Selected readings on US charter schools
The trend of talented professionals moving here in large numbers, attracted by a quality of life that’s simply too strong to stay a secret and a popular buzz that Nashville is an entrepreneurial town creating a lot of opportunity, is reshaping the city in many positive ways. I am a part of that trend, having arrived here 14 years ago prepared to work hard and improve the future for my young family.
Nashville’s entrepreneurial spirit transcends company startups and jobs. It is culturally invigorating and, to the city’s great benefit, extends to civic and public service, arts and culture, and, very importantly, into the education arena via the growth and success of our public charter schools.
Charters are public schools, free and open to all children. Charters provide parents with a choice in public education by allowing them to access schools that are an exception to the traditional, one-size-fits-all approach that has existed so long in public schools.
Over the past dozen years charter schools have transformed — positively — public education and become an important component in Metro Nashville Public Schools’ efforts to improve student performance and the overall education system. A dozen years after the first school opened, about 5,000 students are enrolled in 18 local charter schools.
Their progress is due to outstanding school leaders, teachers and individual charter school boards composed of community members (including many notable, successful entrepreneurs) who work together to execute an educational game plan that is different from traditional, district-managed schools.
As an entrepreneur who has co-founded a number of companies and works with startup companies every day, I am impressed with the progress of Nashville’s charters and believe their innovative nature is a fundamental reason why these schools are working so well.
Nashville has a large number of high-performing public charter schools led by talented people who I consider entrepreneurs because they are bringing innovative approaches to their classrooms. These are professionals whose talents and abilities would carry them to career success in just about any field and, fortunately for Nashville parents, chose to apply their gifts to educate children.
What attracted so many of them is the opportunity to approach education in a nontraditional way, to tackle some of the challenges that exist in large urban schooldistricts. In other words, to approach teaching in an entrepreneurial manner.
Because charters have the freedom to think outside district regulations, their school leaders are able to follow the spirit of innovation, which is to ask, “how can we do this better?” And that’s what local charter school leaders are doing. They research best practices, explore community needs and develop models that reflect the families they serve. They establish teaching teams willing to work as hard as necessary to ensure children learn and lead children to success. And they sometimes make adjustments going forward to respond to special needs of their students.
Nashville charter schools are delivering results. That proof exists in academic data and now in another exciting manner. Several operators of established, high-performing local charters, KIPP Academy, STEM Prep and Knowledge Academies, are applying to open an elementary and two high school classes. Achieving — and replicating — success is what motivates every entrepreneur.
Marcus Whitney, co-founder of Moontoast and Jumpstart Foundry, is a Nashville Entrepreneur Center board member and father of a seventh-grader at STEM Preparatory Academy.
Source: The Tennessian – by Marcus Whitney
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