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New report skewers achievement school districts nationwide

LW-ASD15ANorth Carolina lawmakers may be mulling a controversial proposal for so-called achievement school districts—a model that could wrest governance powers from local school boards in struggling districts and hand them over to charter operators—but the criticisms of the model nationwide continue to pile up.

This month, the national Center for Popular Democracy issued a scathing report on takeover proposals, including achievement school districts, that blamed such models for “negligible” academic improvement, fraud and mismanagement, high turnover and instability and a “two-tiered educational system” that punishes minority students more harshly.

“There is no clear evidence that takeover districts actually achieve their stated goals of radically improving performance at failing schools,” the report stated.

It’s not the first time education advocates have blasted the notion of achievement school districts, which has gained favor with N.C. Rep. Rob Bryan, the Republican from Mecklenburg County who co-chairs the state’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee.

Last month, Vanderbilt University education researcher Gary Henry presented data to the Public School Forum of N.C. that found “little to no effect” on academics in similar districts in Tennessee. In some cases, performance even declined, Henry said.

And as the Center for Popular Democracy’s report found, the takeover method has been phased in with similarly middling results in low-performing districts in Louisiana and Michigan, primarily impacting districts with a high-minority population.

Yet another eight conservative states, in addition to North Carolina, are considering the proposal in their respective legislatures.

North Carolina’s Select Committee on Achievement School Districts, which Bryan also chairs, is expected to meet twice more—this month and next month—before the legislature reconvenes in April.

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