Achievement School District will not take over South Side Middle

Tennessee’s state-run Achievement School District will not take over South Side Middle, the district announced yesterday. The school had been on the list of schools to be run by the state starting in 2014.

The Achievement School District, which is in its second year of running schools, plans to run several more schools next year.  Any school that’s in the bottom five percent of schools in the state is eligible to be taken over by the ASD, which has the goal of improving each school’s performance enough that it is in the state’s top 25 percent of schools.

The ASD directly runs six schools now, while the others are run by charter management organizations and authorized by the ASD. Several charter management organizations are slated to come into the city for the first time to run new schools taken over by the state in coming years. (Shelby County Schools also authorizes charter schools.)

The ASD’s chief of staff, Elliot Smalley, wrote a blog post saying that in the end, the numbers didn’t justify taking over South Side Middle. He said the decision was “data-driven,” and encouraged the school’s community to keep up its good work. The school’s academic performance has been improving in the past two years.

Smalley wrote that no other school will be removed from the state’s list of schools to run next year. “We want to be clear—this decision is based on the success of South Side only,” Smalley wrote. “There might be an itch for other schools on the list to try and get themselves out of joining the ASD in 2014. But here’s where the data driven decision making stays true. No other school on our list had significant reading and math gains, and none of them earned a Level 5 growth rating.”

Here’s a fact sheet from the ASD about why it chose not to take over South Side.

But the Tri-State Defender in Memphis said that the ASD had received a “frosty reception” from community members earlier this fall. When the ASD takes over a school, its name may change and teachers need to reapply for their jobs, among other changes.

The AACs, or Achievement Advisory Committees, have been hosting community meetings about the schools the ASD plans to take over various schools. This piece in the Hechinger Report describes some of the concerns surrounding the ASD.

The Achievement School District, which was funded by Tennessee’s federal Race to the Top grant, currently runs 12 schools in Memphis and one in Nashville. The plan is for it to run as many as 50 schools.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

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School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.