Our Story

In 2010, the state of Tennessee was awarded the Race to the Top Fund to provide additional funding to increase student achievement in the lowest-achieving schools. Race to the Top went to States that were leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top was awarded to fund both state run and traditional schools.

To identify the lowest achieving schools necessitating state intervention, Tennessee ranked schools based on improvement – achievement and growth for all students and student groups as measured by assessment results from the state assessments. Schools that fell in the bottom five percent were identified as Priority Schools and therefore were eligible for state intervention.

In 2012, the School Accountability system was used to generate the original list of 85 priority schools, 69 of which are located in Shelby County, TN. State legislation dictates that these schools could be managed by the Achievement School District which has the authority to oversee the schools themselves or authorize a Charter Management Organization to manage the school.

The state of Tennessee developed intervention strategies to address low-achieving schools and provided a framework for an innovation zone. Schools in innovation zones were required to choose one of the four state-approved turnaround models.

In 2012, Shelby County Schools launched the Innovation Zone or IZone to support their priority schools. Based on the metrics used by the State Accountability system, seven priority schools showed an increase in student achievement.Though, the IZone operates independently, both the Achievement School District and Shelby County School’s IZone, both have a shared mission and vision to move students from the bottom 5% to the top 25% in five years.


  • Priority Schools are schools in the bottom 5% of schools across the state of Tennessee.
  • Priority Schools with a TVAAS (student growth) score of a 4 or 5 are ineligible for state intervention.