Letter to Kirkpatrick Elementary Families – December 5, 2014

DOWNLOAD this letter as a PDF.

Dec. 5, 2014

Dear Kirkpatrick Elementary School Parents,

We are writing to tell you about an important change being planned for your school next year. The change would primarily affect next year’s Kindergarten and 1st grade classes (students who are currently Pre-Kindergarten age or in Kindergarten this year), and we want to be sure you have all the information and opportunities to have your questions answered.

The state and our local school district measure student achievement at all schools to determine if students are receiving an education that will prepare them for success in life. Based on the data measured by the state and our school district, unfortunately, Kirkpatrick Elementary School is not currently giving students the high-quality education they deserve.

District and school leaders are developing plans to improve all low-performing schools in Nashville, including Kirkpatrick. The school district has looked closely at Kirkpatrick’s challenges and needs, and believes the school could benefit the most from a partnership with a charter school in order to provide extra attention and support for the students in the school. Charter schools are independent public schools operated by a separate organization approved by the School Board.

The School Board authorized KIPP Nashville as a public charter school operator to convert a low-performing school starting in the 2015-2016 school year, and we are considering their support in transforming Kirkpatrick into a high-performing neighborhood school. KIPP currently operates two high-performing neighborhood public schools in Nashville and just opened Collegiate High School this summer in East Nashville. KIPP Academy Nashville and KIPP Nashville College Prep are both rated in the top performance category on the annual review of school performance by the school district. KIPP Academy Nashville, located at the Highland Heights building in East Nashville, has also been identified by the state of Tennessee as a “Reward” school, which means it ranked in the top 10% of the state in academic gains made by students. KIPP is committed to serving students in East Nashville with a community school that offers strong college preparatory education, a safe character-building culture for every single child and supports for students and families to and through college.

KIPP’s plan is a “phased conversion” for Kirkpatrick, which means they will begin by operating only Kindergarten and 1st grade next year. KIPP will then add an extra grade each year until they operate the entire school. This allows them to provide individual attention to students, get to know the community, and build a positive school culture. During this time of transition, MNPS would continue to manage the other grades and share the school with KIPP. This is called “co-location” and it means that if KIPP transforms Kirkpatrick, students in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th grades next year will not be part of the KIPP school.

We want to know your opinions on the needs at Kirkpatrick. A parents’ meeting with KIPP’s leaders will be held at Kirkpatrick on Monday, December 15 at 4 p.m. School representatives will also be in your neighborhood in the coming weeks to talk with you personally.

Alan Coverstone                                                                Jesse Register
Executive Officer for Innovation                                          Director of Schools
Metro Schools                                                                   Metro Schools

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Kirkpatrick being considered for this transformation partnership with KIPP? Kirkpatrick has the highest need of all elementary schools in the district. Fewer than one in five children at Kirkpatrick are at grade level in math, reading and science. Teachers and parents have shared that their children need strong psychological supports and other wrap-around services. There is also a need for much stronger parent engagement so students come to school every day, stay in their school and have consistent educational support at home.

What does this mean for my child? Under this partnership, KIPP would operate kindergarten and first grade at Kirkpatrick starting in the 2015-16 school year. Metro Schools would operate grade 2-4, with one more grade going to KIPP each year until 2018-19. The district will also continue to operate the prekindergarten classes at Kirkpatrick. While KIPP operates lower grades, the upper grades at Kirkpatrick would also implement a full turnaround strategy. Metro Schools is committed to serving the 2nd – 4th grades in the school next year and until KIPP eventually serves the entire school. This helps families (for example, keeping siblings together and ensuring every zoned student still has access to the same neighborhood school) and gives the schools an opportunity to collaborate.

Is this a final decision? The Director of Schools is ready to recommend Kirkpatrick for a KIPP partnership. It is the highest need school and fits well with the KIPP model. A final decision will be made once there has been additional communication and engagement with parents.

