Struggling Tennessee schools will find out this fall if they’ll face consequences for scoring academically in the state’s bottom 5 percent.
The State Department of Education is scheduled to release its long-awaited “priority list” for the first time since 2014, identifying schools that will be eligible for some level of intervention.
But first, the department has issued a warning list to let schools in the bottom 10 percent know where they stand. The so-called “cusp list” of 166 schools is based on standardized test results for 2016-17 and, for high schools, state, and ACT test results.
Here are three things to know about the warning list, followed by the list itself.
1) The state’s turnaround district is struggling to move schools out of the bottom 5 percent, while the Innovation Zone in Memphis is having some success.
More than half of the Achievement School District’s 32 schools fall in the bottom percentile, including the six that were first taken over by the state-run district in 2012 with the goal of turning them around in five years. Of that initial group, Brick Church College Preparatory in Nashville moved out of the priority threshold two years ago — but is back in the bottom 5 percent on the latest warning list. A bright spot is Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary in Memphis, which not only left the bottom 5 percent but moved out of the bottom tenth. In 2016, Georgian Hills was in the worst 2 percent of schools.
The iZone, another turnaround initiative started in 2012 through Shelby County Schools, has three out of its original eight Memphis schools moving out of the bottom 10 percent: Ford Road Elementary, Douglass K-8 and Chickasaw Middle.
2) The priority school range has fewer schools in Memphis and more in Nashville this time around.
Of the 166 schools on the latest list, Shelby County Schools has 26 schools ranked in the bottom 5 percent, compared to 43 on the last cusp list in 2016. However, of the state’s ten worst-performing schools, six are overseen by the Memphis district, including three charters run by the W.E.B. DuBois Consortium of Charter Schools, founded by former Memphis City Schools Superintendent Willie Herenton.
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools saw an uptick of schools in the lowest percentile: 21 schools in the bottom 5 percent, up from 15 schools on the 2016 list.
Still, Nashville, Memphis and state districts dominate the bottom 5 percent, followed by Chattanooga with eight schools and Jackson with three. Knox, Fayette, Maury, Sumner, and Cumberland county districts all have one school each.
3) This isn’t the official priority list, but it’s a good indicator. Here’s what happens to schools that stay in the bottom 5 percent.
While schools on the priority list used to be automatically eligible for state takeover by the Achievement School District, that’s no longer the case under Tennessee’s new school improvement plan developed in response to a 2016 federal law. Tennessee has broadened its scope of possible interventions, making state takeover by the ASD a path of last resort. In most cases, the state’s new office of school improvement will work with local districts to craft their plans, which will then be monitored by the state.
Charter schools are the exception. State law mandates that districts shutter ones that make the priority list. Based on the warning list, eight charters authorized by Shelby County Schools could be in danger if they don’t significantly improve their state scores this spring, while none in Nashville are.
The list below is searchable by 2017 percentile rank, school name, and district.
Schools on the 2017 Cusp List
*Clinch River Community School and The Excel Center are no longer considered to be on the cusp list given classification changes.