Selected readings on US charter schools
Recent Metro Schools report card targeted underperforming schools
Smithson-Craighead Academy faculty, administrators and supporters spent the past week giving the North Nashville charter school a facelift, complete with freshly painted classrooms and new spaces for a library and a computer lab.
School officials say the external makeover will reflect broader changes when the charter reopens next week: Students will spend more time in class, with a greater focus on reading and math.
If all goes well, they believe, those new policies will lead to higher grades and test scores from students that could boost confidence in the 6-year-old school.
If not, there might not be a Smithson-Craighead Academy in 18 months.
The K-4 elementary school was one of three Nashville charters targeted in a recent Metro Schools report card and warned to either shape up by summer or risk possible closure.
After the school board meeting in which Boys Prep, Drexel Prep and Smithson-Craighead were targeted for potential closure, Director of Innovation Alan Coverstone said the schools’ results in the next few months can’t show up as incremental on the district’s red-to-green evaluation scale. All three schools were in the red in nearly every category, including ones related to academics, organization and demographics.
“We want them in the green,” he said. “If they get to satisfactory, then there will be discussions.”
Making that kind of improvement is certainly within reach, said Nancy Denning-Martin, the executive director of Project Reflect, the nonprofit that opened and helps run Smithson-Craighead. School leaders were told of the incoming figures before they became public, which allowed them to be factored into the plans officials put in place.
While painting hallways at the school, she said school leaders had “not one doubt” that students’ scores will be in the top tier of Nashville charter schools by the end of the year.
“Our one goal is to get our students the best education possible,” she said. “We want to keep the promise we made to students and their parents.”
For Smithson-Craig-head, Boys Prep and Drexel Prep to do that, school officials must make quick and substantive changes, said Rebecca Lieberman of the Tennessee Charter Center.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency and an expectation that students can perform on a high level,” she said.
“The adults in the school really need to be willing to invest in their students.”
Denning-Martin is confident the school’s new policies will make a difference for its students, many of whom enter school struggling academically. Even though the charter has a similar setup to the Smithson-Craighead Middle School shut down by Metro Schools last year, she believes the community has learned from that experience and can apply that knowledge now.
“We’ve got great families, great faculty, and we have great students,” Denning-Martin said. “Everyone is pulling together to do whatever it takes to do this.”
Smithson-Craighead was not the only of the three schools to make major changes after Metro Schools’ announcement.
At Boys Prep, Principal Sean Braddock was placed on paid leave on Friday until the school’s board of directors meets on Oct. 24. School CEO Michelle Bouton did not speak about the circumstances that led to his two-week absence.
Despite multiple attempts, a Drexel Prep spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Source: The Tennessean – by Brian Wilson