Doubling-down on the ASD challenge

Bernal E. Smith, II | 1/7/2016, 1:48 p.m.
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson: “Defund” the Achievement School District.
State Rep. Antonio Parkinson is in listening mode at Tuesday’s town hall meeting at the National Civil Rights Museum. Also pictured: State Rep. Raumesh Akbari (District 91). (Photo: George Tillman Jr.)

In part two of a TSD exclusive featuring an interview with State Rep. Antonio Parkinson regarding the state operated Achievement School District (ASD), the District 98 legislator shifts his focus to where he thinks things went wrong and why he began to change his views on the ASD.

Malika Anderson

Malika Anderson

Woven into the conversation are his views of challenges and successes in the Raleigh area he represents, along with his thoughts of the next steps in what he clearly sees as the fight for “our children.”

Meshed into the exchange are additional insights and responses from new ASD Supt., Malika Anderson, who now has the reins of the statewide school district.

Remember, said State Rep. Parkinson, that nearly $100 million in taxpayer dollars is “going into a policy that does not work.”

“In 2015 the budget for ASD was $92 million dollars. We are sinking $92 million dollars into a policy that a world class institution like Vanderbilt University studied and reported that it was ineffective and particularly when compared with the iZone model that was found to be highly effective and impactful on student achievement.”

Dubbed iZone schools, these are priority schools – taken over by local districts such as Shelby County Schools (SCS) – that are allocated new leadership, additional resources and given the flexibility of non-traditional policies such as longer school days and lower teacher-student.

The Vanderbilt study showed little to no gains in schools taken over by ASD and sizeable gains in the majority of the iZone schools over the same period of time.

Malika Anderson, ASD superintendent, said the recent Vanderbilt study showed it is too early to draw conclusive findings about the ASD’s work.

“The fact is that over 70 percent of ASD schools are meeting or approaching their performance goals and we have overwhelming evidence that the creation of the ASD has catalyzed collective statewide progress.”

Parkinson acknowledges that a few ASD schools are making positive gains for students.

“(We) applaud those, but for the remainder – and it’s far too many – it’s time for a change. Here is what I am proposing, defund the ASD. Allocate the salaries, about a third of the 92 million, to iZone. Then let the LEA, in our case SCS, start with iZoning the bottom 2.5 percent of schools,” said Parkinson.

“Given the results of the study wouldn’t it make sense to reallocate at least a portion of the $92 million being spent in ASD to support the expansion of iZone schools? We are now in the fourth year of ASD, which said (according to the law that started the district) that it would take schools in the bottom 5 percent and within five years move them to the top 25 percent. Four years in and there is not one ASD school in the top 25 percent, top 35 percent, top 45 percent, top 55 percent...and so on as the study suggests. Largely the students are no better off and some are even worse off than if the schools had never been taken over by ASD.”