Achievement School District Holds First Day of School

Road to the Top 25 Percent Begins

MEMPHIS, TN – August 6, 2012 – Corning Achievement Elementary, Frayser Achievement Elementary, Westside Achievement Middle, Cornerstone Prep Lester and Gordon Science and Arts Academy opened their doors to students for the first time Monday. The five schools are the first to join Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD). The ASD is proving the possible by moving the bottom five percent of schools in the state to the top 25 percent in five years. 

“We believe in our team. Across all six of our schools, we’ve got an outstanding group of highly-effective teachers and leaders who are committed to doing whatever it takes to serve our students,” said ASD Superintendent Chris Barbic. “And we were thrilled to have students to serve today — this is what we’ve been preparing for, and it’s what the ASD is all about.” 

Barbic went on to describe the key differences that students and families will see in the Achievement School District schools this year. 

“First, we have extended our school year and school day so that students will benefit from great teaching and more of it. Second, we are all about pushing decision making down to the school and classroom level — we are freeing our people up to make the best decisions for our students, and our students and parents will see the benefits of this flexibility. Finally, we will work tirelessly to strengthen the direct connections between our schools, community, and families. Our partnership with families is critical to the success of our students, and we will continue working very hard to build on our summer community engagement work and deepen our relationships with parents,” he explained. 

The stakes are high for the students of the Achievement School District. Students attending schools in the bottom five percent in the state have few life options because they are highly unlikely to graduate from college. Typically only 10 percent of students attending a school in the bottom five percent in the state read, write and do math on grade level. 

The Achievement School District is committed to ensuring that all students have access to great public schools. All of the schools in the district have made a commitment to rigorous academic standards and an ASD accountability framework that drives — and closely monitors — every school’s performance. 

Derwin Sisnett is the executive director of Gestalt Community Schools, which operates Power Center Academy — one of Tennessee’s top charter schools. This year, Derwin and his team are opening a new ASD middle school inside Gordon Elementary.

 “We're excited about our new scholars and the impact that they'll have as future leaders of this community,” said Sisnett. “The North Memphis and Crosstown communities will be served and represented well by our scholars, teachers, parents, and administrators. Today is a great day for Memphis.” 

Across town in Binghampton, another ASD campus launched on Monday. Cornerstone Prep Lester will be serving pre-kindergarten through third grade at the Lester School. Last year, Cornerstone Prep students grew an average of a grade-and-a-half in reading. Executive Director Drew Sippel is excited to increase the number of students who will benefit from his program. 

Sippel looks forward to getting settled into his new building at the Lester School. “The founders of Cornerstone Prep have spent the last four years visiting and studying the most effective urban schools in the country. Working with the ASD creates an opportunity for all of the families in Binghampton to benefit from the best practices in the country. We look forward to providing the children of this great community with the quality education they deserve.” 

Along with the launch of these new campuses, Corning and Frayser Achievement Elementary Schools and Cornerstone Prep Lester will expand pre-kindergarten classes for the youngest students in Memphis. Learn more about the Achievement School District online at, where you can now download the school year calendar, enroll a child in an ASD school, and watch videos of achievement in action.