Tennessee Takeover of Four Struggling Memphis Schools Backfires with Even Worse Results


Tennessee state officials took charge of four Memphis schools a decade ago that struggled academically, and those same state officials hoped the schools would perform better than they did under local control.

That did not happen.

Under state control, those schools performed even worse.

JC Bowman, who directs the Nashville-based Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) said Tuesday that state officials spent $1 billion on this program. He said the data he saw revealed 16 percent of students were on grade level under the domain of the Shelby County School System. But the numbers under the state-run schools deteriorated to 6 percent.

“As woeful as 16 percent was, 6 percent is completely unacceptable. That is horrendous,” Bowman told The Tennessee Star.

“At this point, they are just not performing. It is frustrating. You are costing kids their livelihoods. They are graduating and cannot read, write, or do basic math. It upsets me. This is unacceptable. It was a good idea to try something, yes, but at some point, you have to say wait a minute, this just doesn’t work.”

PET, according to its website, is a non-union, professional educators’ organization.

Bowman said state officials conceived the program poorly and “went after pockets of failure rather than go after the whole system.”

“People tend to say that person is in that ethnic group or in that culture, and that part of society must fit into that category. But you go to Memphis, and you see that the communities are vastly different,” Bowman said when asked why the program failed.

“People have to look beyond that. It’s the same way Antioch is different than Brentwood.”

The Nashville-based FOX 17 reported that, through this Achievement School District program, just 4.5 percent of students performed at grade level.

“The Department of Education started the Achievement School District more than a decade ago as part of the Race to the Top initiative. The program involves a state takeover of the bottom five percent of schools. The schools return to local control once test scores improve,” the station reported.

“These four schools are returning because they’ve hit the ten-year limit to the program, not because of student achievement. State budget archives show the state has spent close to a billion dollars on the ASD since the program began in 2010. Gov. Bill Lee pumped an added $25 million to its budget in 2020.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star and The Georgia Star News. Follow Chris on Facebook, Twitter, Parler, and GETTR. Email tips to [email protected]




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One Thought to “Tennessee Takeover of Four Struggling Memphis Schools Backfires with Even Worse Results”

  1. Chris

    This is sad.

    The schools are little more than day care.