Vanderbilt finds gains in iZone schools, not so much for ASD

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A Vanderbilt study showed gains in Shelby County Schools' iZone classrooms, but didn't find much of a difference between Achievement School District schools and other schools on the Priority List.

SCS spoke about the study's findings Wednesday at Cherokee Elementary, one of its iZone schools that has made the biggest gains.

"It's different from any other school I've been to," said fifth grader Makayla Baker.

A recent Vanderbilt study showed that Memphis-area iZone schools' test scores have gone up in reading, math, and science.

"All of our schools have coaches in English, reading, math, and science, and they actually support those teachers on a daily basis," said iZone Superintendent Dr. Sharon Griffin.

The iZone is SCS' effort to turn around underperforming schools.

It's aim from the beginning has been to bring schools off the Priority List, meaning out of the bottom 5% in the state.

It has incorporated teaching coaches, longer class times, and hand-picked teachers.

The Vanderbilt study suggested the iZone has seen gains that the ASD, the state's turnaround system, has not.

The study explained the ASD either directly managed schools or contracted charter management organizations to run them.

The study found that, overall, "ASD schools did not gain more or less than other priority schools that were not in an iZone."

That was a point the ASD wanted parents to take with a grain of salt.

In a statement to WREG, they said, "the study itself concludes 'that some may consider it premature to pass definitive judgment... as most ASD schools have been under auspices of the ASD for less than three years.' We agree."

The ASD went on to say, "We do know, however, that ASD schools are showing gains in both student proficiency and student growth," then stated that over the past three years, the ASD outpaced the state in math and science.

Wednesday afternoon, WREG attended a rally organized by a parent organization called Memphis Lift.

Parents rallied for better school opportunities in Raleigh.

The ASD has been exploring matching a charter operator with Raleigh Egypt Middle School.

WREG asked a parent about the study, and if the findings regarding the ASD were concerning.

"That's the first I've heard of it. It would concern me, but everything takes time. It's not going to happen overnight," said parent Lilly Almendares.

Both the ASD and the SCS agreed that the work does not end here.

"This is not a time to gloat. The work we're about to embark on now is even harder," said SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

The ASD's Neighborhood Advisory Councils have been recently discussing whether or not to match several schools with charters for take over.

The iZone said it would announce which additional schools it plans to take over next week.

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