Selected readings on US charter schools
Innovation is an important component of the way that businesses and organizations operate to remain competitive. In Tennessee, our state has embraced innovation in how we deliver public education to ensure that we are preparing our students for their lives after high school. Charter schools — publicly financed but independently run schools — have been an important part of this experimentation.
Charter schools have a contract, or charter, with their local school board to operate inside the school district’s boundaries. These schools operate independently of local school systems, with flexibility around areas such as instructional hours, staffing and curriculum. The goal is to ensure that, if opened, schools will produce exceptional results in exchange for that flexibility.
Since charter schools began operating in Tennessee more than a decade ago, they have played a valuable role in the state’s academic gains and have helped put more students, particularly those most in need, on a pathway to college. However, while local school boards have authorized charter schools that are among the state leaders in academic gains, there are a couple of charters that are among our state’s lowest performing schools. Despite Tennessee’s rigorous authorization process, some schools just don’t live up to their performance promises.
Closing a school, even a poor-performing one, can be politically difficult. That’s why the National Association for Charter School Authorizers has recommended that states create a statute that automatically closes the lowest-performing charter schools. Currently, seven states (Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Washington) have adopted automatic closure provisions for the lowest performing charter schools.
The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Education Report Card Committee examined the issue of charter schools in its 2012 report and made an automatic closure law one of five recommendations for improvement. While an automatic closure bill faced resistance in last year’s legislative session, there is a wide range of organizations supporting this year’s bill. Metro Schools has joined the Nashville Area and Rutherford County chambers of commerce in endorsing this year’s proposal, along with the Tennessee Charter School Center and Students First.
SB 2285 by Sen. Steve Dickerson and HB 1989 by Rep. Dawn White would amend state law to close charter schools placed on the state’s priority schools list beginning in 2015. Being placed on this list means that a school is among the lowest performing 5 percent of public schools in the state in terms of academic achievement. These poorly performing schools would have their charters revoked at the end of the academic year in which they are identified for closure. Additionally, districts would create a transition team to oversee the process and ensure that families and other stakeholders have the key information they need regarding the closing, including how to enroll in another charter or district school.
This proposed legislation strengthens the accountability provisions of Tennessee’s charter school law. It’s about making sure that a very small number of poorly performing schools do not tarnish the well-deserved reputation of high-performing charter schools across the state. It’s also about doing what’s right for our students, our families and our state.
Source: The Tennessian – by Ron Corbin