Tennessee hires leader to jump-begin faculty turnaround attempts statewide

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Tennessee has appointed a university advancement chief to manage all of its school turnaround get the job done beneath a powerful new placement that will contact city, suburban, and rural districts.

Bren Elliott, who was a Nashville college administrator from 2001 to 2007 and has been faculty improvement main for District of Columbia General public Colleges considering the fact that 2017, will believe the submit on Tuesday. 

The Tennessee Department of Training introduced Elliott’s hire on Thursday, three a long time soon after launching its to start with research to fill the task. The situation is thought of important to bounce-commencing faculty enhancement perform in Tennessee, which has served pioneer several turnaround models with constrained success.

A woman in a lavender top and black blazer smiles at the camera.

Bren Elliott, Tennessee’s new university turnaround chief, returns to the condition from Washington, D.C., where she was a school improvement chief. Elliott has beforehand been a teacher, principal and administrator in Nashville.

Courtesy of Tennessee Section of Education and learning

She is between the first key hires for Training Commissioner Lizzette Reynolds, who commenced her work on July 1 with an early aim on faculty accountability.

Elliott’s expertise in school improvement “will be an asset to the state and deliver intentional aid to these colleges to be certain all learners receive a high-top quality schooling,” Reynolds claimed in a assertion.

Chief among Elliott’s new tasks will be overseeing the Achievement Faculty District, the state’s most intense lever for enhancing very low-executing faculties. The condition-operate district, which usually takes more than schools and assigns them typically to charter operators to handle, has itself been executing poorly, with very little to clearly show so considerably for its turnaround initiatives over the earlier decade. 

Elliott will also be accountable for supervising interventions for so-termed precedence educational institutions — those people that rating academically in the bottom 5% — as nicely as schools that need qualified support due to big achievement gaps among the groups of historically underserved students this kind of as English language learners, college students with disabilities, or these from lower-revenue people.

In all, nearly 300 Tennessee educational institutions drop in people groups.

She will also operate closely with local college leaders on district-amount turnaround initiatives, from the Innovation Zone in Memphis and Nashville to the Partnership Network in Chattanooga.

“I appear forward to operating with our schools most in have to have of assist and intervention, together with the Accomplishment School District, to make improvements to college student accomplishment and assist all college students in these schools thrive,” reported Elliott.

Turnaround efforts are at a crossroads

For numerous regional college advancement leaders, the state’s announcement of a turnaround chief came as a shock. Beneath Gov. Bill Lee, the schooling section launched several lookups for a statewide turnaround leader, even naming 3 finalists for the job in 2021. But all those lookups stalled because of to the pandemic, budget troubles, and uncertainties about what route the point out required to just take its turnaround get the job done.

Victoria Robinson, the department’s spokeswoman, reported filling the position was a precedence for Reynolds.

“Dr. Elliott was identified a number of months in the past as a prospective prospect, and because that time has concluded the interview, employing and other processes with the condition, together with with Commissioner Reynolds and TDOE leadership,” Robinson mentioned.

Reynolds has not mentioned what she has planned for the ASD and other turnaround get the job done. Point out law offers the commissioner the authority to determine colleges for state takeover and spot them in the ASD.

Underneath Reynolds’ predecessor, Penny Schwinn, the office unveiled a new eyesight for the ASD that would have experienced a “smaller footprint” and new takeovers, but none of the updates materialized. 

The ASD, which launched in 2012, has been mostly a disappointment. Below constitution administration, its educational institutions generally performed no superior than very low-accomplishing schools obtaining no intervention. As a outcome, Tennessee has not taken regulate of a community university since getting more than 4 in Memphis in 2016.

A absence of steady management in the ASD has intricate the advanced exit method for educational facilities at the time their charter contracts expire. The district’s previous chief, Lisa Settle, departed in summer season 2022. Considering that then, other staff members with the instruction section have managed it.

Most of the ASD’s faculties are Memphis, with a number of in Nashville, but the district has shrunk by additional than 50 percent to just over a dozen colleges in recent a long time. A several have closed, some have returned to their area districts, and quite a few that have demonstrated the most advancement have moved below the oversight of a new condition commission for general public constitution colleges.

Elliott has Tennessee ties

Elliott, who is a member of Chiefs for Change, an influential nationwide training leadership network, is a native of North Carolina and no stranger to Tennessee.

She was a teacher and principal in Nashville general public universities for 8 several years, and spent her final 12 months at the district as a director focused on precedence schools. She earned her master’s degree from Tennessee Condition College.

Bren Elliott

B.S. in chemistry, College of North Carolina-Wilmington

M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction, Tennessee Point out University

Ed.D. in academic management, High Level University

U.S. Military Veteran, earning the rank of captain

In 2020, Elliott missing a bid to turn out to be superintendent of Metro Nashville Community Educational institutions to Adrienne Fight, who was the interim leader at the time. This summer, Elliott was a superintendent finalist for Huntsville Metropolis Faculties in Alabama, which also picked its interim leader in its place. 

Ahead of signing up for the Washington, D.C., faculty district, she invested eight years as an administrator for two college districts in North Carolina, where she concentrated on help companies for pupils in Wake and Guilford counties.

As the state’s overarching turnaround chief, Elliott will also operate with regional district officials that run their have turnaround models.

Memphis-Shelby County Universities operates the Innovation Zone with funding guidance from the condition. The so-named iZone gives its faculties autonomy about curricular, money, scheduling, and staffing decisions, related to charter colleges.

Condition officers have also worked carefully with Hamilton County Schools’ Partnership Community, a design that seeks increased collaboration involving the state and the community district.

But the ASD is the state’s best-profile turnaround plan and proceeds to appear underneath scrutiny.

This spring, condition Rep. Antonio Parkinson acquired bipartisan assistance for a bill that would revamp the state’s turnaround model and halt university takeovers entirely.

On Thursday, the Memphis Democrat claimed the division requirements a faculty turnaround leader, no matter if his laws passes or not following yr. 

“We need to be employing and putting our attempts and resources behind individuals methods that basically perform,” Parkinson claimed, “and cease feeding thousands and thousands and millions of bucks into the procedures that didn’t perform.”

Laura Testino handles Memphis-Shelby County Faculties for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Achieve Laura at [email protected].

Marta Aldrich is a senior correspondent and covers the statehouse for Chalkbeat Tennessee. Get in touch with her at [email protected].

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