Achievement School District Getting Bigger, Maybe Better



The Achievement School District for low-performing schools in Shelby County will have eight or nine new members next year, including one high school that was targeted for closing.

The Innovation Zone, another new wrinkle in public education, will have five new schools.

The I-Zone schools are run by the school district. The ASD is a statewide, special school distrct. The I-Zone is a special group of schools, still under the auspices of the Shelby County school district, and run by its innovation department.

The new ASD schools include four elementary schools (Coleman, Denver, Springhill and Westwood), two middle schools (Southside and Wooddale), and two of these three high schools (Carver, Fairley, and Frayser). The two high schools were not identified. Carver has been targeted for closing due to low enrollment.

The Innovation Zone schools are Vance Middle, Grandview Heights Middle, Melrose High School, Hamilton High School, and Trezevant High School.

The announcement was made with some delicacy. Reporters were alerted Tuesday morning but asked to hold the story for release until Wednesday so that parents and faculty and staff at the targeted schools could be told first. The charter operators have not been chosen.

Both groups take schools in the bottom five percent in Tennessee for academic achievement. The goal is to move them into the top 25 percent within five years. Faculty and administration have to reapply for their jobs and may or may not be rehired. Families can opt out and attend another local public school instead. If they do nothing, they are assured of a spot in the ASD or Innovation Zone school in their attendance zone.

The schools have longer school days by an hour or more and some Saturday sessions. The pay scale for teachers is not based on tenure or experience but on student performance on tests. The pupil-teacher ratio is generally 25-1 or lower.

The inclusion of Carver is likely to raise issues about closing low-enrollment schools. The ASD could become a lifeline for such schools. Before it went out of existence, the Transition Planning Commission recommended closing 20 low-enrollment schools and identified several other candidates. The school board closed four of them.

(THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN CORRECTED: An earlier version incorrectly stated that I-Zone schools will become charter schools.)

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