State education officials in Tennessee will allow select charter schools to take over ten low-performing public schools in Nashville and 31 in Memphis, beginning in 2013. The announcement is part of the Tennessee Achievement School District, an aggressive plan by the state to turn around failing schools as part of the federally-funded Race to the Top.
“We have a real opportunity with what’s going on in Tennessee but more importantly what’s happening here in Nashville, for Nashville not just to be known as Music City but as a city that’s leading the nation in creating a quality system of public schools for all kids,” says Chris Barbic, Achievement School District Superintendent.
The charter conversions of the public schools will be phased in, much like what is already happening in Nashville at Cameron Middle School. LEAD Academy took over the fifth grade in 2011, creating Cameron College Prep. Next school year, the charter program will add 6th grade, then another grade each year through 8th—until Cameron is all charter. (See video story here.)
LEAD Academy will begin a similar process this fall with Nashville’s Brick Church Middle School.
“To me, it’s not about charter schools, it’s not about private schools, it’s not about public schools,” says Dr. Jesse Register, MNPS Director of Schools. “It is about good schools for all children and that’s what we have to be about in this school system.”
Education officials have not said which public schools will be converted to charters. However, the move is aimed at so-called “priority schools” – the ones that rank in the bottom five percent in student achievement in Tennessee. There are about 85 such schools altogether, with 69 of them located in Memphis.
Besides LEAD Academy, two other charter school operators will manage the take-overs. They are KIPP Academy, which already operate a charter school in Nashville; and Rocketship Education, based in California.