Ten letters of intent to open charter schools in Nashville

With ten letters of intent to open charter schools here in Nashville, 2013 promises to be a big year.

We’re very excited about the level of interest shown in operating high quality charter schools in our district. Our city keeps drawing applications because of the collaborative opportunities we provide and our nationally recognized application process, which we continue to refine.

Our view is every charter school in Metro Nashville should perform above the district average. Schools approved and opened using our current process are meeting that expectation.

The possibility of opening more outstanding schools in Nashville is worth getting excited about. We look forward to seeing the completed applications this spring.

Read the letters of intent linked below to see the charter school operators now eyeing Nashville.

Name Grade Levels Beginning Grade Level Total Enrollment* Focus Sponsor
International Academy of Excellence K-4 K 400 Elementary focus with foundation in global and cultural awareness and foreign languages Beyond the Border
Nolesnville Academy for Math and Science 5-10 5-7 600 Provide a math and science focus for students primarily from minority and immigrant populations who predominately live in poverty Nolensville Academy of Math and Science
Nashville Prep II 5-8 5 440 College Prep Nashville Prep Charter School
KIPP Nashville College Prep Elementary K-4 K-1 480 College Prep KIPP Nashville
Kemet Academy PreK-8 PreK-8 250-500 Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) The Teach One Foundation of TN, Inc.
Valor Collegiate Academy 5-12 5 740 College Prep Valor Collegiate Academies, Inc.
Thurgood Marshall School of Career Development 9-12 9-12 200 High achievement and support for juvenile offenders The W.E.B. DuBois Consortium of Charter Schools, Inc.
One Nashville Preparatory Academy PreK-8 PreK-K 996 College Prep and closing the achievement gap within subgroups Martha O’Bryan Center
Young Women’s Leadership Academy 5-8 5 400 Single gender female, college prep Young Women’s Leadership Academy of Nashville
Rocketship Nashville K-5 K-5 630 Combination of traditional classroom with blended learning, parent engagement and college prep Rocketship Education Tennessee

*Total enrollment means the total enrollment for a 10-year charter, not initial year enrollment.

Support for higher teacher pay spreads across Tennessee

Hats off to the Achievement School District for announcing last month a plan to offer teacher salaries of $62,500 – and all the way up to $90,000 – in its Memphis schools. This is exactly the right direction for teacher pay to take in Tennessee: upward.

The citizens of Nashville showed their support for higher teacher pay last year when Mayor Karl Dean and the Metro Council worked to approve the Metro Schools operating budget, which included raising starting teacher pay to $40,000.

Because of that important step, we are a competitive player in the nationwide search for the best teachers. We saw an immediate increase in interest from our teacher candidates.

It’s wonderful to see that support for teachers spread to the other side of the state, and to have it supported by the Tennessee Department of Education.

We hope that commitment continues and carries over into statewide education policy, allowing all of us to attract the very best teachers out there.

9 local & national leaders write letters of support for MNPS in Race to the Top District competition

UPDATE: Though Metro Schools did not win the Race to the Top District competition, the plan outlined in our application – and supported by the leaders listed below – will move forward.


City, state, and national leadership are lining up in support of Metro Schools’ plans for reform and the Race to the Top District competition money that could help make them successful much more quickly.

“What happens in Nashville matters to Tennessee and the nation,” wrote Gov. Bill Haslam. “Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools is uniquely positioned to inform the entire field.”

Gov. Haslam is one of many who wrote letters to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan voicing full support for the reform efforts happening in Metro Schools. Joining him are Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, former Senator and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Representative Jim Cooper, State Representative and Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, Mayor Karl Dean, Tennessee Commissioner of Education Kevin Huffman, and former State Senator and CEO of SCORE Jamie Woodson, .

Our district has applied for $40 million in the Race to the Top District competition, which would help accelerate the implementation and success of our efforts. The application includes plans for networked leadership so groups of schools, including charter schools, can share best practices, personalized learning plans for more than 27,000 students, and increased school autonomy and accountability. We are one of just 61 districts across the nation chosen as a finalist in the competition and and the only one that will be building on the work begun as a first round recipient of Race to the Top funding. The U.S. Department of Education will choose 15-25 finalists who will each receive part of a $400 million grant.

