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VOL. 129 | NO. 225 | Tuesday, November 18, 2014

School Phase-Ins Show Complicated Evolution

By Bill Dries

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In 2 1/2 academic years, the state-run Achievement School District has had greater success in terms of student achievement with charter organizations that take over a grade or two at a time instead of all at once.

But Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson has said the “co-locations,” as they are called, don’t work well for students and teachers in the conventional part of what is a divided school.

The difference is part of a continuing evolution in the relationship between Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District that has become a point among those seeking to stop or slow the ASD’s move into more Memphis schools next academic year.

Gestalt Community Schools began its phase-in of operations at Humes Middle School at nearby Gordon Elementary School.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

At last month’s set of community meetings with parents and teachers at schools on the ASD’s short list for possible takeover in August, opponents and critics of the new slate cited the disruption for students who are not part of the phase-in.

Hopson plans to seek Shelby County Schools board approval of a policy that would do what the system has moved toward on a case-by-case basis. The policy is closing the phased-in Achievement School District schools as conventional schools and transferring the students not in the first year’s takeover grades to nearby conventional schools.

The students who are transferred would also have the option to stay at the new school instead of going to the ASD school if they and their parents wish.

“What Shelby County chooses to do with the grades we don’t serve yet – we respect their decision,” Barbic said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind the Headlines.” “It does cause disruption for families. They’ve chosen and think that it’s better for their staff to not be co-located in the school because there are a lot of logistics that need to be worked out around that.”

The program, hosted by Eric Barnes, publisher of The Daily News, can be seen on The Daily News Video Page, video.memphisdailynews.com.

Hopson has said students and their parents in the conventional side of a co-location school often wonder why they aren’t seeing some of the dramatic changes and additional resources in the ASD side of the same building. And the two schools in one building can have different routines as well as policies.

The phased-in charter-operated schools showed 22-point gains for students in reading proficiency and 16-point gains in math proficiency, which was better than the gains the ASD saw in schools that were converted all at once.

“We saw some really strong results in those schools,” Barbic said, adding that he hopes to work with Shelby County Schools to make disruptions from the phase-ins “as small and minimize them as much as possible.”

The first test case for a co-location was with students from Humes Middle School. But it wasn’t a school within a school.

Under an agreement with then-Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash, the ASD took the sixth grade of the middle school. But Gestalt Community Schools taught those students at nearby Gordon Elementary School as the Gordon Science & Arts Academy.

Cash thought Humes was too much of a symbol to agree to an ASD takeover and toward the end of his tenure came up with a plan to turn Humes into a music-based optional school that never got off the ground.

Gestalt later moved out of Gordon and into Humes as Humes Preparatory Academy. Humes now includes students in sixth through eighth grades.

Gordon is now a kindergarten through eighth grade school that remains part of Shelby County Schools.

The ultimate decision about a phase-in, Barbic said, is up to the charter organization.

“We don’t want to be an organization that says you have to grow a certain way,” Barbic said. “What we want organizations to do is to do this with quality.”

Six of the 22 Achievement schools in Memphis finished their second school years last summer.

The three charter-run schools showed Level 5 growth – the highest on the state scale for growth – as well as a double-digit gain in student achievement.

“Some of them had a rough first year but responded, learned. And that’s the bet we are making,” Barbic said. “Charter organizations are quick, nimble organizations that can respond quickly and make changes. In the direct-run schools we saw gains in two of the three.”

The direct-run schools are those run directly by the Achievement School District.

“Not every school is making progress as quickly as we would like,” Barbic said. “But I think it’s still very early to draw any major conclusions about what we are doing. … The schools we are working in didn’t get in the bottom 5 percent in two years.”

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PROPERTY SALES 79 321 2,586
MORTGAGES 90 426 3,033
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 37 527
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BUSINESS LICENSES 22 152 1,311
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 23 100 730
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