Released last month and online at the Department of Education's site just last week, the Tennessee Charter Schools Annual Report 2011 gives the starkest look yet at how a growing number of charter schools statewide is fueling economic resegregation within the state's public school system.
A two-page list of the state's 40 existing charter schools broken down by school system (pdf pages 19 and 20) reveals that the resegregation trend is most evident within the school system to have hosted the largest number of charter schools for the longest period, namely Memphis.
Against an Economically Disadvantaged (ED) rate of 84.6% of students within the Memphis City Schools system, 21 of that system's 25 charter schools reported school-level ED rates lower than the system rate.
The system's three lowest reported school-level ED rates among charters were at KIPP Memphis Collegiate High School (39%), KIPP DIAMOND Academy (31%), and Memphis Business Academy Elementary School (22%).
(Note that KIPP Foundation received a $50 million "scale up" grant from the federal "i3" program in December 2010 for the purpose of more quickly replicating its programs nationwide.)
Among Hamilton County Schools, where the system rate of ED students runs 60.8%, one of its three charters reported a lower rate. The school-level ED rate at Ivy Academy Incorporated runs 42%.
Among Davidson County Schools, where the system rate of ED students runs 75.0%, two of its eleven charters reported a lower rate. The school-level ED rates at Liberty Collegiate Academy and Nashville Prep run 60% and 71% respectively.
Meanwhile, at last week's Metro Nashville school board meeting, board members heard from 50 parents divided over Arizona-based Great Hearts Academies' plan to open five new charter schools there.
Per Peter Bezanson, chief academic officer for the chain:
“The reason we had the first open houses in West Nashville is because it was the West Nashville people who reached out to us,” he said. “The more I learned about Tennessee and about some of the freedoms of the new law … the more I realized Tennessee should be on the map for Great Hearts."
The chain's Veritas Prep in Phoenix is 88 percent white and Chandler Prep 67 percent white. It has one charter that is majority Hispanic students, according to state documents and Benzanson.
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