Learn More About RTTT-D & Read Our Application

Read the Full Letters of Support:

District-charter collaboration leads to transparency, high standards, & real opportunity

by Alan Coverstone, Executive Director of the Office of Innovation

In Nashville, when we first sat down to determine if it would be possible to build a collaborative relationship between our school district and charter school leaders, very few places had tried it. Just a short time later, our District-Charter Collaboration Compact was recognized as one of the first nine nationwide, and charter and district leaders have been building their cooperation ever since. We are learning a great deal with and from each other, and most of the lessons were made possible by the leaders who agreed to explore that first step.

We are fortunate the district leaders and charter leaders who helped develop the compact had the foresight to realize that unless we agreed on the outcomes we expect from our schools, we would never be able to work together effectively. Spending our time trying to show the data on our schools only in the most favorable light, whether in favor of charters or district schools, is a waste of time and contributes to misunderstanding and cynicism. Parents need to know objectively how schools are doing with all schools measured on the same balanced, objective criteria so their school choices will be informed through data.

Our District-Charter Collaboration Compact begins and ends with our shared commitment to high-performing schools for every student in Nashville regardless of whether that high performer is a charter, magnet, design center, enhanced option, or zoned school. Holding all schools to the highest possible standards is good for kids and making the information fair, useable and available for parents is too.

Nashville Public Schools Scorecard

We have taken an important step in that direction with the release of our new Scorecard comparison tool that allows parents to see the same measures for different schools side–by-side. With this information, visits to schools can be even more helpful as parents get to know the people in the building working hard to improve achievement by creating real opportunities for students.

 

Explore the Scorecard

Explore Your School Options

Statement on BEP Funds Withheld October 15, 2012

We were disappointed to learn around noon today that the Tennessee Department of Education has refused to reconsider its decision to withhold nearly $3.4 million in taxpayer funding designated for the education of more than 81,000 students in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The funding is 10 percent of the state’s annual “non-instructional” funding for Nashville’s children.

The elected representatives of the people in the state legislature developed the Basic Education Program funding plan to ensure schools are adequately funded. BEP is a funding program, not a spending plan, and these funds are used for a number of services that directly affect students and classrooms.

We are concerned about the effect of this reduction and how we will address this shortfall in the middle of the school year. We intend to be good stewards of the public money and to make thoughtful, deliberate decisions in an effort to minimize the penalty’s effect on the children in our schools.

The $3.4 million reduction is significant and raises concerns about how the amount was determined and whether it is consistent with other penalties assessed by the state. Tennessee law does not address penalties in this situation.

The district continues its work on behalf of Nashville’s children and families and, contrary to some media reports, there is no hiring freeze. The district has the means to meet its current financial obligations and the Board of Education will determine where to make the budget reductions by the end of the fiscal year.

A letter to parents: So you’re a Focus School. What does that really mean, anyway?

UPDATE: The Tennessee Department of Education has awarded Focus School grants to Amqui, Carter Lawrence, and Ruby Major Elementary Schools, as well as Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School. These grants are worth anywhere from $100,000-300,000 and will be used to help close achievement gaps at these schools.

To learn more about these grants, visit the DOE website.


Dear Parents,

When the Tennessee Department of Education released the list of “Focus Schools” with a few MNPS schools on it, we heard from parents right away. There was some confusion and more than a little concern. Focus is a new label with a new definition, and it’s not immediately clear what it means. Some assumed it was a replacement for the old label of a High Priority or “Failing” school.

That’s not the case. The state defines Focus Schools like this:

“The 10 percent of schools in the state with the largest achievement gaps between groups of students, such as racial and ethnic groups, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities and English-language learners.”

The achievement gap is a key concern of Tennessee’s new accountability system for schools and districts. MNPS wants to see all groups of students achieving at high levels, and we are making progress across the district.

