Sixteen charter schools in Memphis would be in danger of closing in two years under a stricter screening process proposed for low-performing schools.
Together, the 16 schools enroll about 5,500 students who would need to find a new school if the rule change is approved and the school’s test scores don’t improve in two years. That’s about 30% of charter school students in Shelby County Schools and would be the most schools at once to be monitored for improvement in recent years. The Memphis district and its charter schools openly compete for students and the state and local government money that follows them.
Shelby County Schools board members are set to discuss the proposal at their work session Tuesday, with a vote scheduled for the following week.
For three of the charter schools in danger of closing, if the proposal is approved, it would be their second time on the district’s watchlist this year. Three out four KIPP schools are also on the watchlist, leaving the network with one school in the district if they close.
The district ranks charter schools on a 5-point scale, with 5 being the highest. Under the proposal, when charter schools receive a score of 3 or less, they are flagged for improvement, putting them on a path to losing their charter in two years if their test results do not increase. Currently, scores below a 2 trigger improvement plans.
Charter school leaders have long complained that they do not have enough notice when test scores endanger them of closing. As a result, the district created new guidelines through its policy approved last summer.
Under the current process, just one charter school would be eligible for an improvement plan. District staff said the change in scoring would be similar to the state’s priority list of schools that need improvement. They added that the change would align with district policy that requires a score of 3 or better for charter schools to enroll more students or change its agreement with the district.
Below is a list of charter schools that would be required to create an improvement plan based on 2018-19 scores if the school board approves the rule change. The list could change when the district releases its updated scorecard, but that is unlikely since state tests were canceled this year. Results of the district’s scorecard are included.
- Southern Avenue: 2.98
- Memphis Academy of Health Sciences High: 2.97
- Memphis Academy of Health Sciences Middle: 2.94
- Power Center Academy Middle Southeast: 2.71
- Promise Academy: 2.71
- City University Girls Preparatory: 2.67
- Granville T. Woods Academy of Innovation: 2.67
- Kaleidoscope School of Memphis: 2.63
- KIPP Memphis Academy Middle: 2.59
- KIPP Memphis Collegiate Elementary: 2.58
- Veritas College Preparatory: 2.54
- Memphis Business Academy Middle: 2.48
- Memphis College Preparatory: 2.32
- Memphis Delta Preparatory: 2.19
- Power Center Academy Elementary: 2.11
- KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle: 1.99
The decision is one of three charter school issues set for a Shelby County Schools board vote next Tuesday. The district oversees 57 charter schools and the 18,250 students who attend them. The votes cast at the April 28 meeting will be the first since the district closed because of coronavirus concerns more than a month ago.
In another charter school recommendation, district staff want the school board to reject four new charter school applications for 2021. Rejected applicants can revise their petition and return for a final vote later this year. Denials in the first round of voting is not unusual.
And district staff are recommending approval for four of seven charter schools seeking to amend their contracts with the district to add more students, change their location, or shift their academic focus.
The school board is scheduled to meet virtually at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday for its work session to discuss items members will vote on the following week. You can access the livestream on the district’s radio and TV station 88.5FM and C19TV (on Comcast cable), the board’s website, the Voice of SCS, Facebook, or Twitter. There is no public comment at work sessions.