Will students be offered any other school choices? Yes, and Metro Schools will work to make sure parents are fully informed of the school options available to them. Families can choose from a number of schools in the community, like:

  • KIPP at Kirkpatrick in grades K-1;
  • Kirkpatrick Elementary in grades 2-4;
  • Explore Community School in grades K-1;
  • Lockeland Elementary School, with transportation provided by MNPS (available to those who apply through the school selection process);
  • Rosebank Elementary School, with transportation provided by MNPS; and more.

District staff will make personal contact with each family to make sure they understand their options and can make an active choice of which school they want to attend.

What can you tell me about KIPP? KIPP is a respected local public charter operator and its two neighborhood schools in Nashville have great results. They just opened their third school, a high school, this school year. Families are encouraged to visit the website, www.kippnashville.org, attend the upcoming parent meeting, and take a tour of KIPP schools. KIPP representatives will be visiting homes in the coming weeks to talk with families and schedule tours.

What comes next?

  • Parent meeting at Kirkpatrick, December 15 at 4pm
  • Parent survey distributed on December 16
  • Tours for Kirkpatrick parents of KIPP’s other two schools in December and January
  • Home visits from a school representative

Dr. Register identifies Kirkpatrick Elementary School for KIPP partnership

MNPS-KIPP collaboration would improve opportunities and outcomes

Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register today identified Kirkpatrick Elementary School for a turnaround partnership with charter operator KIPP Nashville starting in the 2015-16 school year.

Today’s announcement comes after careful analysis of many factors including data, instructional observations, student needs and parent and faculty input. The thorough assessment led to the identification of Kirkpatrick as the elementary school in East Nashville with the greatest need for the type of transformational model offered by KIPP, which is a high-performing public charter network in Nashville.

“We have the opportunity to give students in a chronically low-performing school access to a proven, highly-effective school model,” Dr. Register said. “This is the right school for a KIPP partnership. Kirkpatrick is a high-need school with unique challenges. The proven skills and strategies KIPP brings to the table match well with Kirkpatrick’s needs. They can have a greater impact and make more of a difference here than at other high-need schools in the area. We are grateful to have such a willing and capable partner join us in giving more high quality educational opportunities to children in this community.”

In June of this year, the Board of Education approved a charter with KIPP to partner with Metro Schools to improve a consistently low-performing Metro elementary school and asked Dr. Register to select the school. Parents and faculty were notified today that Kirkpatrick has been identified as the preferred school for a KIPP partnership. District administration and local leadership of KIPP will work closely with parents and faculty over the next several weeks to develop a partnership plan to best serve the needs of the students and families of Kirkpatrick.

Under this partnership, KIPP and Metro Schools would collaborate to improve outcomes for all children in all grades at Kirkpatrick. KIPP would operate kindergarten and first grade starting next August. Second through fourth grades would remain under operation by Metro Schools in 2015-16, with one additional grade going to KIPP each year through 2018-19. All students in all grades who currently attend Kirkpatrick will still be guaranteed a spot at the Kirkpatrick campus.

A similar partnership model was completed last year at Cameron Middle School, now Cameron College Prep, which is operated by LEAD Public Schools. That partnership led to both the charter school at Cameron and the grades remaining in the traditional school being named Reward Schools last year by the Tennessee Department of Education.

KIPP is a national charter organization that currently operates two middle schools and one high school in Nashville. KIPP Nashville schools are consistently rated among the highest performing in Nashville, earning the “Excelling” label on the district’s Academic Performance Framework (APF). KIPP Academy Nashville, located at the Highland Heights building in East Nashville, has also been identified by the state of Tennessee as a “Reward” school, ranked in the top 10 percent of the state in academic gains made by students. The school was also recently named a finalist for the 2014 SCORE Prize.

“Even though this model of starting a school is new to us, the fundamentals of what KIPP Nashville brings to the table are a great fit for Kirkpatrick,” said Randy Dowell, executive director of KIPP Nashville. “There is fertile ground for big improvements at this school. Strong academics, a focus on each student’s well-being and building young minds to prepare them for college: that’s what we’re about and what we can offer to Kirkpatrick families. We are prepared to support the community any way we can.”

