Writer debunks Walton Foundation account of Memphis school transformation | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Writer debunks Walton Foundation account of Memphis school transformation

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 7:08 AM

click to enlarge WALTON PR: A slick video promotes a school taken over by a private operator in the Memphis "achievement school district."
  • WALTON PR: A slick video promotes a school taken over by a private operator in the Memphis "achievement school district."
The Walton Family Foundation sent out a news release this week touting the promise — though not yet results — of a struggling Memphis high school newly added to the city's "Achievement School District."  The tout came with a slick video.

This is relevant in Arkansas because an "achievement school district" was what the Walton lobby team had in mind that would have allowed state takeover of the Little Rock School District to turn it into the hands of private operators. The legislation was beaten, barely, despite an enormous expenditure by Walton forces on lobbying and currying favor with legislators.

Want some facts on the Memphis achievement schools — not solely the Walton PR? Meredith Deutsch, who writes the essential Edublog, has some:

[Walton Foundation's Marc] Sternberg’s email promotes Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD) by focusing on a Memphis school that has been in ASD for only one year, MLK Prep (formerly Frayser High School).

What caught my attention immediately is that this Walton charter school promotional showcases a school that is relatively new to ASD, which the Walton sell defines as “a special district created in Tennessee to dramatically improve the bottom 5% of the state’s schools.”

So, if ASD dramatically improves schools, why feature a school that has been in ASD for only a single year? Why not feature schools that have been in ASD for years and have therefore (surely) shown evidence of *dramatic improvement*?

Easy answer:

ASD has no schools that have *dramatically improved.*

Still, the Waltons want to sell ASD as a solution for those “bottom 5 percent” of Tennessee schools. They email subscribers with a feel-good story of a man who graduated from the “bottom 5 percent” school and who became a success anyway when the school was not in the bottom 5 percent– and without any detailed consideration of the factors that might have contributed to the school’s now having “fallen” into the bottom 5 percent based on test scores.

Converting the school to a charter led by an alum of the school surely will allow Frasyer High MLK Charter to climb on the backs of some other, less fortunate Tennessee schools and exit that bottom 5 percent.

That's not all. Edublog also charts the success of schools that HAVE been in the achievement district for several years. In summary:

In July 2015, New York math teacher and blogger, Gary Rubinstein, wrote a series about ASD. In his examination of the six ASD schools that have been in ASD since its 2012-13 launch, Rubinstein demonstrates that the best “result” was that two of the six schools broke through the “bottom five percent” and are now in the bottom six percent:

Clips and save for 2017, when the Waltons run their Little Rock takeover bill again.

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