alternative. No choice and eventually when the elected school boards are gone parents will have no voice either. The ASD in Tennessee was not the pioneer of this movement. The New Orleans RSD was the test pilot for the TN and all other states ASD. But lets get real. With the dismal results of the RSD and the TN ASD they continue to move forward. Why? Because the goal is NOT to improve poor performing schools it is to privatize education making its investors (Gates, Walton, Broad etc) billions of $$$$s. To control education and to control what is taught to our children. It is corporate fascism at its finest. The federal government assists the business and the business does the dirty work the federal government cannot do and then the business gets tax breaks and special treatment. I think most would know this as pay to play but in reality it is corporate fascism. TN ASD must be ended ASAP. But believe me many legislators in TN have found it very rewarding (if you get my drift) for their support of the ASD.”

So why would any mind other than the ancient mind think the REAL OSD agenda would be any different from the REAL ASD agenda?

Pbae
Pbae

If only it was about the children it would be a beautiful thing.  But it is not.  It's about trying to run schools like a business and businesses exist to make profits for shareholders.  Businesses can fire employees who decrease their profits.  Schools cannot fire students, so charters find other ways to terminate certain students that affect their bottom line.


There is so much information regarding this issue.  All one has to do is follow the money.  

Astropig
Astropig

She's right. Even though she does point out the progress that has been made,it's wayyyyyy too early to declare the ASD a success or failure.It's been amusing to read the usual status quo parrots spout the same line about Tennessee's hard work and bold initiatives to change the failing status quo to better serve all students,not just the ones who have well-off,engaged parents. I have a home in Tennessee (just outside Nashville) and I can attest, it's the same political coalition up here trying to undermine these efforts that exists in Georgia-Career educrats that see any improvement in the worst schools as an encroachment on their little kingdom of influence.Also, as in Georgia,it has been steeped in ugly racial politics. The big difference in Tennessee is that there is a very different demographic profile that doesn't provide sustenance for a permanent grievance industry.Political feuds don't fester and boil up here like they do in Georgia.People have their say and then they come together after elections are over and get on with life.

ByteMe
ByteMe

I'm sure she believes what she wrote, but this Amendment to take control away from the local board and put it in the hands of the state is something about which any "small government" conservative should shake their heads and mutter "what the hell are they thinking??"


It's not an easy problem to solve, but an authoritarian solution rarely works out well for anyone but the authoritarian.

newsphile
newsphile

She wants to keep her job.  What else would she say?

30303
30303

Vote YES on Question 1.

As Ms. Anderson points out, good things happen when innovation is finally allowed to confront old problems.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

“… Tennessee’s Achievement School District (which is structured similarly to the Georgia proposal) ….”

Huh?

Reality: “… Tennessee’s Achievement School District (which is [the model for] the Georgia proposal) ….”

In addition:

“Gary Rubinstein has followed the evolution of the Tennessee Achievement School District closely since it was launched in 2011.

In this post, he warns reformers and others to beware of copying the concept. It failed. Do not replicate failure might be the message. Although states like North Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada seem determined to replicate the ASD, regardless of its failure.”

https://dianeravitch.net/2016/08/22/gary-rubinstein-beware-of-asds/

30303
30303

@EdJohnson 

If voters aren't happy with the OSD results the next governor will get elected pledging to neuter it.

What the teachers' unions and their cronies oppose is any threat to the status quo.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@30303

As "The American Commander" replied to "The German Commander"... NUTS!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@EdJohnson @30303 When the door is opened, the flies come in, and it is VERY hard to run them out!


SUNSHINE is the best fly-killer!

Michael McIntyre
Michael McIntyre

Wow....big surprise. As the Chief Portfolio Officer (whatever that is) in 2015, she earned $128,000,000 per year. I wonder what she's making now. to manage 14 -- yes, 14 -- different charter school operators that are in charge of her various schools.

Jay Still
Jay Still

Sure...that's why the i-Zone schools consistently outperform the ASD schools. Without the ASD's lack of progress, we couldn't appreciate the great work going on at the BUILDING level in the i-Zone.

Tom Green
Tom Green

ASD scores are up 10% and the non-ASD at risk schools scores are up 60% and ASD is taking credit for the non-ASD schools? Did I read that correctly?