Today the Achievement School District (ASD) announced a list of six Memphis area Priority Schools eligible to join the ASD next school year. These six school communities will participate in the ASD’s new community input process to determine whether they will join the district in 2016.

“Our approach this year was developed after months of conversations with many different stakeholder groups across Memphis,” said ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic. ”The result is that we are working to elevate parent voice and ensure they are the ones leading this process.”

Also announced were four ASD operators approved for replication next year in Memphis – Aspire Public Schools, Achievement Schools (the ASD’s direct-run network of schools), Green Dot Public Schools, and Scholar Academies. All operators currently manage ASD schools in Memphis and met the ASD’s quality bar for expansion.

“We’ve got a great group of ASD partners who are looking forward to engaging parents, teachers, students and community members,” said Anjelica Hardin, Director of Strategic Partnerships. “Over the next several months, these operators will get to know communities to determine whether they are a strong fit to serve a specific Priority School.”

Six Memphis schools are eligible to join the ASD in 2016.  By state law, all schools on the Priority list (ranked in the bottom 5 percent in the state) are eligible to join the ASD if they received a Level 3 or lower TVAAS (Tennessee Value Added Assessment System) growth rating last year. Of the 10 unaddressed Priority Schools under consideration for ASD intervention, six received Letters of Interest from the approved operators authorized to expand. Letters of Interest are new this year and signal an intent by operators to engage with and get to know Priority School communities over the coming months prior to submitting a formal application to serve the school—also new— in late October.

“There were 69 schools in Memphis on the Priority List when we started this work in 2012,” said Barbic. “Between the ASD, the iZone, and other Shelby County turnaround efforts, next year there will be an intervention plan in place for every school on the Priority List in Memphis. That represents unprecedented and meaningful progress towards giving every child in Memphis the education they deserve, and it speaks to the power of partnership between the ASD and Shelby County Schools.”

This year, the following Priority Schools and public school operators will participate in the community input process. All schools and operators are in Memphis.

Memphis priority schools to participate in community input process

Unlike in previous years, there will not be an immediate match decision if only one operator is interested in serving a Priority School. All operators must engage communities and, in late October, formally apply for each school they wish to serve in order to be considered for a match by the ASD.

A New Process for Engaging Parents and Community Members. Over the next two months, operators will engage in intensive community outreach efforts, seeking to build relationships and to understand a Priority School’s unique assets and needs.

“We’re committed to creating strong matches between operators and neighborhood schools. The right match can only happen with community input and involvement,” said Hardin.

At the end of this engagement period, operators who feel they are a strong match to serve a school will submit a formal Application for School Transformation. Unlike the Letter of Interest, which is non-binding, the Application for School Transformation is a commitment by the operator to serve the Priority School next year if selected by the ASD.

“Last year we had operators prematurely exit the process,” said Barbic. “This year, we are doing everything possible to ensure that will not happen by giving operators and communities more time to get to know one another before operators make commitments to serve specific schools.”

Also new to the process this year are Neighborhood Advisory Councils— groups of parents and community members who will review operator applications and incorporate community input to assess the fit of interested operators. These assessments will be used by the ASD to determine operator and school matches.

ASD Community input process

Apply to Serve on the Neighborhood Advisory Councils. The ASD is seeking parents, students, and community members to serve on its volunteer Neighborhood Advisory Councils.

“We want anyone with ties to an eligible Priority School neighborhood to apply. If you’re a parent, teacher, student, or alumni of an eligible Priority School, we want you to apply,” said Hardin. “If you live, work, serve, or attend church in the neighborhood surrounding an eligible Priority School, we want you to apply.”

NAC applications are available online. The deadline to apply is Sept. 21.

Parents can learn more at a series of community meetings. The ASD will be hosting community meetings at the following locations to explain the new process and answer any questions.

ASD community input process for memphis priority schools

“We’re looking forward to working closely with parents and communities in the coming months,” said Hardin, “and ultimately, creating strong matches that ensure students in Priority Schools get the very best.”

The Achievement School District—a state-created school district formed as part of Tennessee’s winning Race to the Top application—is dedicated to transforming the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state (Priority Schools).  The ASD is both an operator of schools—running five schools in Frayser in 2015-2016—and an authorizer of high quality neighborhood charter schools.  There are currently 29 schools in the ASD—27 in Memphis and two in Nashville—serving approximately 10,500 incredible students.