News Article Details

Head of state-run Achievement School District to step down

Commercial Appeal - 9/6/2017

Sept. 06--Malika Anderson is stepping down as head of the state-run Achievement School District.

The Tennessee Department of Education, which oversees the ASD, announced her departure in an email.

Anderson confirmed in a text message she will step down Sept. 30.

The education department's Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operations Officer Kathleen Airhart will step in as interim superintendent until the state completes a search for a new leader.

Anderson was the second superintendent of the district. She began with the ASD in 2012 and took over the helm in January 2016 following the departure of Chris Barbic.

The announcement from the state did not contain a reason for Anderson's resignation.

The news comes a week after the state district's high school results showed little to no growth on TNReady end-of-course tests.

The state created the ASD six years ago with the intent to take over and turn around the state's most poorly performing schools and, for the most part, outsource their operations to charter school networks. It continues to be controversial as the district now oversees more than 30 schools, most of which are in Memphis.

Shelby County leaders have long pushed back against the ASD, calling for more local control to school improvement efforts.

Despite the controversy, the state solidified the role of the ASD in its effort to turn around schools by making it part of its plan to comply with the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. The U.S. Department of Education approved Tennessee's plan just last week.

"The ASD remains critical to our work as a state to improve students' performance, especially in our Priority schools, and this is an ideal time to transition to a new leader of the district as we move into a new phase with the implementation of our ESSA plan," Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in the emailed announcement. "Superintendent Anderson has embraced all students' full potential and has worked diligently to change outcomes and beliefs in our students' capabilities, and we will seek to build on that vision as we move forward."

Airhart has been in her role at the education department since 2012 and was previously superintendent in Putnam County. She was the Tennessee Superintendent of the Year in 2011.

Reach Jennifer Pignolet at or on Twitter @JenPignolet.


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