June 29, 2022
This week the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission took action that hopefully paves the way for a better relationship between Metro Nashville Public Schools and public charter school operators vying to offer students more choice. The commission voted to overturn the decision by Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) Board of Education that would have closed Knowledge Academy Middle School, a public charter middle school in Antioch. Closing the school would have displaced all students to lower-performing middle schools in the zone. In reference to MNPS Board of Education, Commissioner Eddie Smith stated,
“Quit playing games…quit discriminating on these public schools just because you don’t like them.”
The commission concluded that the entire appeal process could have been avoided had MNPS effectively communicated with the charter school operator at the beginning of the charter renewal process. The commission highlighted failure by MNPS to provide a required renewal performance report to the charter school operator as part of the charter renewal application process, which may have led to a different decision. Additionally, the charter school operator did not receive notification from MNPS of their intentions to deny its charter renewal until November 2021. This was past the deadline to file an amended charter petition to address student displacement by consolidating all three Knowledge Academy schools under one charter.
That’s exactly what the charter operator requested the following month, by sending MNPS a letter asking to a consolidate all of its charters to prevent closure of Knowledge Academy Middle School. MNPS provided no response to that request.
In January 2022 after two deferred votes, the MNPS Board of Education voted to not renew the Knowledge Academy Middle School charter. As a result, the operators filed an emergency petition with MNPS to consolidate its three schools under one charter as was requested earlier by letter. This emergency petition was denied at the April 26th MNPS board meeting. During the same meeting, MNPS board member John Little asked for clarification of the charter school’s performance in relation to neighboring middle schools. In response, the MNPS Office of Charter Schools only offered district-wide performance comparisons, which did not accurately portray the charter schools’ superior performance to similar zone schools in Antioch.
In a public hearing earlier this month, Knowledge Academies management organization provided the commission with 2022 TCAP performance and growth scores, demonstrating that its charter schools were outperforming all other district schools in the zone at the time of the MNPS denial this April. According to the commission’s amendment appeal presentation, the charter operator has earned a TVAAS 3 level for Knowledge Academy Middle and KA @ The Crossings and TVAAS 2 for KA High School, which is higher than all surrounding public schools.
The commission decision to overturn the MNPS denial exemplifies the importance of regular and clear communication between local school districts and charter school operators. Families in Tennessee deserve quality school options. Effective communication between local school districts and charter management organizations is a key component of offering quality choice school options across the state. Several school boards are currently considering amended charter applications to start new charter schools across the state. TSS will continue to monitor and report those decisions here, in our newsletter First Bell, and through social media outlets. Stay informed about issues like these by signing up for TSS email notifications and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.