There’s a movement afoot in Tennessee to establish stronger central control over its charter schools
In 2012, Tennessee decided that the best way to improve persistently low performing schools was to turn them over to charter school operators. To this end, the state created the Achievement School District (ASD) and assigned the low performing schools to it. The charter schools in the ASD are under the control of 11 charter management organizations. The ASD has a superintendent, but this is an oversite position, with very little control over the operation of the schools.
Predictably, the ASD schools have not performed any better than the other low performing schools in the state. Although the state has the authority to replace a CMO whose schools are not improving, that has not yet happened.
To address these issues, the current ASD superintendent, Sharon Griffin (she’s been in the job for about a year), wants more centralized control over the schools. (Griffin also serves as Assistant Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Education’s Office of School Turnaround.) As explained by Chalkbeat here, that is ruffling some feathers. The charter school operators complain that they were given the autonomy to run the schools as they see fit, and they want to keep it that way. But that’s not working, according to Griffin, who came to the ASD from Memphis, where “her no-nonsense leadership was credited with turning around other schools.” She hinted that she may be looking at assuming the authority over “hiring practices, instructional practices, culture, and climate” if the schools are not “yielding the results we desire for our children.” Griffin has the support of Penny Schwinn, Tennessee’s Education Commissioner (and Broad Academy Graduate) in this effort.
So, there you have it. Due to their poor academic performance, Tennessee is on the verge of establishing centralized control over charter schools, which have championed local (meaning school site) control and decision making as the path to improvement.
The Chalkbeat story is a good read.