Kirkpatrick Elementary has the greatest need of all schools eligible for a partnership with KIPP. It is the lowest scoring elementary school in East Nashville on the district’s Academic Performance Framework and had steep declines in academic achievement over the last three years.

In analyzing data, observing the school and speaking with teachers and families, a few of the biggest needs at Kirkpatrick were identified as:

  • fewer than one in five students are at grade level in reading, math and science;
  • students need comprehensive wrap-around services including psychological supports and resources to combat concentrated poverty in the area; and
  • the school needs strong parent engagement to keep children in school and help families support educational opportunities at home.

KIPP is well equipped to address the needs at Kirkpatrick through its whole-child and an instructional model that places equal importance on academics and social and emotional development. The KIPP school at Kirkpatrick would strive for high growth and overall achievement while giving students a well-rounded education. Instruction would focus on individualized learning with two teachers in core classrooms, daily small group instruction in reading and math, evidence-based curriculum and interventions and full offerings for art, music and extra-curricular activities. There would also be a full-time mental health counselor at the school, as well as special education teachers to support students in every grade.

Amy Galloway would serve as school leader for the KIPP grades at Kirkpatrick. Dowell personally chose her for this position after a rigorous selection process. She is in her 9th year with the KIPP network and has been an elementary assistant principal and School Leader. She also completed the Fisher Fellowship program, an intensive, one-year KIPP leadership program to develop founders and leaders of new schools. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts from Penn State and a Masters in Education, with special education certification, from Chestnut Hill College. She most recently served as co-leader of KIPP Philadelphia Elementary.

“I am ready to dive into a partnership with the students, families and faculty at Kirkpatrick,” said Galloway. “Our goal is to work with school leadership so we can build on the foundation already in place. The teachers have developed strong relationships with families and the school has deep roots in the community. We want to respect that and build on it so we can give every child in the community a high-quality education.”

Outreach to Kirkpatrick families continues with a callout today informing them of the planned partnership with KIPP. Letters explaining the partnership in greater detail will go home tomorrow in student backpacks. The letter will also invite parents to a meeting on Monday, Dec. 15 where district, school and KIPP leaders will speak with parents and answer their questions about what this transition could mean for their children. A survey will be mailed home to all families zoned for Kirkpatrick on Tuesday, Dec. 16. This survey will collect input on how a KIPP turnaround partnership can best serve all students and families. These additional communications and opportunities for engagement will take place prior to a final decision being made.

Parents will also be fully informed of the school options available to them. They can choose from a number of schools in the community, like:

  • KIPP at Kirkpatrick in grades K-1;
  • Kirkpatrick Elementary in grades 2-4;
  • Explore Community School in grades K-1;
  • Lockeland Elementary School, with transportation provided by MNPS (available to those who apply through the school selection process);
  • Rosebank Elementary School, with transportation provided by MNPS; and more.

Tours of other KIPP schools will be available in December and January so families can make informed choices about what school would best serve their children.

Dr. Register calls for civility, formal cooperation in the education community

Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register delivered these remarks to the Metro Council Education Committee on Thursday, July 10, 2014:

Chairman Glover, members of the Council Education Committee, and other Council members, after Steve talked to me about this session, I asked for a moment at the start of the meeting to say a few words to you about our school system in general and specifically about today’s briefing on Public Charter Schools. Your decision to meet as the Education Committee of the Metro Council on this important topic is both farsighted and commendable. Thank you for taking the time to be here today.

I know I am taking advantage of my long-standing relationship with Chairman Glover with this request to address you, but without his involvement six years ago, I might not be standing here today as your superintendent, as Steve was the first person from Nashville to ask me to apply for this job. I appreciate this opportunity to say a few words, not as your director of schools necessarily, but as an educator, someone who cares deeply about public education and particularly about our school system and our children.

First I want to commend the Council and Mayor Dean for the significant investments in funding public education in Nashville you have made during my tenure here. We could not do what we do without your help and support. Thank you.

