Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Chris Barbic leaps at chance to help Tennessee's lowest-performing schools

13) A very nice profile of ed warrior Chris Barbic:

Chris Barbic can't sit still as he talks about his plans for Tennessee's worst-performing schools.

He bounces lightly in his seat, trying to explain the plan he sees so clearly in his mind before he finally grabs a marker and heads to the whiteboard in his office.

As the new superintendent of the state's Achievement School District, Barbic is co-managing five of the state's lowest-performing schools in Memphis and Chattanooga this year. Next year, he will have to decide if he wants to continue the co-management — working with the schools' current districts — turn the schools into charters or take them over completely.

"If you had asked me a year ago if I thought the state running a school was a good idea, I'd have laughed," said Barbic, an Atlanta native who graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1992.

"The state is often seen as a big bureaucracy, basically a 'did we fill out the right paperwork and check all the right boxes' operation. There is a lot of skepticism in the work we do. We have to gain street cred if we're going to do this well."

To get there, Barbic plans to use the tools he gained in Houston as the founder of YES Prep Schools, a charter school system with a focus on public service. At YES, which stands for Youth Engaged in Service, students are required to gain admission to a four-year university to graduate.

Since Barbic founded it in 1998, YES Prep has been named to Newsweek's and U.S. News & World Report's list of the nation's top 100 high schools for three years.

"At YES, the real focus is on the people," said Barbic, who said he left the organization for the greater challenges offered in Tennessee. "Basically, we were betting the farm on talent. A lot of great people did a lot of great work every day. That's where it starts."

He also placed emphasis on using data to drive decisions and rewarding those who got the best results, Barbic said.


Chris Barbic leaps at chance to help Tennessee's lowest-performing schools

Sep 2, 2011  |  
Nicole Young | The Tennessean|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

 Subscribe in a reader