It still feels like late September outside these days. So it won’t be very hard to harken back to the late September rush to finish up the legislative session. Those days, people were paying attention to budget negotiations.
But other work was going on as well, including work on Senate Bill 95. Short titled, “Achievement School Pilot District,” the bill would require five of the state’s lowest performing schools to close or to be turned over to charter school operators. The bill proposed that the five chosen schools would become part of a statewide school district known as an Achievement School District (ASD). (NC Policy shared a copy of version 40 of the bill dated September 17, 2015.)
Proponents of achievement school districts believe that new approaches to helping poorly performing schools are in order. They believe that allowing charter organizations to run those districts provides unique flexibilities on curriculum and staffing to accomplish the goals. Plainly, the school staff is released and must reapply to be hired and a prescribed curriculum is often used.
Opponents of achievement school districts believe that our lowest performing schools need additional resources, professional development, and custom interventions.
Unfortunately, findings of long-term studies of large scale experiments with charter-run districts are mostly dependent upon which side of the political aisle you reside. The most widely known example of a charter-run district is New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans’ schools were taken over by the state of Louisiana. All district-run schools were closed and replaced with charter schools. Articles celebrating and condemning New Orleans are both readily available. (For best results, go to Google Scholar. Here your search will return results in academic journals and websites. While there may be political leanings in some organizations, the results are less likely to be overtly political in nature.)
Tennessee has operated achievement school districts since 2012. Some are run by school districts while others are run by charter management organizations (CMOs). Recently a report concluded that performance of Tennessee’s achievement district schools was, “inconsistent across school years, in most cases showing no difference from the comparison schools.” However, those achievement school districts run by local school districts “showed slightly more evidence of positive effects than the CMO-managed schools.” In other words, locally operated schools performed better than charter management organization operated schools.
Representative Rob Bryan (Mecklenburg) noted in September that he intended to bring the bill to a vote in the 2016 short session, with public meetings to happen in early 2016.
And 2016, dear readers, is only fourteen days away.