Let me start this off by saying what I hope all of you already know—we have a really good school system in this city with a strong foundation, great leaders and committed wonderful teachers. We have pockets of notable excellence and, of course, we still have a few areas of weakness. We are absolutely on the right path, but that path is not always easy.

As my official time as the leader of this community’s education system begins to wind down, and as I consider my experience as a lifelong educator and longtime superintendent, I want to tell you that your school system has the potential to be great…not just good or adequate, or OK, but truly great. The possibilities are endless, our goals are absolutely attainable, and the future is bright.

As all of you know, we have over the last few years experienced transformational change in the way we approach the education of our children in this community and across the nation. These changes have greatly increased the amount and the intensity of education-related discourse in our neighborhoods and across the city, as well as in the media.

The on-going, and frankly sometimes passionate, discussion about this important topic is good. Passion around the education of our children should be encouraged and celebrated. But over the last year or so there has been a steady and ever increasing tendency toward miscommunication and gamesmanship in our dialog and a push for polarization in our ongoing discussions about the future of public education in this city. These actions have created distrust and hard feelings where understanding and common purpose once ruled the day.

In the very near past when we disagreed, we did so respectfully. Not so today. It has at times become mean and personal. We have lost civility in our dialogue on education reform in general and, regrettably, particularly as it concerns our public charter schools. This loss of civility has caused good people and quality institutions that have the same basic goals—the quality education of future generations of Nashvillians–to take sides and develop an unhealthy “us” versus “them” mentality.

I think that most in the room will agree with me….enough is enough! This is not some sort of game where it’s OK to judge “winning or losing” by which press release or pithy statement gets printed in the newspaper or gets highlighted on the nightly news, or gets the most play on social media. This is not about a campaign to discredit one person or another because they may disagree with you; it should be about, and only be about, what’s best for our school system and developing and maintaining great schools for our children.

When we take a step back and really think about it, the biggest losers in this kind of scorched earth campaign-style approach to our discussion about schools of choice are our children. I believe this type of behavior needs to stop and it needs to stop now. If you agree with me, I ask for your help.

I am asking all of you tonight, individually as important opinion leaders in our community, and as members of the Council, to join me in finding the most effective way to immediately transition our dialog to a place where this community, and our school system, can find stability and reinstate a collaborative and transparent environment where innovation and true partnership can flourish. A place where all ideas are discussed respectfully. A place where the best ideas rise to the top and are implemented. And a place where bad or outdated ideas are simply left behind.

I plan to ask my partners over the coming days and weeks – Mayor Dean, Vice Mayor Neighbors and this Council, our state legislative delegation led by Speaker Harwell, Governor Haslam’s administration, community partners like the Public Education Foundation, Nashville’s Agenda, the Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, The United Way, the Charter community, and of course, our School Board, to join this effort.

It’s my desire that over the next few weeks and months we can address and eliminate the hard feelings that have developed and reinstate a constructive climate of trust and true collaboration. Why do I think this is so vitally important? Because our future, I believe, depends on it.

The next mayor of this city and the next superintendent of your school system will have an exciting opportunity presented to them as they transition into their new roles. These opportunities include the opportunity to take public education in Nashville to new heights of excellence. But I respectfully submit to you that if we aren’t thinking about how we reset the conversation on public education in this city, right now—tonight, starting right here in his chamber, this very instant–the new mayor and the new superintendent are going to find themselves in a precarious place and will be less able to take our system to the next level. This meeting today is the perfect context for this topic.

It is absolutely critical that the District embrace the important role that our education colleagues in the charter school sector play in the future of education in Nashville. I know that this District’s charters are by and large very successful. It is evident that we are seeing outstanding educational gains from public charter schools as well as from other schools of choice and many of our zoned schools.

While I am so very proud of all of these schools, I acknowledge there is a real and pressing need to literally reset the conversation about charters and other schools of choice. Specifically, I want to immediately jump start the process of determining best practices associated with what makes charters and other high performing schools work for our parents and children, and to facilitate the implementation of some of those ideas across our system. I hope the charter community will agree to assist me with this important work.

