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Haslam drops in for white-glove check at Corning Elementary

Translation: The ASD is the Achievement School District, created as part of Tennessee's response to the federal Race to the Top initiative. The ASD claim they will move the bottom 5% of schools to the top 25% in five years. One line in the article below suggests that the way they do this is to take away kids bathroom rights--and their shoes.

There are six Memphis schools in the ASD and according to this article the superintendent brings home Chris Barbic gets a salary of $215,000 a year.

Here are the ASD leaders:

Chris Barbic, ASD superintendent, is a Teach for America alum and founder and chief executive officer of YES Prep Public [charter] Schools in Houston, 2012 winner of the Broad Prize.

Jeremy Jones, Director of Communications for ASD, is a Teach for America alum and Director of Talent Recruitment for YES.

James Dennis, a principal, participated in New Leaders leadership training program.

Jessica Jackson, principal of Corning Elementary, participated in New Leaders for New Schools.

Eliot Smalley, ASD Chief of Staff,"is honored to have been part of the Broad Residency."

Ronnie Mackey, ASD Head of Schools, participated in New Leaders for New Schools

Ash Solar, ASD Chief Talent Officer, is Teach for America alum and "grateful to have participated in the Education Pioneers Summer Fellows Program as well as the Broad Residency."

Bob Nardo, ASD Chief Officer of Operations; former Chief Operating Officer at TEAM Schools--a KIPP Region in Newark, New Jersey and similar role at the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago. He interned in speech-writing for former US Secretary of Education Rod Paige.

Margo Roen. Charter School Portfolio Director. Listed as media contact for ASD. Teach for America alum. Currently serves on Teach for America Greater Nashville Alumni

By Jane Roberts

Gov. Bill Haslam and wife, Crissy, got the insiders' tour at Corning Elementary Thursday from a fifth-grader who deftly maneuvered them in and out classrooms and through a throng of reporters, all while keeping up a breezy back-and-forth that sounded something like this:

"So, what do you like about this school?" Haslam asked.

"We're pushed to the limits," said Tavontテャテつゥ Campbell, 11. "We have fun." Camera shutters whirred.

"You have fun? It's fun to be in school when your friends are already home? Wouldn't you rather be with them?"

"They have hands-on activities for you do to," Tavontテャテつゥ answered nonchalantly. "Besides, there's a chance they might get in trouble. I won't because I'm still here."

If Haslam needed a face to attach to the Achievement School District, he got it in Tavontテャテつゥ, the Frayser boy who looked Haslam in the eye, fell in step beside him and seemed happy as punch to be telling the captain how smoothly the ship is sailing.

Last year, Corning was part of Memphis City Schools. This year, it's one of three Frayser schools the state is running in the ASD. The hypothesis is that effective teaching and quality leadership will bring the bow around on the chronically poor performing bottom 5 percent.

Five months into the experiment, Haslam is itching for results, signs that the millions he's invested in the ASD will not only pay dividends but that the achievement district will be the prototype for transforming Tennessee's poor standing among the nation's public school systems.

"What we are doing in the ASD I think is actually precedent-setting for the whole country," Haslam said. "We are looking at different ways to pay teachers. We are looking at different ways to give principals more accountability in the building. And if we can do that, it matters not just for the other 95 percent of schools in the state, but really I think if we can prove that we are helping students learn, that will have impact all across the country.

The ASD's success matters "personally as much as anything we are doing in the administration," Haslam said.

It shows in the leadership's pay. ASD Supt. Chris Barbic earns $215,000 a year, topping the $178,356 Haslam would earn if he accepted a paycheck and the $208,284 state Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman makes.

Part of the risk is choosing the right charter schools to carry the load. Before he showed up on the Corning campus Thursday, Haslam was talking Tennessee charter politics with several charter candidates, all gauging the potential here.

By the fall of 2014, ASD leaders expect to have 35 schools in the portfolio; roughly two-thirds of them run by charters. Next fall, for instance, the ASD will add six more Memphis City schools. Two will be run by the state in Frayser. The remaining will be managed by charters, homegrown KIPP Memphis, Gestalt Community Schools and Cornerstone Preparatory Academy, plus Aspire Public Schools from California.

The road has been rocky for Cornerstone, which is running Pre-K through third grade this year at Lester School in Binghamton and scheduled to take over three more grades in the fall.

Six parents have alleged child abuse, including that their children were not allowed to use the restrooms or had their shoes taken as punishment.

Because the ASD and charters do not have publicly elected school boards, parents say they have little recourse beyond withdrawing their children.

Haslam is aware of the issue. "One of things we have tried to do very hard in the Achievement School District is to be very engaged in the community. That is our job to be out listening and then to take that feedback back," he said.

"What we have to make certain is that we have venues to make sure a community's feedback is getting heard. At the end of the day, everybody probably won't like every decision, but that's the way it works in every school and in every institution, for that matter."

— Jane Roberts
The Commercial Appeal





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