June 25, 2012

Two Metro Charter Schools Approved

Student looks at camera and smiles in parking lot as students arrive to school

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Of the ten organizations that submitted proposals to become charter schools in Metro Nashville, only two were approved by the Metro Nashville Public Schools board.

In a meeting held Tuesday evening, the Metro School board voted to deny applications to Excel Academy, Fusion Connection, Antioch Prep, Gifted Achieves, Great Hearts Academies, Genesis Transitions, Purpose Prep Academy, and KIPP Academy Nashville.

MNPS director Dr. Jesse Register said he was caught off guard by the board’s denial of Kipp Academy’s plan to expand.

“I was surprised at the recommendation. I think Mr. North raised questions about performance and we’ll see how quickly the test scores come back,” Dr. Register said after the meeting.

The board voted to approve Intrepid Prep Academy, saying that the school showed a strong business plan, a curriculum plan that aligned with current standard, clear goals and a community school model. The school would serve students in the Antioch and Apollo area. The school was stated as being unique for the area due to its community school model.

Nashville Classical, the other charter school approved by the board would begin with a school incubator in East Nashville before moving to its permanent home in North Nashville. According to school officials Nashville Classical would offer a curriculum focused on high quality elementary capacity with a seamless transition from elementary to middle school.

“We are aligned to the priorities of Metro Nashville public schools has for children. We’re prepared to open. And last of all we have a researched based and really proven model,” said Charles Friedman with Nashville Classical School.

One focus of Tuesday night’s meeting was an Arizona group called Great Hearts Academies. Leaders with Great Hearts had been pushing to create a charter school in the West Nashville area, starting with a K–9 school and later expanding into a high school. Some in the community feared that the Great Hearts Charter School would only allow students from the affluent areas of West Nashville, shutting out low-income students of future educational opportunities.

“They have a sustained track record of doing that and there is really no reason we shouldn’t have provided that to the students and families of Nashville,” said Great Hearts supporter Jack Harrington.

At the school board meeting the application for Great Hearts was denied, citing that since a location for the school has not been determined it would be impossible to evaluate the potential student population.

“There is no basis in our procedures for approving five charter schools at once, as they have made clear is their plan. The school plan does satisfy the priorities. A “neighborhood schools” approach to diversity does not align with our mission and vision” said Alan Coverstone.

Most of the other schools that were denied applications were cited as having incomplete curriculum, limited strategies or failing to fall in line with current Metro School’s standards.

Complete list of Charter School’s denied application:

Excel Academy—Adult school, 18+ to serve 550 students. Recommend denial because of lack of curriculum plan, limited strategies for EL & disabilities. No recruiting plan articulated. No professional development plan. Funding request related to allocation of funds that does not align with the state process.

Fusion Connection—9-12 school with blended learning model & 250 students. Recommend denial because of incomplete curriculum design, no plans for EL or disabilities, signs of incomplete attention and adherence to detail, limited board experience, incomplete budget details, plans for the blended model are insufficient.

Antioch Prep—K-5 proposal with 360 student capacity. Reasons for denial – Evidence for capacity does not meet the standard for approval. Guidelines issued by the state were not followed. No focus on measurable student achievement outcomes. No alignment with TN standards or common core standards or an understanding of the accountability system.

Gifted Achievers—K-6 school in North Nashville with 224 student capacity. Recommend denial because of no specifics or details for curriculum, no plan for English Learners, no details for middle or high school learners, inadequate professional development plans, no protection of student rights in the discipline plan, budget lacks detail and was difficult to analyze.

Great Hearts Academy—K-12 school with 917 students with non-specific location. There is no way to evaluate student population or location without specifics of location. There is no basis in our procedures for approving five charter schools at once, as they have made clear is their plan. The school plan does satisfy the priorities. A “neighborhood schools” approach to diversity does not align with our mission and vision.

Genesis Transitions—Ages 17-22 for students with disabilities to assist in life training and transitions. They would build in Metro Center. Recommend denial because the application addresses a different set of services than described prior.

Purpose Prep Academy—K-4 with 240 students in East Nashville. Recommend denial because the program has not yet come fully to life. Many pieces are in place. But the implementation and design of an org that can open a school are not quite there.

KIPP Academy Nashville—KIPP Middle School, 5-8, 296 students. Despite a recommendation to approve the school, the School board voted to deny the schools application based on 2010-2011 test scores from the current KIPP Academy, which failed to meet Metro School standards.