faith, hope, love...and memphis.
JB - you are incorrect in asserting that all of these schools will be chartered. The ASD schools will mostly be chartered, but the district also runs schools itself. And none of the i-Zone schools will be chartered, as those schools are run by SCS.
Skipper, you obviously don't know your history very well. The reason Optional schools were created was because so many middle/upper class folks fled the city when the schools were integrated. What was left behind in the MCS neighborhood schools was a sea of poverty. Research shows that schools with more than 40% of students below the poverty line struggle -- and MCS neighborhood schools often have a 90+% poverty rate.
Yeah, it would be great if MCS neighborhood schools were stronger. But it would also be great if the neighborhoods in which those schools are located were stronger. But look at the SCS school in Northaven, which is similar to most MCS schools, and tell me that you would send your kids there. Not every neighborhood in the county has a good school.
Generally speaking, weak neighborhoods and weak schools go hand-in-hand, whether in MCS or SCS or anywhere else. A lot of folks are trying to change that, but that's what the data say.
otp, it is my understanding that you can always opt out of an ASD school. I could be wrong, though. I've heard Barbic several times say that he doesn't want anyone to be feel like they have to attend an ASD school against their will.
By the way, NCLB does not guarantee you a transfer to a school in good standing, just a school in better standing. Or, if it does, then maybe the rules had to be altered in Memphis because there just aren't enough schools in good standing to take all the kids. Some of the NCLB transfer letters I've seen actually send kids to schools with lower scores (maybe they reached "Safe Harbor" status or maybe they haven't been on "the list" quite as long).
If you look at the charters opening in Memphis this year, you'll see that they are actually local people who already have a proven track record for both academic success and family/community engagement. Gestalt operates Power Center Academy in Hickory Ridge and there is no reason their success can't be replicated in North Memphis. Cornerstone has had a foothold in Binghampton for some time. KIPP has been very successful and will be expanding. There are outside groups coming next year, but they are considered the top charter operators in the nation; plus, they will benefit from the relationships ASD is already building.
homer, I think it's a little of both. Talent is most certainly hindered by policy. It is also hindered by organizational philosophy and just plain inertia. But there also just isn't enough talent in MCS (or SCS, for that matter) schools, although the talent in MCS schools, to their credit, has definitely increased in the last couple years. Autonomy (policy) is not a magic pill. It works when combined with talent. But it takes both.
JB, to address your question, can a school fail its way to success: No. And that's not what's happening here. ASD is essentially building new schools from scratch, so they won't really be the same schools, although the kids will largely be the same.
Or maybe the best analogy is that they are replacing the coaching staff, while keeping the same players. Sometimes, you have the talent, but just need the right leadership and the right game plan. In other words, I wouldn't say that these schools are failing their way to success; rather, I would say that the current system and structures have proven not to be successful, so it's time to let someone else have a try.
homer, ASD teachers report in July, but the actual school calendar will be the same as MCS. You are correct, though, that the school day will be longer. The key, according to the research on this issue, is how the extra time is used.
otp, I haven't heard anything about ASD getting a pass on state mandates. The big difference is that the ASD schools will largely be autonomous from district mandates. I'm a big believer in autonomy, but you have to have the talent in the building to make it work, and I'm just not convinced that most MCS schools have enough talent. It starts with leadership and innovative thinking -- and, in my experience, MCS doesn't reward creative solutions.
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By Richard Alley
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