Happy 2014!

As we launch into the New Year we look forward to welcoming new charter partners that will help us realize our mission of bringing schools from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in the state in five years. The process for finding these partners—the Achievement School District (ASD) authorization process—will officially launch on February 3rd. Here’s a sneak peak at what’s to come—

New Year, New Authorization Process
Last month, the ASD announced three key changes to our upcoming 2015 charter authorization cycle. Each change is based on the lessons learned over the past three years and the changing education landscape in Tennessee. We’re just a few weeks out from beginning of the authorization process and we wanted to provide some exciting updates on these changes:

Narrowing the Focus
The goal of the ASD is to ensure that every student has access to a great neighborhood school. There is a lot of work underway to help make this goal a reality, including expansion of the ASD and local district iZone schools. After taking into account current district plans, extensive data analysis, and conversations with stakeholders, the ASD is creating three Request for Proposals (RFPs), all of which outline specific needs not addressed by the current turnaround options. Charter applicants interested in joining the ASD may submit a proposal to one of the three RFPs:

  1. Alternative Model RFP: Alternative education providers are needed for all grades and may be for alternative settings, services for expelled or suspended students, for reenrollment to engage student dropouts, and/or to serve as a regional center of excellence for special education exceptionalities. Alternative proposals will be accepted for Memphis only.
  2. Innovative Model RFP: Innovative models must introduce a new or developing approach to educating students (e.g. blended learning), one that is substantially different from the highly structured model used by many high-performing schools. We welcome innovative proposals for all grades and regions (Shelby County, Davidson County, Knox County).
  3. Neighborhood Schools RFP: Based on three-year academic performance trends, the ASD realizes there is still a need for more elementary school turnaround partners in northwest and southwest Memphis, middle school partners in northeast and southeast Memphis, and additional middle school partners in Nashville. Specific schools and feeder patterns will not be decided until after 2013-14 school year performance data is released this summer/fall.

Like all ASD schools, any newly approved charter partners for these areas will only be able to serve students zoned to attend a Priority List school, as defined by the Tennessee Department of Education. Additionally, neighborhood charter schools have zoned populations and must meet the needs of every student at the neighborhood school, including special education, ESL, and migrant students, and provide the same transportation currently provided to students. For questions about ASD charter schools, neighborhood charter schools, or the RFPs, please contact Margo Roen at mroen@tnasd.org or call 901.488.7763.

Extending the Timeline
Applicants have a new challenge—meeting the quality bar and demonstrating that they can meet the specific needs identified in the ASD’s Authorization Request for Proposals (outlined above). Applicants will have more time between the RFP launch and final application to ensure their plans meet the need, as outlined in the 10-step process.

All Call for Evaluators
The ASD is looking for strong charter evaluators to review charter applications. Whether local or out-of-state; whether you have experience in education, business, or another field; whether you’ve been a part of an authorization process or are new to it; we seek to find experts in academics, operations, and/or finance to help select our future partners. Don’t miss out—evaluator proposals are due next Wednesday, January 22nd by 5:00pm CT. Email Anna Kucaj, akucaj@tnasd.org, with questions or to submit an evaluator proposal.

Changes to this year’s authorization process are designed to uphold our commitment to a rigorous selection process and meet the specific needs of students across Tennessee. Stay tuned for the Charter Request for Proposals launch in February and be on the lookout for open office hours with our New Schools team!