Friday, February 1, 2013

School Closings Lower Than Expected - ASD Expansion Slowed

[UPDATE February 27, 2013 - ASD will expand as planned based on ASD Supt. Barbic's comments on Behind the Headlines.  I've left my Feb. 1 post intact below, but please find my post with updated information here.]

Back in November I wrote that Memphis should expect to see between 16 and 31 schools close at the end of the 2012-13 school year.  I expected that we would be at the low end because both Dr. Cash and the ASD had been pretty clear about their intentions.  The high end came from the TPC's recommendation that at least 20 schools be closed added to the ASD's intention to take over 10 schools.

30 schools would have been about 20% of MCS.

My best guess back in November was around 16.  Currently, the grand total of schools slated to be closed is 12.  It was 13 for a couple of weeks (6 announced by the ASD, plus one school not announced but being taken over by the ASD anyway, plus six from Dr. Cash), but then the total was reduced by one by Dr. Cash in December.

But what should we make of the ASD's 30% reduction in its plans to take over 10 schools in Memphis next year?  Or its 50% reduction in its planned expansion for next year statewide?

The ASD is made up of planners.  As they've implemented President Obama's Race to the Top goals, and worked with the state legislature's approved plan for how to spend the RTTT funds, they've had a plan.  Plan, plan, planners.  We don't know exactly what the end goal is - how many schools, how many cities - but the plan has been pretty well publicized:  this year there are six ASD schools (5 in Memphis and 1 in Nashville), but "[n]ext year, the district will triple in size, serving 18 schools statewide . . . The year after that, the ASD will expand again to include 35 schools."

Is it possible that the ASD will only double in size instead of triple in size?  Are we still on track for 35 ASD schools statewide in 2014-15?  What happened to all the planning?  Could it be that the ASD didn't get the warm welcome it expected at the very tense community meetings it hosted?  Could it be that the locals didn't welcome the ASD as a liberating force finally giving the locals an opportunity at democracy and the American dream?

It may just be possible that the icy reception given to the ASD was effective.  It might be that the ASD actually listened when parent after parent stated that they did not want the ASD in their neighborhood schools.

Maybe the ASD just hasn't made all of its announcements.  We know that a press conference announcing the "matches" in a particular city does not necessarily mean that those are the only schools being selected, or the only charter management organizations that will be involved.  So maybe Memphis should still be concerned.  Or maybe some other parts of the state will get an opportunity to get a taste of the ASD's efficiency and special flavor of community engagement.

Or maybe despite all of the ASD's very expensive planning by the very expensive portfolio management team, the planning turned out to be an expensive academic exercise, and the planned 12 school takeovers statewide for 2013-14 just turned out not to be feasible.  That's what can happen when you have a school district with no school board that can hold it accountable - money just gets spent willy-nilly and no one ever has to answer any questions about how the money was spent.  It might be time for the state legislature to pick up the reins on this runaway carriage.

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