Allison Leslie is new to Memphis. In neighborhoods that will house schools assigned to the still evolving Achievement School District, her name tends not to register – yet.
Leslie has been tapped as the executive director of the Aspire Public Schools Memphis region. She is a 12-year veteran of Aspire Public Schools (APS), which the Achievement School District (ASD) has embraced to manage select schools in the Memphis market beginning in August 2013.
Since the June announcement that the California-based APS would extend into Memphis, Leslie has been sowing seeds that she projects will yield success.
"I am currently building a team of professionals to work with me to learn as much as we can about the needs of the families and children in Memphis," said Leslie, a San Francisco native, who graduated from the University of California San Diego with degrees in Spanish, literature and writing. "We will also spend the majority of our time this year building relationships and sharing with the community what makes Aspire unique."
Through partnership with the Achievement School District, Aspire will open and operate 10 public charter schools, the first schools Aspire will oversee outside of California. In the Achievement School District, it has a partner charged with helping Tennessee schools in the bottom five per cent of student achievement move up to the top 25 percent in five years.
Aspire operates 34 charters schools in California. In those schools, 85 percent of the students are African-American and Hispanic and 80 percent low-income. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, 100 percent of Aspire graduating seniors earned acceptance to a four-year college or university.
"We have assumed responsibility for a school before – a school that wasn't performing," Leslie said. "We have also opened schools where the students who were zoned to that school are the students who are eligible to attend rather than having an open enrollment approach....This process we're going through this fall is new for us."
During her Aspire tenure, Leslie has served as lead teacher, principal, instructional coach and director. Under her leadership as principal of an Aspire Public School in California, the school's English Language Arts scores grew from 38 percent proficient to 56 percent; and Math grew from 67 percent to 80 percent.
"I selected Allison to lead our expansion to Memphis because we needed someone who could take the core components of our current successful model, and tailor it to the needs of the Memphis community," said James Willcox, CEO of Aspire Public Schools. "Alli has the experience required to effectively build the Memphis program and ensure each of our students has access to a high quality public education that prepares them for college."