A state governance body that oversees Tennessee’s lowest-performing schools has authorized three organizations to open publicly financed, privately led charter schools in Nashville.
Tennessee’s Achievement School District, comprised of 85 schools statewide, announced Monday it has contracted with Nashville-based LEAD Public Schools, California-based Rocketship Education and KIPP Nashville to serve Metro students who attend some of the district’s historically struggling schools.
“We’re incredibly excited that these local and national charter leaders have stepped up to join the Achievement School District and serve our communities,” ASD superintendent Chris Barbic said in a statement. “Tennessee is becoming the epicenter of educational transformation.”
LEAD is authorized to convert one of nine traditional Metro schools that fall under the ASD into a new charter school beginning in the 2013-14 school year. It is still unclear which Metro school LEAD will take over.
LEAD, which has already converted Nashville’s former Cameron Middle School into a charter, is in the process of doing the same at Metro’s Brick Church Pike Middle School. With the ASD’s latest authorization, LEAD will soon have three Nashville charter conversions in its portfolio.
KIPP Nashville and Rocketship are both set to open new schools that will serve students who are zoned for ASD Metro schools –– KIPP Nashville during the 2013-14 school year and Rocketship during the 2014-15 school year. Locations for both schools have not yet been determined.
Monday’s announcement reaffirms the enormous role charter schools are playing in the education reform efforts of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration.
In all, the ASD announced Monday that it had authorized seven charter organizations to open schools in Nashville and Memphis. Nine campuses across both cities are set to open during the 2013-14 school year. The plan is for the seven charter organizations to occupy 41 campuses in both cities collectively by 2020.
Rocketship, which currently lacks a Nashville presence, intends to eventually operate eight charter campuses in Davidson County, according to ASD spokesman Jeremy Jones.
For KIPP, the ASD’s authorization comes one week after the Metro school board denied its charter application  to open a new Whites Creek-area school. KIPP Nashville Executive Director Randy Dowell has said he plans to appeal that decision.
KIPP’s proposal that ran into resistance with the Metro school board is for a new school separate from its newly authorized ASD school. KIPP currently operates a charter school in East Nashville.
Under revamped state law, the ASD has authority to contract charter organizations within the sphere of schools that it oversees. Schools that fall in the ASD –– 85 in all –– are the bottom 5 percent of schools in student achievement across Tennessee.
In Metro, ASD schools are: Bailey Middle; Brick Church Middle; Buena Vista Elementary Enhanced Option; Gra-Mar Middle; Jere Baxter Middle; John Early Paideia Middle Magnet; Napier Elementary Enhanced Option; Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary; and Smithson-Craighead Middle, a charter school.