As existing and already approved Metro charter schools continued to grow, the district’s charter school enrollment is poised to reach 4,000 students by 2018, a school official said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
The projections, released by Alan Coverstone, who oversees charter schools for Metro schools, underscore the increasingly pivotal role the publicly financed, independently operated schools are set to play in Nashville now that the Metro school board and state legislature have become more receptive to the charter concept.
Currently, Metro has 1,350 students in its existing five charter schools: Smithson Craighead Academy, Smithson Craighead Middle School, Kipp Academy, LEAD Academy and New Vision Academy.
Some of these schools are slated to expand further by ushering in additional grades in the years ahead. Meanwhile, the school board over the past year approved applications for five new charter schools and signed off on the transformation of struggling Cameron Middle School to a charter school.
In all, Coverstone estimates 5 percent of all Metro students will be enrolled in charters by the 2018-2019 school year — and there’s still room for more growth. A recently adopted state law has lifted the cap on charters in Davidson County to 20.
“Of course, as we add other schools, it will increase even more,” Coverstone said of the projections. “At the end of this time, however, we’re still talking about roughly 5 percent of the district. So we’re not talking about a tipping point or a New Orleans situation.”
New Orleans has 46 charter schools. Many were onetime traditional schools before being turned over to charter operators following Hurricane Katrina.
Aided by a graph indicating the steep incline, Coverstone unveiled the projections to preface his presentation of the district’s charter schools’ No Child Left Behind results, which were released earlier this month. By law, the board must review the performance of Metro’s charter schools.
Each charter school this year is on “good standing,” as defined by the federal law. Results are taken from tests students took last spring.
Smithson Craighead Academy was targeted last year for missing Adequate Yearly Progress in math. This year, however, the school showed gains in that area and moved into good standing and off probation, as previously placed by the district.
“Failure to meet AYP would likely have meant we would have recommended revocation of the charter this year,” Coverstone said. “They moved away from that. We’re glad. We like to see that progress.”
School board member Kay Simmons brought up potential state action that would be more receptive to charter schools. Some Republican lawmakers have discussed increasing the cap of charter schools in Tennessee beyond 90, the current limit.
“As the door opens wider, I think our responsibility to evaluate and improve becomes much greater,” Director of Schools Jesse Register said, referring to future action that could be amenable to charters.