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VOL. 130 | NO. 58 | Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Achievement School District Changes Frayser Leadership

By Bill Dries

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Tim Ware says if you want to get a quick idea about the tenor of a school, visit the cafeteria during a lunch period.

Tim Ware, a one-time social studies teacher at Frayser High, will head the group of five achievement schools in Frayser directly run by the Achievement School District, including Frayser Achievement Elementary.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

This week, Ware was in the cafeteria of Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School in Frayser and watched the students come and go for about 45 minutes.

“That’s where you can get an excellent read on a school’s culture,” Ware said later. “The culture of the school is an ‘I Can’ culture – a culture of respect.”

Ware, who taught social studies and coached basketball and baseball at the school in 2006 when it was Frayser High, has been named the head of the four elementary and one middle school that feed into the high school and are part of the state-run Achievement School District.

The ASD directly operates the five schools, which have a total enrollment of 1,700.

The district’s 16 other Memphis campuses are operated by charter school organizations, including Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School.

The five direct-run Frayser campuses reflect the ASD’s early decision to focus efforts on Frayser, as opposed to letting charter organizations handle their transformation. That decision came at the inception of the state-run district for the bottom 5 percent of schools in Tennessee in terms of student achievement.

Ware will take over for Ash Solar, who is leaving the position at the end of the school year and moving to California to be closer to family, according to ASD superintendent Chris Barbic.

Barbic said Ware, who founded Veritas College Preparatory Charter School in 2010 and worked with the Building Excellent Schools Fellowship before that, reflects a transition in the achievement schools after two years of establishing an “infrastructure” for improving student achievement.

“I think it’s one thing to come and do the one- to two-year sprint as fast as you can,” he said. “But if we’re going to sustain this work, we’ve got to make sure we are finding people that can sustain an effort over time.”

Barbic expects the 2015-2016 school year to be a “breakout year” for student achievement growth in Frayser.

His comments Monday, March 23, echo what Barbic said in August as the state released individual school test results from the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program and Tennessee Value Added Assessment System.

The percentage of students proficient or advanced in math dropped at Westside Achievement Middle and Corning Achievement Elementary from 2012-2013, the last year they were conventional schools in the old Memphis City Schools system, to 2013-2014, their first year in the Achievement School District.

Westside’s proficiency dropped 4.8 percent in math and 0.6 percent in reading.

Corning’s number of students proficient or advanced in math dropped 1.8 percent while its reading proficiency rose by 0.3 percent.

Westside got a new principal at the winter break in the 2013-2014 school year as an adjustment by the ASD.

“Obviously we want to see continued improvement in the literacy scores, language arts,” Ware said Monday of the challenges for those and the other achievement schools in Frayser. “It is critical to long-term success. It is critical to college and career readiness. … We really want to see continued growth in the language arts scores and aptitude of the children.”

Ware was a part of one of the first waves of Teach For America teacher residents, arriving in Memphis in 2006. It was four years before the Memphis City Schools board began the move to a merger of the county’s two public school systems and two years before then-Gov. Phil Bredesen began talking about some kind of state supervision of schools that continually failed to meet state education standards.

Ware and Bobby White, the former Westside Middle principal and Frayser High alumni who founded MLK College Prep, are education colleagues and co-workers from those days.

“I went into the school and just a lot of memories came back,” Ware said of his visit to MLK Prep this week.

Ware came to Memphis and Frayser High from seven years at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, where he oversaw youth programs and counseling in a partnership with public schools there.

He refers to the switch to teaching as a “different front” in the same general effort of helping underserved communities.

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