Hopson Dispels Charter Takeover Talk

By Bill Dries

The Innovation Zone schools in the Shelby County Schools system won’t be turned over to charter school organizations, superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Tuesday, Sept. 30.


“That’s absurd. I just want to be clear on that,” Hopson said of reports last month that the system is considering the move because of the expense of the extra efforts to turn around failing schools in the bottom 5 percent in Tennessee in terms of student achievement test scores.

The iZone schools include extra state and federal funding for more support of teachers and intervention with students who fall behind to catch them up as quickly as possible. Some of that funding is about to run out, while some has varying expiration dates in future years.

The Innovation Zone schools are efforts to turn around the same bottom 5 percent of schools that the state-run Achievement School District targets. Both systems pull from the same state listing of the bottom 5 percent. The ASD in Memphis is a mix of schools run directly by the Achievement School District and those run by charter organizations under contract with the ASD.

So far, the Innovation Zone schools as a whole are showing bigger gains than the Achievement School District ones in the percentage of proficient or advanced students.

“If we have something that’s working extremely well, we would not be thinking that we would do something that is not working as well,” Hopson said of the option of bringing in charter organizations. He added that he will be recommending the school system “double down” in its approach to the Innovation Zone schools.

The approach could include some private funding of existing Innovation Zone schools and seeking out additional government education grants at the state and federal levels.

“We will not neglect those schools. We will not outsource our responsibility in those neighborhoods,” Hopson said as he talked about other options for schools in the bottom 5 percent that neither the iZone nor the ASD have taken in to date. Those options might include charters.

“There are still too many priority schools that don’t have treatments,” Hopson added. “So we are going to be aggressive and thoughtful about different strategies.”