Eighteen letters of intent to file applications for charter school authorization were submitted by Monday afternoon’s deadline. Of the letters, 14 propose expansions of networks currently operating schools in Nashville, and four are proposals from new operators.
Eights of the letters point toward new elementary school (K-4) proposals, with three of those from Rocketship, which already operates one school in Nashville and is preparing to open a second this fall. Three of the first time operators plan to propose elementary schools. Existing operators Intrepid College Prep and KIPP signaled their intention to propose new elementary schools for their networks.
East End Academy, sponsored by the Martha O’Bryan Center, will seek to add grades 6-8 to its existing K-5 charter to complete development of a K-8 school.
Three middle school proposals will come from KIPP, New Vision, and Knowledge Academies. Each organization currently operates middle schools in Nashville.
LEAD Public Schools plans to propose adding high school grades (9-12) to its Cameron College Prep campus along with up to four new conversion schools over the next 1-4 years.
One proposal, from The Dream Academy, seeks a 6-12 grade configuration.
“This is a very early step in the process,” said Alan Coverstone, who heads the Innovation Office htat manages charter school authorizing for Metro Schools. “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, 2015.”
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 1, 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.
In the past year, examination of the potential fiscal impact of charter schools confirmed the district’s previously articulated priorities for schools that improve academic performance by converting management of low-performing schools and for schools located in areas where they can help to alleviate overcrowding from rapid student enrollment growth.
Submission of letters of intent to apply to open charter schools gives the Office of Innovation time 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 1 also provides opportunity for potential applicants to consider, develop, and adapt plans in order to strengthen their potential applications serve the articulated needs of MNPS students.