Tennessee

Five things to know about the ASD’s expansion in Nashville

There has been a lot of chatter about the fate of low-performing schools in Nashville, and the Achievement School District’s potential involvement in turning those schools around.

The number of Metro Nashville schools on a list of low-performers released by the state Department of Education more than doubled this year, signaling that the ASD would be accelerating its growth in Nashville. ASD superintendent Chris Barbic even wrote an editorial paving the way for smooth relations between the Nashville community and his district, which can overhaul the faculty, staff, and governance of  the state’s lowest performing schools.

Predictions of a swift expansion in Nashville aren’t unwarranted. The ASD grew from six schools in 2012 to 22 schools this year, and officials plan to open or take over nine more schools by the 2015-16 school year.  Of those 22 schools, only one, Brick Church College Prep, is in Nashville. The rest are in Memphis.

Here are five things to know about what the expansion in Nashville will look like:

1) The ASD is only taking over one school in Nashville next year.  Metro Nashville’s number of priority schools more than doubled, from six schools in 2012 to 15 this year. In contrast, Shelby County Schools actually saw a decrease in priority schools, from 69 to 59. But, because of the limited number of organizations authorized by the ASD to open schools in Nashville, the district’s capitol expansion will still be tempered.

“It’s just a question of putting quality over scale and working with that charter operator and making sure they’re growing at the right pace, the pace that’s right for them,” Smalley said.

In February, the ASD will open up applications for charter organizations.  More organizations might apply to open schools in Nashville, Smalley said, which means Nashville might see more ASD schools in the coming years. The ASD will approve operators in June.

Smalley said one possible reason for the relative dearth of organizations interested in partnering with the ASD in Nashville is the lack of a local philanthropic community working to attract charter networks.

2) LEAD will be the only charter organization to expand in Nashville this year.  

LEAD Public Schools is the default choice to continue the district’s expansion in Nashville because the ASD has only authorized three charter management organizations to take over or open schools in Nashville. The other two eligible operators, KIPP and Rocketship, are not focusing on opening more schools with the ASD at this time, Smalley said. Last month, Rocketship officials told Chalkbeat that they would prefer to open schools with the Metro Nashville Public Schools, in part because state law limits enrollment at ASD schools to students who are zoned to priority schools, which are academically in the bottom five percent of schools statewide.

LEAD currently operates four schools in Nashville: LEAD Academy, Brick Church, Cameron College Prep Academy, and LEAD Prep Southeast.

3) It hasn’t yet been decided whether LEAD  will take over a priority school in East Nashville. 

East Nashville has the highest concentration of priority schools in Nashville, and its residents have organized a political action committee, called East Nashville United, in protest of Metro Nashville’s plan to turnaround or close those schools. Earlier this month director of schools Jesse Register announced a plan to close one or two as-of-yet unnamed schools in the area, convert some schools to charters, and eliminate residential zones, making East Nashville an all-choice zone. The members of East Nashville United say there needs to be more community input in the plan. Three of LEAD’s schools are in West Nashville.

4) The matching process in Nashville might look different than it does in Memphis.

The ASD is gearing up for its matching process in Memphis, which involves a series of community meetings and conversations with Shelby County Schools officials to determine which schools will be taken over or created, and which charter operators will take over those schools. The matching process in Nashville has not yet been defined, Smalley said, but it will look different, since community members don’t have multiple operators to choose from. ASD and LEAD officials are still in discussions with Metro Nashville Public Schools about the priority schools LEAD might want to work with.

5) The ASD has a good track record in Nashville, although it’s limited to one school.The ASD’s results overall have been mixed, but its Nashville school has done well. Brick Church College Prep saw the largest test score gains in the ASD this year  — more than 20 percentage points each in reading and math. A common criticism of charter schools is that they underserve special education populations, but more than 30 percent of Brick Church’s students are classified as special education students, far above the percentage of special education students in the state, which hovers around 13 percent.

Know something about the expansion in Nashville that we don’t? Tell us in the comments.

Contact Grace Tatter at [email protected]

Follow us on Twitter: @chalkbeattn.

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chalkbeattn.

Sign up for our newsletter for regular updates on Tennessee education news: http://tn.chalkbeat.org/newsletter/

*Correction: Because of an editing error, this story originally misstated the number of charter organizations eligible to expand in Nashville.  LEAD is one of three charter networks eligible to expand.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.