The ASD Is Investing In Innovation

By Margo Roen

The Achievement School District (ASD) is uniquely positioned to transform Tennessee’s education landscape, creating a district that moves schools from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in five years. To do so, the ASD must focus on quality: the highly effective principals, teachers, and school operators that positively impact students. The Investing in Innovation (i3) award, a federal grant received in partnership with New Schools for New Orleans and the Louisiana Recovery School District, gives the ASD an opportunity to invest in quality, providing start-up funding for inventive and effective charter schools turning around the bottom five percent of Tennessee’s schools.

There is a lot of discussion about what makes an excellent school and researchers, districts, and schools often have different data they use to discuss quality. To be eligible for an i3 award, the measure of quality is the charter school’s effect size score. Effect size scores measure the progress students make in a given school year, and compares these students with similar students in traditional public schools. Essentially, effect size explains which students attending charter schools are progressing academically at a pace better than, equal to or worse than their counterparts in traditional school settings.

Recently released Investing in Innovation effect size data show significant academic gains for students attending charter schools in Tennessee. This data supports the call to expand high-performing charter school options for Tennessee students, the goal of the i3 awards, and to hold accountable those charter schools that are missing the mark.

The Data was released and analyzed by the Center for Research on Education (CREDO) out of Stanford University, which compares the performance of students in charter schools matched to students in traditional schools. The CREDO report shows that 18 out of the 35 charter schools outpaced their traditional public school counterparts, many drastically so. Based on effect size scores for school year 2011-2012, the following Tennessee public charter schools meet the effect size eligibility score for i3 awards:

CIRCLES OF SUCCESS LEARNING ACADEMY
FREEDOM PREPARATORY ACADEMY
K I P P: ACADEMY NASHVILLE
KIPP MEMPHIS COLLEGIATE HIGH SCHOOL
KIPP MEMPHIS COLLEGIATE MIDDLE (DIAMOND)
LEAD ACADEMY
LIBERTY COLLEGIATE ACADEMY
MEMPHIS ACADEMY OF HEALTH SCIENCES HIGH SCHOOL
MEMPHIS ACADEMY OF HEALTH SCIENCES MS
NASHVILLE PREP
NEW VISION ACADEMY
POWER CENTER ACADEMY HIGH SCHOOL (Gestalt)
POWER CENTER MIDDLE SCHOOL ACADEMY
PROMISE ACADEMY
SOULSVILLE CHARTER SCHOOL
STAR ACADEMY
STEM PREP ACADEMY
VERITAS COLLEGE PREPARATORY CHARTER SCHOOL

All of these schools received a positive and significant effect size score in reading and math. A positive effect size means that the public charter school is producing academic gains that are larger than gains earned by similar students attending traditional schools. A negative effect size score means that the gains are smaller than similar students attending traditional public schools. Additionally, to be eligible for an i3 award, charter schools must apply for authorization through the ASD, agree to turnaround a school currently on the state’s Priority List, and in the case of an operator overseeing multiple schools, each school must have positive effect size scores. Last year’s i3 award winners include Gestalt Community Schools, KIPP Memphis, and LEAD Public Schools.

It is important to keep in mind that effect size scores are one of many measures that tell the quality of a school; community support, school culture, student support services, and other characteristics of schools are not tangibly linked to the quality measure above and are an important part of a student’s school experience. What these measures do tell us is how schools are preparing their students academically; to what degree are schools getting their students ready for life after high school? All students deserve a great education and the Investing in Innovation awards help the ASD lead the charge to create more high-quality student options.

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