Earlier this month the ASD announced its year three results, which showed students in the district outpacing the state in math and science and many schools earning the highest possible growth rating for student achievement (Level 5 TVAAS). Shelby County Schools (SCS) also saw growth in math and science, and cited the ASD as a catalyst for district-wide improvement. “The ASD has created this sense of urgency that may not have been there,” SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said in a recent Chalkbeat article.

But the ASD impact extends beyond Memphis, and it is translating into higher student achievement in Priority schools—those in the bottom 5%—across Tennessee. Before ASD intervention in 2012, the proficiency cut off for Priority schools across the state was 16.7%, meaning fewer than 1 in 6 students attending Priority schools were learning on grade level.

Since the ASD began its interventions in the 2012-13 school year, the proficiency bar has risen dramatically. If the Priority list were run today, the threshold for Priority school status would be 26%, an increase of nine points. This represents a 56% increase in on-grade level student learning for Priority schools in just three years!

K8 Proficiency Threshold for Bottom 5 Percent

Note: The Priority list was determined in 2014 and will be rerun in 2017. The 2015 threshold shown is illustrative if the list were run today.

Why does this matter? Because it means that students in Priority schools are catching up to the average proficiency rate of their statewide peers. It means that our schools are closing the achievement gap between bottom 5% and top 25% across Tennessee. It means the collective work taking place across the state is resulting in a rising tide that lifts all boats. And it means Priority schools in the bottom 5% are getting better, faster—4x the rate of non-Priority schools.

This dramatic growth represents an effort that includes both the ASD and local districts.  When the Tennessee Department of Education developed the most recent Priority list in 2014, there were 59 Memphis schools designated in the bottom 5%. Starting this school year, 80% of the Memphis Priority schools are being addressed with a meaningful intervention—either through ASD, iZone or another local district effort that did not previously exist. We’re on track for every Memphis Priority school to either have a meaningful ASD or iZone intervention, or to be making above average growth by next year.  The bottom line is that more attention and resources are being focused on Priority schools than ever before.

Memphis Priority Schools by Intervention

*Excludes 6 charter or alternative education schools that do not have zoned attendance. The ASD and SCS iZone also operate schools not on the current Priority list (e.g., moved off Priority list, new start schools, etc.).

When looking specifically at the ASD schools, every school currently in the ASD has a higher average proficiency rate across math, reading and science than it did prior to ASD interventions began in the 2012-13 school year. The average composite proficiency rate in our schools has grown from 14% in 2012 before the presence of the ASD to 24% in 2015 under our operation.

Average Proficiency Pre-ASD vs Current ASD Schools

*Based on 1 year School Success Rate (average of Math, RLA and Science proficiency). Excludes ASD new starts and schools for which SSR could not be calculated.

This data makes it clear that significant work remains to be done to ensure every student in every school is learning on grade level. It is equally clear that a continued statewide focus on Priority schools and the collective efforts of the ASD and local districts will ensure even more Tennessee students and schools succeed in preparing our state’s most vulnerable students for college and life.