To that end, and as a first step, I am asking the Charter Center to work with me to convene a monthly meeting with charter school leaders, Dr. Coverstone, and other members of my senior staff, and any willing members of the Board of Education. There is so much common ground that exists among these individuals and institutions and we simply need to work harder to find and exploit this for the benefit of our children. We should be about this work starting tomorrow morning.

In the end, the question that we seem to have missed in the ongoing and overheated debate about charter schools is really very simple: How we can utilize our district assets—all district assets–especially our high performing schools that are built around some level of choice and excellence to ensure that our children, ALL OF OUR CHILDREN, regardless of where they reside, or where they go to school, can achieve to their highest potential.

To that end, I will be reaching out to my partners in the Nashville educational community (generally as we did with our recent attrition study) to have them assist the District in conducting in-depth research that will assist us in analyzing our financial practices to make sure that we are giving adequate weight to educational quality, results, and “return on our investment” in our District funding models. This research, when completed, will advance and build upon the limited initial work of the fiscal impact study that is currently underway, such that when both studies are complete we, and our constituents, partners, and funders, will have a more robust and complete, comprehensive and unbiased understanding of what it takes to lead our schools to the results we desire and that our children richly deserve.

In conclusion, I want to reset the conversation about the future of public education in Nashville. We must learn and build on our best practices from all high-performing schools to improve practices in every school. Most importantly, I want to renew a sincere spirit of civility, cooperation, and optimism when we agree, and lead a respectful, meaningful and constructive dialogue when we don’t. Over the next year, I am committed to doing everything I can, professionally and personally, to position Metro Schools to move toward being a world-class school system for this community. On this you have my word. Thank you Mr. Chairman for indulging me this courtesy, and thank you all for all you do every single day for this great city.

Metro Schools receives nine charter school applications in 2014

Metro Nashville Public Schools received nine applications for charter schools to open in the fall of 2015 by the April 1, 2014, deadline. Three applications propose expanding schools currently operating; three propose replicating school models approved by the Board of Education last year and three are from new school operators.

“This is the next important step in the process,” said Alan Coverstone, who leads the Innovation Office that manages charter school authorizing for Metro Schools. “Later this week, application review committees will begin examining each proposal.”

The district’s work to professionalize charter school authorizing and oversight since 2009 has borne fruit as the district has granted charters to several academically high-performing schools that serve diverse student bodies.

Review teams are organized and trained according to the Principles and Standards of high-quality authorizing articulated by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA).

“We will only recommend approval of strong schools that serve the best interests of the students of Davidson County,” said Coverstone.

A thorough review of each application against a detailed scoring rubric is the first step in the evaluation. Each proposal is examined for its capacity to provide an exemplary educational program, strong operational capacity, and long-term financial viability. The final evaluation includes an interview with each applicant group and an evaluation against Board-articulated priorities, including academic excellence and diversity, school conversion and student growth management. Recommendations will be delivered to the School Board in late July.

“The Metro Schools mission emphasizes the importance of high-performing and diverse schools and we are pleased to see some real successes in those areas with schools serving students well each year,” said Coverstone.

Applications now under review are:

  • The International Academy of Excellence – Proposed to serve K-4 beginning with kindergarten and 110 students, reaching 550 at capacity.
  • KIPP Academy Nashville Elementary School (KANES) – Proposed as a phased conversion of a target school to serve grades K-4, beginning with K-1 and growing one grade per year.
  • Knowledge Academy High – Proposed to serve grades 9-12, beginning with grade 9 and 105 students, building out 420 students at capacity.
  • Rocketship – Proposed Rocketship schools would serve PK – 4, opening with 475 students in PK-4 and at capacity serve 575. One application is for a new school in South Nashville and a second would convert management of a target school.
  • STEM Prep – Proposed to serve grades 9-12, beginning with grade 9 and 100 students, serving 400 at capacity.
  • STRIVE Collegiate Academy – Proposed middle school serving grades 5-8, opening with grade 5 and 115 students, reaching a capacity of 460 in grades 5-8.
  • The Tracey Darnell Agricultural Science and Technology Academy – Proposed high school to begin with grade 9, 40 students and at capacity serve 400 students in grades 9-12.
  • Valor Collegiate Academy Southeast – Proposed K-8 replication of Valor Collegiate and modeled after Summit Prep to serve families in southeast Nashville.  At capacity would serve 975 students.

