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A Year at Frayser High

Governing followed efforts to turn around one Tennessee high school in this year-long, four-part series that reveals the potential and perils of education reform.

For the graduating students, this was a moment of pride and vindication.
(Photos by Brandon Dill)
Correspondent John Buntin spent a year on the front line of what may be the nation’s most significant experiment in education reform. Tennessee’s Achievement School District is tasked with taking over and turning around low-performing public schools. Over the course of the 2014-2015 school year, Governing followed state and local leaders, parents and children, teachers and school administrators, social workers and police officers, community activists and politicians, through the critical first year of one school's takeover. 

The stakes in this reform effort could not be higher. At issue is nothing less than one of the country’s most pressing questions: In a nation where Democrats and Republicans alike say they want to provide “equal opportunity,” can failing schools be transformed into successful schools in short order and on a large scale? If not, have the nostrums of the education reform movement distracted politicians, public officials and the public from the real challenge -- the problems of poverty, segregation, crime and family structure?

What follows is a four-part series on education reform from the halls of Frayser High School in Memphis.


Part 1: The Nation’s Most Ambitious Effort to Fix Failed Schools

What happens in Memphis will reveal the power -- and limits -- of education reform. Read More.



Part 2: Changing a Culture Inside and Outside of School 

Fixing a failing school may require a complete change in culture. That’s not an easy thing to achieve, but Memphis is trying. Read More.



Part 3: Revolt Overshadows Education Reform's Successes

Driven by fear and frustration, protesters are starting to drown out the supporters of Tennessee's effort to help low-performing public schools. Read More.



Part 4: Assessing Tennessee's Unique Turnaround Model

As other states consider embracing Tennesse's program, the experience of one Memphis high school shows policymakers about its potential and perils. Read More.


John is a Governing correspondent covering health care, public safety and urban affairs.
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