As Tennessee Weighs Common Core, Report Reviews Early Stages of State’s Achievement School District

February 24, 2015

WASHINGTON (Feb. 24, 2015)—As education officials in Tennessee weigh the Common Core and the advantages of initiatives such as the Achievement School District (ASD), a state-run entity with the goal of moving the state’s bottom 5 percent schools to the top 25 percent, it is important to highlight challenges and opportunities the ASD faces, according to a report published by the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development
“Over the past year and a half, we have identified some of the major challenges involved in creating an agency that is as unusual as the ASD, and that aims to make major improvement in student learning,” said Joshua Glazer, visiting associate professor at the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development. “Increasing our understanding of what is involved in this type of work is critical to education officials and policymakers in other states that are considering initiatives similar to the ASD.”
The paper by Joshua Glazer, Diane Massell, from the Tennessee Consortium on Research at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development, and Matthew Malone, doctoral student at GW, is the first in a series serving as independent analyses of the ASD published by the consortium.
In the first part of this multi-year study, Dr. Glazer and his colleagues conducted a comprehensive set of interviews between September 2013 and November 2014. The researchers conducted two sets of interviews with ASD leaders and with all of the operators running schools in Tennessee during the 2013-14 school year. Among their findings is that the state’s existing assessments—the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program—offer little incentive for providers to orient their curriculum designs toward the development of higher order thinking or advanced problem-solving skills. 
“One way or another, the state’s decision to maintain its current standards and assessments or introduce new ones is likely to have significant implications for the ASD, and considerable impact on providers’ diversity and survival,” Dr. Glazer said.
Additionally, Dr. Glazer and his colleagues found that the ASD has attracted and authorized a broad range of charter management organizations in its first few years of operation. These providers bring notably distinct educational philosophies to the ASD, with different conceptions of what counts as a rigorous approach to content, and different types of learning opportunities. 
In the heart of the nation’s capital with additional programs in Virginia, the George Washington University was created by an Act of Congress in 1821. Today, GW is the largest institution of higher education in the District of Columbia. The university offers comprehensive programs of undergraduate and graduate liberal arts study, as well as degree programs in medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business and international affairs. Each year, GW enrolls a diverse population of undergraduate, graduate and professional students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and more than 130 countries.
The Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development is responsible for carrying out a detailed, focused program of research as part of Tennessee's Race to the Top grant. In collaboration with researchers and practitioners from throughout Tennessee and the nation, the Consortium leads and engages in research studies, program and policy evaluations, and subsequent development activities to promote results-oriented decision-making. The Consortium and its partners also work to disseminate lessons learned, inform policies, programs, and practices with research‐based evidence, and help build Tennessee’s research capacity.