The superintendent of the Achievement School District told a Frayser audience last week that students and their teachers in the cluster of schools in the area will work harder on their reading skills in the school year to come.
And Chris Barbic said he hopes the second year of the state-run school district will see more children stay in Frayser to go to school.
The parents of students must choose to send their children to the schools in the special district. Otherwise they are assigned to another conventional school in the countywide school system. And Barbic estimates 20 percent of the school-age children within the attendance zones of the Frayser schools – in the ASD and the countywide system – are leaving Frayser.
“They don’t move. They actually leave every day to go to school someplace outside of Frayser,” Barbic told a Thursday, July 25, meeting of the Frayser Exchange Club. “They are choosing to leave to go to either an optional school or a charter school. That’s a pretty good chunk of kids. I think for all sorts of reasons, some of them are going to private schools or they are home-schooled.”
The Achievement School District’s decision to add a 9th Grade Academy to Westside Achievement Middle School starting when the school year opens Aug. 5 was a direct result of parents of the middle schoolers who Barbic said specifically told him they did not want to send their children to Frayser High School in the ninth grade.
The ASD is a district for the bottom 5 percent of public schools in the state in terms of student achievement. Most of the schools with that designation are in Memphis and most of the schools in the Achievement School District are in Memphis. Of the district’s schools in Memphis, most are clustered in Frayser, which is the area the district intends to make the biggest impact in.
For the school year that begins Aug. 5, the Achievement School District will include two more Frayser schools – Whitney and Georgian Hills elementary schools.
Next month the school district completes its community matching process that will determine where several charter school operators are assigned for the 2014-2015 school year. Two of those operators have indicated they want to work in Frayser either as freestanding high schools or at Frayser and Trezevant high schools, the two high schools in Frayser.
In the first school year of the Achievement School District, Barbic made the deliberate decision to focus on Frayser but not to include high schools in a move to build up the feeder pattern first.
“This isn’t just about a school,” Barbic said. “The best thing we can do to make sure Frayser High School is great is to make sure the kids showing up to Frayser High School or Trezevant for ninth grade aren’t reading on a fourth-grade level – that they are reading on a ninth-grade level. The way we fix Frayser and Trezevant is we make sure the middle schools that feed into them are doing the things they are supposed to be doing. And the best way to fix the middle schools is to make sure that sixth graders who show up aren’t doing math on a second-grade level.”
Barbic commented the same week that the Achievement School District got achievement test results from its first school year.
“We have work to do on reading,” Barbic said, as he ran through results that show growth in proficiency in science and math across the six Memphis schools in the Achievement School District in the last school year compared to the previous school year.
The proficiency rate, determined through the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) test, also showed a drop in reading proficiency below the state average by school district.
Barbic described the reading results as similar to “a punch in the mouth.”
He said the scores recognized growth from a group of students in schools in which students have more ground to make up in terms of achieving at their grade level than students anywhere else in the state.
But he added the Achievement School District will become more aggressive as it works on its overall goal of turning the lowest performing schools in the state into the ranks of the top 25 percent in five years.
“The quicker we can intervene, hopefully we can narrow the gap faster, catch our kids up quicker,” he said.