by Brian Washington
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The Nashville school board is showing support for recommended guidelines and standards designed to protect the public’s investment in charter schools and the educational futures of the students who attend them.
The Metropolitan Board of Public Education (MBPE) in Nashville voted 5-3 Thursday to approve a resolution in support of independent accountability and transparency standards for all city schools, including charter schools. Educators say the resolution passed thanks to the leadership of School Board Chair Sharon Gentry and support from board members Anna Shepherd, Dr. JoAnn Brannon, Amy Frogge, Will Pinkston, and Jill Speering.
The resolution specifically references the standards for charters released last year by the Annenberg Institute of School Reform (AISR), located at Brown University. The resolution will now undergo a legal review by the district to make sure that the Annenberg standards are compliant with state law. If they are, the standards will then be sent to the school board’s governance committee for implementation.
“We are very pleased that the Nashville Public Schools have adopted our accountability standards and policies to help ensure that their charter schools are fully transparent and accountable to the community they serve,” said Warren Simmons, AISR’s executive director. “We hope that Nashville becomes a model for other districts throughout the country.”
Charter schools are considered public schools, because they receive public funding, but operate differently than traditional public schools. By comparison, charters don’t have as much oversight and don’t follow the same rules and regulations designed to protect students, families, and communities.
The public has granted charter schools a level of autonomy that allows them to test theories of practice and try different strategies, which has led to many successes, but autonomy does not exempt them from the public’s right to expect the same accountability, transparency, democratic participation and compliance with civil rights laws that we require of all public institutions.
The MBPE in Nashville is one of the first legislative bodies in the country to take action in support of Annenberg’s charter standards. However, similar actions are being considered by governing bodies in several states across the nation intent on bolstering accountability and oversight for charters.
In a recent national poll of 1,000 registered voters, those who took the survey showed overwhelming support for measures to make charter schools more transparent and accountable. Survey participants registered strong support for anti-fraud measures, improving charter teacher training and qualifications, and making sure that traditional public schools are not hurt by charter schools.