Shakespeare and the Achievement School District Staged in North Carolina

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

-Juliet, Romeo & Juliet, II, ii

“A turd by any other name will still smell the same.”

-some t-shirt I saw on the internet

Although the North Carolina House presented a more palatable budget proposal for education, it bears repeating that almost anything presented in proximity to the senate’s disastrous pitch would sound better. But there are some particular peculiarities obvious in the House’s budget.

One such convenient action involves the Achievement School District (ASD), a reform initiative that was passed last year.

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A recent WRAL report stated,

“The Achievement School District bill was passed during the 2016 General Assembly short session. At the heart of the legislation is the creation of a district which will include five low-performing schools from around the state. The schools, which are yet to be named, could be turned over to for-profit charter operators” (http://www.wral.com/nc-house-unveils-portions-of-two-year-education-budget/16725640/).

The model for the ASD is based on what the state of Tennessee implemented about six years ago with Race to the Top initiative monies, and the results of that experiment have not yielded great dividends.

In fact, last August the Tennessee ASD was reported to have failed an audit and be forced to go under control of the Department of Education out of Nashville. From an August 17, 2016 Times Free Press report:

“Even as Division of State Audit accountants’ examination was still underway this spring, the state Department of Education, which had allowed the ASD to operate independently, informed the Comptroller’s office in April that it had staged an intervention and seized control over the ASD’s “fiscal and federal processes.”

As a result, the functions were transferred from Memphis to Nashville with a turnover of the ASD’s financial staff. Education Commissioner Candice McQueen’s staff told auditors they were hiring a fiscal director, fiscal manager, accountant, account tech, federal programs director and federal programs manager” (http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2016/aug/17/state-audit-documents-chaotic-financial-operation-tennessees-achievement-school-district/381759/).

And now there is news that there are enrollment problems as well – http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/02/28/the-enrollment-problems-that-plagued-asd-schools-in-turmoil-theyre-not-unique/.

And don’t forget that there has been a major slashing of staff for the ASD in Tennessee – http://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/tn/2017/05/04/tennessees-achievement-school-district-cuts-team-overseeing-direct-run-schools/.

Cutting staff should not be a surprise with many school initiatives if they were initially funded by Race to the Top monies; however, if there was success with the ASD, then would Tennessee not continue to budget it fully?

But here in North Carolina, we have lawmakers so bent on re-forming schools that learning from the mistakes of the past with others is not part of the West Jones Street curriculum. In fact, without even having really seen any results of the North Carolina version, we have near-sighted legislators willing to invest more into it because it will work in their minds.

Reality is far different.

But as Sen. Chad Barefoot said in January of last year (2016), “Our state is totally different than other states. Not every state is organized like we are” (http://wunc.org/post/nc-senate-passes-charter-school-takeover-bill#stream/0).

And North Carolina is very organized. It takes a lot of planning, structure, and preparation to create gerrymandered districts with “surgical precision” according to the courts and an unconstitutional voter ID law that still affected outcomes in 2016.

One of the ways that North Carolina is making sure that it does not repeat the mistakes of Tennessee is to simply rename it.

Consider the aforementioned WRAL report from this past Friday. It states that the recent house budget proposal:

“The legislation also gave districts that participate in the ASD the opportunity to pick up to three other low-performing schools in their districts to join an Innovation Zone. Schools in this zone would have charter-like flexibility but would continue to be managed by the school district.

The House budget changes the name of the Achievement School District to the North Carolina Innovative School District (ISD). It also adds a provision that says, if a district participating in the ISD has more than 35 percent of its schools identified as low-performing, then all of those schools could become part of an Innovation Zone should the district elect that option.1

However, another provision initially said that, if a low-performing school in an Innovation Zone does not exceed growth for two continuous years, it will be forced to join the ISD. That means those schools would no longer be under the control of the district and could be turned over to for-profit charter operators. Those provisions together could end up increasing the number of schools that become part of the ISD” (http://www.wral.com/nc-house-unveils-portions-of-two-year-education-budget/16725640/).

Not Achievement, but Innovative.

Not ASD, but ISD.

Not Datsun, but Nissan.

Not Time Warner, but Spectrum.

Oddly, a change in name does not mean a change in the product. In fact, the use of the word “Innovative” in the new name is neither innovative or accurate.

It is still a borrowed failed idea that will take public money and put it into the hands of for-profit charter companies by people who have found many ways to force public schools to survive on less.

New name. Same stench.

 

 

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