Six more Memphis area schools are joining Tennessee's statewide Achievement School District (ASD) – an announcement made at a press conference (Dec. 14) last Friday at Frayser Achievement Elementary School in the Frayser neighborhood of North Memphis.
"We're thrilled to welcome these schools to the ASD," said ASD superintendent Chris Barbic. "We've seen great things happening in our schools this year, and can't wait to begin working with our new parents, students, teachers and community members to prove the possible."
The ASD encompasses six schools, with Friday's announcement signaling a doubling next year. The ASD will serve as both an operator and an authorizer of schools that are now a part of the district. As an operator, ASD is directly responsible for the management of its schools, and as an authorizer, it recruits and selects high performing charter schools to join its network.
Find me in 'Frayser': ASD – school operator
The ASD has set deep roots in the Frayser area, running three schools this year: Frayser Elementary, Corning Elementary and Westside Middle School. Now they approved to operate two additional campuses in the Frayser area: Georgian Hills and Whitney elementary schools.
DeAndre Brown, executive director of Lifeline to Success, said he has seen a change in Frayser this school year. "The ASD has truly become part of the community, and our kids are learning in ways they never have before."
Frayser Elementary joined the ASD this fall, beginning its climb to the top 25 percent of schools in the state. Like other schools that have joined the ASD, Frayser performed in the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state. This group of schools, known as "Priority" schools, is receiving statewide attention.
On average, only 1 out of 10 students in Priority schools can read and do math on grade level. And in Frayser, 11 out of the 14 schools are priority schools – the highest concentration of the bottom 5 percent schools in the state.
"In just a semester here at Frayser, we have seen significant academic gains with our students, and we know they can reach further heights this spring," said James Dennis, Principal of Frayser Elementary.
The ASD as authorizer
The ASD is positioning other top performing school operators to do the same in other parts of the city. The charter operators that have been selected to serve as the management entities for ASD schools include Aspire Public Schools; Capstone Education Group (Cornerstone Prep); Gestalt Community Schools (GCS), and KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools.
Orange Mound will now have a new educational partner in Aspire Public Schools, a newcomer to Memphis. Aspire has built its reputation operating public schools in California. Beginning this fall, Aspire will team with Hanley Elementary School.
"We are excited about working with families and students in the Orange Mound school community," said Allison Leslie, executive director, Aspire Public Schools-Memphis Region.
"Aspire Public Schools provides students with a proven rigorous education, helping to prepare students for success in their future endeavors-in higher education, work, and citizenship. With our College for Certain mission in mind, our goal is to prepare students at Hanley Elementary to earn a college degree."
Along with Aspire, the ASD announced that Gestalt Community Schools, operaters of the Power Center Academy in Hickory Hill, will phase in operations at Klondike Elementary, beginning next year with kindergarten and first grade, and adding a grade each year. Gestalt already operates one ASD School. Gordon Science and Arts Academy serves students zoned to Humes Middle School.
Another local top-performing school operator, KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools will begin work with Corry Middle and Shannon Elementary next fall. At Shannon, KIPP will operate grades PreK and kindergarten, adding a grade each year; at Corry, KIPP will operate the 5th grade, adding a grade each year.
ASD schools were chosen and matched with charter management operators based on a range of factors, including need (school and feeder pattern performance), potential for impact (school and feeder pattern serve a high number of students), and community input. The community engagement process was led by the volunteer Achievement Advisory Council, the ASD, and the ASD's charter operators.