I confess. I’m a nerd. I really like math & numbers and the things you can see in them. Looking at some figures has some valuable things to tell us about the future of public charter schools in Tennessee.
Currently, there are 40 authorized public charter schools in Tennessee. 3 of them are in Hamilton County (Chattanooga), 11 are in Nashville, and 25 are in Memphis and 1 is in Shelby County. Collectively, these charter schools will enroll about 9,000 students this year, representing just 0.9633% of all K-12 students in Tennessee.
Since public charter schools are currently concentrated in the 4 large urban counties – Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Shelby – which have a combined K-12 student population of 317,635, current public charter school enrollment represents 2.83% of this student population.
With recent changes to the charter school law, enrollment in public charter schools is expected to grow across the state and in the four large urban counties. It’s hard to determine the future with so many moving parts and different political and financial challenges to charter schools, but conservative estimates put public charter school enrollment for the 2015-2016 school year at 25,000 state-wide and 15,000 to 20,000 students in the 4 large urban counties.
Aside from issues that public charter schools face with facilities, transportation, we know that teacher quality is the biggest influence on driving student achievement. 20,000 public charter school students in the 4 largest counties would require nearly 1,333 teachers at present student to teacher ratios.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem that hard. Yet, anyone who has ever started a charter school can tell you it’s a big challenge to find 10 teachers that mission-align, fit the school’s culture, are highly-qualified & certified, and are willing to work extra hard to significantly boost student achievement. When 10 is a hard task, finding 1,333 high-impact, rock star teachers is a tall order.
Where will they all come from?