Here’s what it can mean to be a Focus School:

  1. The school has high achieving students.
    The state’s own guidelines say, “Schools on the Focus list are not necessarily there because of low achievement. In fact, many showed excellent growth last year.” If your school saw big gains in all students – including those at the very top of the honor rolls – that’s a wonderful thing. But, it also means the gap between the top students and everyone else didn’t get any smaller. We need to increase all students’ achievement and close the achievement gap at the same time.
  2. The school is diverse.
    Our schools have many students with different backgrounds, different home lives, and different abilities, and they’re all held to the same standard. Some students have a great balance of support systems at home and at school to help. Some don’t. By giving schools this label, the state is asking that we “focus” part of our attention on these schools to increase achievement for all students of all abilities. That’s just what we’ll do.
  3. The school is eligible for additional financial help to close the gap.
    Again, from the state guidelines:

“Focus Schools will be eligible to apply for grants aimed at dramatically closing the achievement gap. Schools not awarded a competitive grant will be provided state resources to close their achievement gaps.”

The school labels under the new system are much more accurate and provide a fuller picture of a school than the old No Child Left Behind labels. The new labels place the focus on increasing academic performance for our schools’ highest achievers as well as on those who need the most help, so everyone achieves more.

Sincerely,

Your Metro School

Statement from Cheryl Mayes on her meeting with Commissioner Kevin Huffman

Board of Education Chairwoman Cheryl Mayes met today with Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. After the meeting she made this statement:

“We appreciate Commissioner Kevin Huffman’s willingness to sit down in a spirit of concern for Nashville’s students. It was a good meeting based on our mutual commitment to improving student outcomes. We have no change in status at this time. We will continue to talk with the State.”

Board Chair Cheryl Mayes writes to Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman

Sent Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012:

Dear Commissioner Huffman,

The Metropolitan Nashville Board of Public Education is in receipt of your notice to withhold a portion of our school system’s next scheduled Basic Education Program (BEP) payment. As the newly elected board chair, I am disappointed that you are taking this punitive step toward our system of 81,000 students. While I understand your position, I respectfully disagree and request a meeting with you to revisit this matter and avert this action.

Our local School Board had legitimate concerns about the diversity plan, or lack thereof, put forward by Great Hearts. Allow me to share with you some information about our community and its history. We are an urban school system that only emerged from federal court-ordered desegregation in 1998. As recently as this past summer, our rezoning plan was the subject of a federal lawsuit. Nashville has eight percent of the total public school students in Tennessee, but 29 percent of the English language learners in our state and 75% of our students are FARM eligible.

For us, “diversity” is not a political term. Diversity is a real concern in our community, and we take seriously our obligation to promote it. While you assert the local School Board broke the law, we were acting as responsible, duly-elected and duly-sworn public officials upholding the U.S. Constitution and its Equal Protection Clause.

I know Metro Schools must do a better job of articulating diversity guidelines for new charter schools. We are in the process of developing policies that will allow us to clearly communicate our priorities going forward. Additionally, we must continue working to promote diversity within our own schools of choice, and are striving toward that goal, as well. But that does not relieve us of the responsibility, in the meantime, to press new charter operators on these questions.

We understand the State Department of Education is a partner in our efforts, and we embrace the privilege of helping to lead Tennessee’s bold reform strategies. While the matter at hand today is Great Hearts, there no doubt will be another school or issue in the future that has the potential to put us at odds. I would like very much for us to think through ways we can work together. I look forward to meeting with you at the earliest possible opportunity.

Sincerely,

Cheryl D. Mayes, Chairwoman

 

Cheryl Mayes Letter to Kevin Huffman

Statement on Tennessee Department of Education’s Decision to Cut Funding to Metro Nashville Public Schools

Funding supports district’s 81,000 children

This morning, the district first heard from the State Department of Education about its decision to cut the Metro Schools Basic Education Program allocation by almost $3.4 million in October. We are very disappointed.

BEP is a funding formula and not a spending plan, so there are no funds earmarked for “administrative costs.”  The BEP formula for non-classroom expenses includes utilities, student transportation, maintenance and other things that directly affect our 81,000 students and 5,000 classrooms. None of these items are in any way linked to charter school approval processes.

We do not yet have a plan on how we will respond to this disruptive mid-year cut. Our priority will always be to give the best education to our students with the resources we have. Budget amendments require action by the Metro Nashville Board of Education.

Metro Nashville has earned national recognition for its rigorous process to review charter school applications and its process is considered a national model. The Board of Education had genuine concerns about the Great Hearts application and how the district manages diversity. The Board approved four other applications this cycle and the number of charter schools in the district has increased from four in 2009, when the process was adopted, to 14 this year.  Six more are approved to open by 2013, for a total of 20.

We believe children will benefit when the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and the local Board of Education and school district work together. In Metro Nashville, we are committed to improving student achievement and to collaborating with the State, quality charter school operators and the people of Nashville for our children.

It’s Official: Metro Nashville Public Schools rates “Intermediate” status

District meets seven of nine benchmarks; student achievement grows

Metro Nashville Public Schools showed growth in achievement among all subgroups of students last year, placing the district in intermediate status – the second highest accountability category. The State Department of Education earlier today released district-level status for all Tennessee districts, including for Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Under this new accountability framework, the top-performing districts are “Exemplary” while the bottom performing districts are in two “In Need of Improvement” categories; the remaining districts are in an intermediate category. Tennessee’s new accountability system replaces No Child Left Behind’s Annual Yearly Progress measures. Rather than expecting all districts to meet the same benchmarks year after year, the new system acknowledges that districts are starting from different places and rewards those that show the most growth. Under the new system, approximately 43% of districts were categorized as “In Need of Improvement” or “In Need of Subgroup Improvement.”

“These results show that thousands more of our students are performing at a higher level,” said Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register. “Tennessee standards are among the highest in the country and this new accountability system is real, it is holding districts to standards that are difficult but attainable.

“The growth we have seen this year is the result of a lot of hard work, of making changes to instructional practice, providing more professional development and meeting our students’ diverse needs. We want to accelerate that growth at all levels and close achievement gaps.”

The accountability system, adopted after Tennessee secured a waiver from part of NCLB earlier this year, looks to districts to increase achievement levels for all students and reduce achievement gaps that exist between certain groups. Metro Schools serves approximately one-third of the state’s English Learner students, as well approximately 12,000 Students with Disabilities. The district also serves more than 56,000 economically disadvantaged students, which is about 71% of total enrollment for last year.

Metro Schools’ students made significant academic progress in the 2011-12 school year and the district met the majority of Tennessee’s academic achievement targets. In 2010, Tennessee adopted new academic performance standards that are among the most demanding in the nation. Metro Schools have shown steady improvement against these higher standards.

Grade 3-8 TCAP Tests
% proficient/advanced
  2010 2011 2012 
Reading/Language Arts 33.9% 38.9% 42.1% 
Math 25.9% 32.2% 38.4%
Science 36.2% 38.8%  44.5%
High School End of Course Exams
% proficient/advanced
  2010 2011  2012 
Algebra I 28.7% 37.6% 41.8%
English II 47.4% 46.6%  48.7% 

In addition, the district made impressive improvement at every grade level on the TCAP writing assessment with nine out of ten middle and high school students scoring competent or better.

Writing Assessment
Competent or Higher
  2010 2011  2012 
Grade 5  77% 77% 81% 
Grade 8 86% 86% 90%
Grade 11 90% 88%  91%

With this new system, Metro Schools met seven of nine benchmarks. The district showed improvement but narrowly missed the set benchmark for third grade reading/language arts. The district also missed in the graduation rate, the one calculation that has a one-year lag. The state has changed its calculation of graduation rate from a 5-year calculation to a 4-year calculation. Many students served by Metro Schools, such as English Learners or Students with Disabilities, require five years to graduate and are not included in the district’s overall graduation rate. Last year, Metro Schools’ graduation rate was 76.2%, down from 82.9% under the 5-year calculation. The 2012 graduation rate is not available.

Under Tennessee’s new accountability framework, the top-performing districts are exemplary while the bottom performing districts are in two in need of improvement categories; the remaining districts are in an intermediate category.

“I appreciate the support of our Board of Education as we transform our district. We knew test scores would be the last thing to change and we are pleased to see this growth,” said Register. “We must continue to improve in all categories. Reducing the achievement gap among student groups is our most significant challenge.”

Individual student reports are in transit to the schools where students are assigned for the 2012-13 school year. Each school will send the reports home to families. The State of Tennessee has not yet released school-level data.