Houston-based charter operator YES Prep has pulled out of its commitment to run Airways Middle School in the 2015-2016 school year, citing concerns from the community with the school's phase-in model. The charter operator had been authorized to take over the Shelby County School (SCS) by the state Achievement School District (ASD) because Airways Middle was on the state's list of priority schools, those with scores in the bottom five percent statewide.
YES Prep was set to phase in Airways Middle, starting with just the sixth grade in the next school year. The practice of charter operators phasing in schools grade by grade has been controversial, and state Representative Raumesh Akbari has introduced a bill to ban phasing in by ASD charter operators.
A statement from YES Prep cites the fact that community members have concerns with phasing in as its reason for pulling out of Memphis:
"It has become increasingly clear that our "phase-in" model - opening with one grade level the first year and adding one new grade level per year - is not the preference of the community due to the displacement of hundreds of 7th and 8th grade students across the city. We saw evidence of this in December when the Achievement Advisory Council (AAC) did not recommend us for a match with American Way Middle School.ASD officials have said they learned of YES Prep's decision to pull out on Tuesday. A statement issued by ASD reads "We are as surprised as everyone else regarding this sudden decision and disappointed that YES Prep is backing out of its commitment to Memphis. The sixth grade families of Airways Middle deserve better, and we're working with Shelby County Schools to ensure they have access to a high quality option next year."
We have never been, nor will we ever be an organization that goes against the will of the community
We believe that in order to meet the current demand of the Memphis community, YES Prep would need to adapt to a "full transformation" model and begin operating with all grade levels at the same time. It is our belief that the stakes are too high for the students of Memphis to experiment with a “full transformation” model, one in which have never implemented before.
Because we have never opened schools this way, we feel the stakes are too high to experiment, with a model that we have not yet found success with."