What You Need To Know From The TN Charter Center’s Report



The state’s major charter school organization often at odds with the direction of Metro Nashville Public Schools finds 1 in 7 district seats are considered “high quality.”

The rest are almost an even split between “satisfactory” and “low quality,” according to the report by the Tennessee Charter School Center pulling data from last year’s test scores and calling for the district to let more charter schools help close the gap.

The report comes out little more than a week after the board ushered in a new policy on a 7-1 vote limiting 2014 charter school applications to converting select low-performing schools or opening in fast-growing areas — an idea the Center is calling a “moratorium on charter school growth.”

The takeaways, after the jump.

THE STATS: Using data largely from MNPS’ own school grading system, the Center calculates 14 percent of the district is made up of “high quality seats.” Another 43 percent of seats are considered “low quality” and 42 percent “satisfactory.” The report is using overall school data, so individual classrooms vary in quality within each school. Aside from Hillsboro, Hillwood and the magnet clusters, at least 2 in 5 seats in the other clusters are rated “low quality,” as are some 32 percent of seats in charter schools. The report complies other data, too, including population growth rates in the clusters. Check out the whole report here. While the study doesn’t mention it, the Center’s press release argues the public sides with them one on at least one of these issues — namely by pointing to an informal Tennessean online poll showing as of this posting that 72 percent of respondents disagree with limiting new charter schools to overcrowded areas.

THE FINDINGS: In light of data showing “low quality seats” in nearly all areas of the district, the report recommends opening charters in those parts of town. It also says MNPS’ new charter policy falls short, saying charter schools should be used to turn around many more low-performing schools than the current resolution calls for, and should be directed to open schools in more high-growth clusters — like Antioch, Cane Ridge, Hillsboro, Hunter’s Lane and Overton — than the resolution specifies. The report also recommends closing low-performing charters, and for the city's major stakeholder continue tracking these trends.

THE POLITICS: The Charter School Center is constantly at odds with MNPS, the school board, and often Board Budget Committee Chairman Will Pinkston, who authored the new resolution to focus new applications on the two key areas. The report specifically takes aim at policy, saying it “severely limits where and in what manner charters can be approved to operate” and “amounts to a moratorium on charter school growth in many areas that have little or no access to high quality schools.” The report also takes a swipe at the district’s argument charter schools are draining resources from the district’s overall budget, a deep-seeded argument between the district and charter advocates driving much of the new policy change. “If they want to do more, more, more, then they need to go find the money to do it instead of wasting a lot of time and energy putting together half-backed reports,” Pinkston said about the report, suggesting the state should allocate more dollars to school districts. “They don’t live in this little place we call reality in terms of budgeting and priority setting that benefits an entire system.”

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