In the 2016-17 school year, Shelby County Schools will add Douglas High School, Mitchell High School, and Westwood High School to its iZone program.
The iZone program is SCS' alternative to the state-run Achievement School District (ASD). Both programs attempt to turn around schools with scores in the bottom five percent statewide, but the iZone does so while retaining the schools within the SCS district. The ASD is a separate state-run district that pairs failing schools with charter schools. Through the iZone program, low-performing schools are able to avoid ASD conversion.
All three high schools are part of an iZone feeder pattern that already includes elementary and middle schools in the same neighborhoods as the high schools. Bringing them into the iZone ensures that students in lower grades that are currently run through the iZone program will remain in the iZone through graduation unless they move or transfer to other schools within the district.
Once a school is chosen for iZone, faculty and staff must reapply for their jobs. The principal is replaced and given more autonomy than before. The way the school is run is primarily set by its principal rather than dictated by SCS' central office.
"We believe the proven strategies and culture of the iZone will accelerate student achievement in these schools," said Superintendent Dorsey Hopson. "The current academic status of these schools illustrates the fact that we have not been effective enough in supporting students. We have a responsibility to do things differently in order to improve achievement at a more aggressive pace."
A Vanderbilt University study released earlier this month found that the iZone program is actually doing better than the ASD in improving student scores. That study found looked at data from the first three years that the ASD and iZone have been in operation and found that iZone schools had made greater gains.