Nine letters of intent to apply to open charter schools in Nashville

Nine charter school operators submitted initial Letters of Intent to apply for charters to operate schools beginning in the Fall of 2015. Four of the letters represent expansions of schools currently operating in Nashville and earning ratings of Achieving or Excelling on the MNPS Academic Performance Framework in 2013. Two letters represent expansions of nationally successful school models approved by the School Board last year. Three letters are from new school operators.

“This is a very early step in the process,” said Alan Coverstone, who heads the Innovation Office which manages charter school authorizing for MNPS. “We will not know how well prepared the schools are to operate and meet the immediate needs in our district until after their applications are submitted April 1, 2014.”

Efforts to professionalize authorizing and oversight of charter schools since 2009 have borne fruit as the District has granted charters to several schools that are both academically high-performing and serve a diverse student body.

“The MNPS mission emphasizes the importance of high-performing and diverse schools, and we are pleased to see some of our real successes in those areas growing and serving more students well each year,” said Coverstone.

Once actual applications are received on April 1st, each will undergo a rigorous and thorough review of organizational and financial capacity, educational plans, accessibility, and need. “We will only recommend approval of strong schools that serve the best interests of the students of Davidson County,” said Coverstone.

Submission of letters of intent to apply to open charter schools gives the Office of Innovation two months to organize and train its application review teams according to the Principles and Standards of high-quality authorizing articulated by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA).

The time between now and April 1st also provides opportunity for potential applicants to consider, develop, and adapt plans in order to strengthen their potential applications and adapt their plans to best serve the articulated needs of MNPS students.

Read the 2014 Letters of Intent to Open a Charter School in MNPS

Of the nine filed, six propose replications of programs previously approved for operation in Nashville:

  • KIPP Academy Nashville Elementary School (KANES) – Proposed to serve grades K-4, beginning with K-1at 192 students and serving 480 students at capacity, growing one grade per year.
  • Knowledge Academy High – Proposed to serve grades 9-12, beginning with grade 9 and 105 students, building out 420 students at capacity.
  • RePublic Middle School – Proposed replication of Liberty Collegiate Academy, to serve Glencliff and Antioch clusters, grades 5-8, beginning with grade 5 and 110 students, building out to a capacity of 440 in grade 8.
  • Rocketship – Proposed Rocketship school would serve PK – 4, opening with 475 students in PK-4 and at capacity serve 575.
  • STEM Prep – Proposed to serve grades 9-12, beginning with grade 9 and 100 students, serving 400 at capacity.
  • Valor Collegiate Academy Southeast – Proposed K-8 replication of Valor Collegiate and modeled after Summit Prep to serve families in southeast Nashville, grades 5-6 and 260 students beginning K-1 in year 2.  At capacity would serve 975 students.

The remaining three schools are:

  • The International Academy of Excellence – Proposed to serve K-4 in the Glencliff and Antioch clusters, beginning with kindergarten and 110 students, reaching 550 at capacity.
  • The Tracey Darnell Agricultural Science and Technology Academy – Proposed high school to begin with grade 9, 40 students and at capacity serve 400 students in grades 9-12.
  • STRIVE Collegiate Academy – Proposed middle school serving grades 5-8, opening with grade 5 and 115 students, reaching a capacity of 460 in grades 5-8.

Facts on district revenue and per-pupil spending

In past articles, we’ve shown you how much money we get and where it all goes.

Our community deserves an honest dialogue – without ideology and special interest talking points – about school funding that includes a fair assessment of needs, expenses, and revenue.

So let’s talk for a moment about where money comes from and under what circumstances we get more of it.

Where does revenue come from?

About a third of our operating budget comes from the State of Tennessee. They give us a certain amount of money per student and according to what kind of student. When more students enroll, our revenue from the state goes up, to the tune of about $3,200 per student.

