Saturday, November 23, 2013


TN Charter School Center: Creating and improving access to high-quality seats must drive district policy on charter schools

Nashville, TN – The Tennessee Charter School Center (the Center) today announced the release of a research paper entitled Locating Quality: a Seat Analysis of Metro Nashville Public Schools. This analysis, which uses data from the Academic Performance Framework (APF) published in March 2013 by Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and updated this fall, takes an in-depth look at the distribution of quality throughout the district, as measured by the district’s own data.

“With the release of Nashville’s Academic Performance Framework, we decided to follow in the footsteps of many major urban centers such as Denver, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., and others to produce a neighborhood-specific seat analysis,” said Greg Thompson, CEO of the Center. “This report clearly illustrates where and to what extent the city and public school system needs to prioritize resources to ensure it is driving student achievement throughout the city.”

Using data from the APF, the report finds that while there are more than 12,500 high quality seats in Nashville, they are largely concentrated in a few areas and neighborhoods. Unfortunately, our analysis of the MNPS data revealed that in the majority of district clusters, less than 15 percent of all students attend a high quality school. In order to ensure that every student in MNPS is able to benefit from a high quality seat, an additional 67,000 seats would need to be created or improved to high quality status.

“We believe that together with other strategic initiatives, charter schools can play a crucial role in solving the crisis of quality and growth within Nashville’s public schools. The fact that MNPS has already recommended charter schools as a vehicle for school turnaround and growth management is a testament to the return on investment charter schools have already delivered to the district,” said Thompson.

In Nashville, charter schools represent only five percent of the district’s public schools students, but account for 33 percent of Nashville schools designated Reward Schools by the state. The
report asserts that, given their track record for producing rapid and dramatic student growth at a fraction of the cost of a traditional school, charter schools should be used more broadly to ensure that every student can access and attend a high quality school in his or her neighborhood.

The ability to access and attend a high-quality school should be the District’s priority for all students, every year. To this end, Locating Quality recommends that charters be allowed to grow in regions where families have little to no access to high-quality schools based on MNPS measures- which includes most areas of the city.

This is a recommendation shared by the public. In a recent Tennessean poll, 72 percent of respondents said that Metro’s new charter schools should not be limited to areas where public schools are overcrowded.

In addition to the recommendation that charters open in communities that lack access to high-quality schools, the Center recommends that MNPS:
  • Tap charters to turnaround persistently underperforming schools: Charter schools can serve as a solution in turning around chronically low-performing schools through a charter conversion process. MNPS has already taken steps to facilitate this in their latest resolution.
  • Close underperforming charter schools: Low-performing and chronically failing charter schools must make academic gains or face closure.
  • Manage Nashville’s growing student population in a cost efficient manner by expanding charter school capacity: The number of students within the district is expected to grow – creating more demand for high-quality seats. Already, one third of MNPS schools are oversubscribed. Charter schools can help absorb growth and meet demand with greater cost efficiency while providing better student outcomes. This is partially addressed in the MNPS resolution but in a manner that is far too limiting, using an arbitrary definition of growth.Increase transparency: MNPS, Metro Government and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce should publicly track the availability of high-quality seats on an annual basis.
To learn more, the Center’s findings and recommendations can be read here.

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