The Tennessee Department of Education announced Chris Barbic, founder and chief executive officer of YES Prep Public Schools in Houston, Texas, as superintendent of Tennessee’s Achievement School District (ASD).
Mr. Barbic will lead the state’s efforts to turn around the state’s lowest performing schools in order to ensure that all Tennessee students have the chance to receive a high quality public education that will prepare them to be college and career-ready.
“Tennessee is at the forefront of education reform in the country, and I’m thrilled Chris will join us as we continue to build on the momentum we have,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said. “Chris brings a track record of success to this position, and I look forward to working with him as we work to improve the classroom experience for every child in every classroom."
“I’ve been deeply inspired by Chris Barbic’s work with YES Prep Public Schools in Houston. Chris knows how to create a culture of success for at-risk students and provide them with the tools and resources they need to graduate from high school prepared for college and career,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “He’ll be a valuable asset to Tennessee as they continue the courageous work of turning around their lowest performing schools.”
Mr. Barbic created YES Prep Public Schools in 1998, a network of high-performing 6th-12th grade public charter schools that exist to increase the number of low-income students who graduate from college prepared to compete in the global marketplace and committed to improving disadvantaged communities. The system serves 4,200 students in across eight schools in the Houston, Texas area. To date, YES Prep has graduated 11 classes of seniors, 100% of whom have earned acceptance to a four-year college or university. As a result, YES Prep is currently on track to triple the number of low-income college graduates in Houston. YES Prep’s multiple campuses have consistently been recognized among the best in the nation and ranked among the top 100 public high schools in the nation by Newsweek and US News and World Report, officials said.
Mr. Barbic has spent the past 19 years as a teacher, school leader and leader of YES Prep Public Schools in Houston.
He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in English and Human Development. Upon graduation, he joined Teach For America and taught middle school for six years in the Houston Independent School District. In 1995, Mr. Barbic was named the Houston ISD’s Outstanding Young Educator, an award given to the district’s most promising educator under the age of 29. Mr. Barbic has also been recognized as the youngest-ever recipient of Vanderbilt University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. Last year, during an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, he was awarded $1 million towards expanding YES Prep’s efforts in Houston by Oprah’s Angel Network.
“What Chris has achieved at YES Prep is remarkable. He and his team have built a network of schools that assumes all kids should go to college and delivers results that surpass expectations,” said Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. “With Chris, the standard is excellence and I am excited to welcome his mindset and experiences to the Achievement School District.”
“I have spent my 19-year career in public education proving a simple hypothesis that all students, regardless of race or socio-economics, can achieve at high academic levels when given access to the same opportunities and resources that students receive in great private and suburban public schools,” said Mr. Barbic. “I could not be more excited to return to Tennessee to invest the lessons I have learned in the well-being of the children in this great state as part of Governor Haslam and Commissioner Huffman’s team.”
In his role as ASD superintendent, Mr. Barbic will implement turnaround efforts at the state’s lowest performing schools, oversee efforts that create the conditions under which teachers and students can succeed, and work toward sustainable progress.
The Department of Education proposes to begin by taking in and co-managing five schools under the Achievement School District in 2011-2012 with expansion in the following years. The schools have been identified based on a definition including the U.S. Department of Education’s Persistently Lowest Achieving status, the state accountability status and a statewide lowest five percent designation. Going forward, the Department will work with each district, schools and communities to identify the best option to support continuous improvement in at-risk schools.