Seven Memphis charter schools could close in 2020 if they don’t improve, based on Shelby County Schools’ first report card comparing its schools.
The district’s newly released school performance scorecard rated seven of its 51 charters below 2 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the top score. Under a new accountability system for charter schools, those that fall below 2 automatically begin a review process and must improve within two years or face revocation of their charters by the school board.
The schools in jeopardy are:
- Dubois Elementary Arts & Technology
- Memphis Delta Preparatory
- Excel Center
- Dubois High Arts & Technology
- Dubois Middle Leadership & Public Policy
- Granville T. Woods Academy of Innovation
- KIPP Memphis Collegiate Elementary
In all, the seven publicly funded, privately managed schools serve 2,285 students. Three of the schools are operated by W.E.B. DuBois Consortium of Charter Schools, founded by Willie Herenton, the former superintendent of Memphis City Schools.
The scorecard compares test scores, academic growth, suspension and attendance rates, and whether students are prepared for life after high school, using data from the State Department of Education.
The main goal is to provide information to parents, community members, and policymakers and not to punish low-performing schools, said Brad Leon, chief of strategy and performance management. The exception is charter schools, where consequences are attached for a low score under a new accountability system developed by district and charter leaders.
But the schools on this year’s scorecard could close even sooner than 2020.
The state recently warned all seven schools that they are in danger of appearing on Tennessee’s “priority list” of schools in the bottom 5 percent, based on their performance on last year’s standardized tests. The Department of Education will release the list this fall, and charters on it will automatically be closed. Two other Memphis charters — Dubois High Leadership & Public Policy and City University School Girls Preparatory — are also on the warning list and in danger of being shuttered by the state, but didn’t score low enough to begin Shelby County’s review process.
Here’s an outline of the new review process under Shelby County’s scorecard:
- Charter schools that do not meet minimum expectations are notified by the district.
- Within a month, school leaders meet with district administrators to present an action plan. (The seven schools on this year’s list must submit their plan by Feb. 12.)
- District administrators may check in as the plan is executed but give the charter school full autonomy to make the improvements they deem necessary.
- If the charter school does not meet expectations for a second consecutive school year, they will be notified.
- The school must develop a second action plan.
- If the charter school does not meet expectations for a third consecutive school year, district leadership will recommend to the school board that its charter be revoked.
The process stands in stark contrast to the school board’s 2016 decision to revoke the charters of three Memphis schools. Their recommended closure came with little warning, and charter leaders complained that the process was rushed and haphazard. They also noted that some of the district’s lowest-performing charters were not scrutinized. The State Board of Education later upheld the Memphis board’s ruling, but criticized Shelby County Schools for its process.
In this year’s scorecard, 10 new charter schools did not receive a score because either they don’t have a third-grade class to measure state test scores or have not tested yet.
And two high schools — Dubois High Leadership & Public Policy and Freedom Preparatory Academy — did not have enough data to generate a score on how well they prepare students to enroll in college or directly enter the workforce because they did not have a graduating class in 2016, where the data was pulled. Freedom Preparatory Academy was not in danger of slipping below the threshold, but Dubois High Leadership & Public Policy was close.