The other two-thirds comes from the Metro Government, paid from county taxes and allocated by the Mayor’s Office and the Metro Council. The amount of money we get from the Metro Government is fixed. It is not tied to a per-student formula the way state money is.

This year our enrollment is up by nearly 1,800 students. About a third of our revenue (from the state) reflected that increase. The other two-thirds of our revenue (from the Metro Government) remained flat.

[NOTE: We received a $26 million increase in our operating budget from the 2012-13 school year to the 2013-14 school year. Of this $26 million, $12 million came from our own fund balance, $10 million came from the state and $4 million came from Metro Government.]

How does that money move around the district?

It’s a phrase people use a lot: per-pupil spending. Metro Schools spends around $9,100 per pupil in grades K-12. When a student moves from one school to another, the money theoretically follows him.

If the student leaves his neighborhood school and moves into a magnet school, he is moving from one district-operated school to another. The money attached to him stays in the same pot of district money and our per-pupil spending amount stays the same.

When a student leaves his neighborhood school – or a magnet school – for a charter school, the $9,100 moves to the charter management organization that runs the charter.

When a student leaves a district school for a private school, the money does not follow him to the private school. The district loses the state revenue associated with that student, but the private school does not get it. The funding from Metro Government is unchanged. The private school gets private money in the form of tuition.

The expenses of the neighborhood school don’t increase with every additional student and don’t decline with every student departure. The school is spending the same amount to keep its lights on and its hallways clean. The school still has teachers to pay and technology to buy and maintain.

Innovative practices that are designed to quickly improve achievement could face tough times, like extended learning time, model classrooms and certain kinds of school-level professional development.

What’s the solution?

Our strategic plan calls for more equitable use of resources, placing money where it’s needed most for fair service of students. We are already moving toward a model that puts more money directly in the hands of principals, allowing them to spend money in ways that will most directly benefit the unique needs of their students. That will help everyone decide best allocation of existing resources and ensure that money is spent in the most effective ways.

But what about revenue?

The answer will come from a community discussion of school finances. We must have an honest and open dialogue about revenue and expenses. The Board of Education began that conversation this fall, well in advance of the usual budget cycle.

This issue has wide-reaching effects, beyond just budgeting and buying textbooks. It can affect a school’s character and existence.

Let’s look at it at the individual school level. When a school is constantly threatened with drastic budget cuts or even closure, it has a more difficult time attracting students, which leads to further budget reductions.

It is a cycle that puts even more of a burden on teachers and principals to properly educate the students they already have.

Six applications to open charter schools in 2014-15

UPDATE: The Board of Education is scheduled to hear recommendations and take action on these six applications at its June 25 meeting. This meeting will be covered on the district live-blog, which you can watch on MNPS.org.


The charter school applications for the 2013 cycle are in and under review.

Out of ten letters of intent, we received six full applications to be considered for charters. Three review teams are now poring over two applications each, with interviews and recommendations to follow.

The applications came in on April 1, and we have 90 days for review, recommendations to the Board of Education and final approval or denial by the Board.

Here is the timeline for moving forward:

  • May 7 – All applicants come in for interviews with the application review teams
  • Mid-May – Plans are yet to be finalized for a specific date, but there will be a time for public comment on applicants before the Board
  • Mid-May – A round of cuts is made, with select applicants moving forward toward recommendation. Other applicants that do not make the cut will not be recommended for approval.
  • May 28 – Selected applicants come in for second round interviews.
  • Early June – Review teams will submit reports to officials from the Office of Innovation, who will prepare final recommendations for the Board
  • Late June – Recommendations are made to the Board of Education for approval or denial of charters (June 25 at the latest)

Why did we receive only six applications from ten letters of intent? One school did not make the final deadline, another withdrew its application so it could have more time to put it together and two more did not complete all elements of the application as legally required by the State of Tennessee.

Our teams are excited to be digging into these applications, and I know we’re all looking forward to seeing what comes of them.

View the Applications: