Image Credit: Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence / Facebook
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
Hamilton County public charter schools are being required to redo their contracts with the school district and include a performance framework in order to be in compliance with state law. The performance framework consists of language that details the academic, financial, and operational success metrics that will be used to evaluate them.
An evaluation of Hamilton County Schools’ charter review process by the State Board of Education led to the requirement that the contracts be amended. This was required of all eight charter schools.
In 2018, the state passed a law requiring that charter schools include the performance framework in their contracts. The State Board of Education provided a suggested framework that could be adopted or revised to meet each school’s specific needs and goals.
School districts are supposed to use this framework each year to determine whether a charter school is performing effectively.
“We are required to annually review each charter based on this state framework,” Kelly Coffelt, coordinator for the district’s charter schools, explained to the Board of Education.
When asked for an explanation as to why the contracts had not been updated already, Coffelt blamed it on a staffing issue.
“There were a lot of documents and policies and routines that had not been developed,” Coffelt said. “As we grew with more charter schools, we just didn’t have a person dedicated to doing that work. So, some things were not being put into place.”
Charter schools wanting to open in Tennessee must go through a process of approval by their local school district. The local school board can approve or deny an application. If an application is denied, the charter school can appeal that decision to the state’s public charter school commission, which ultimately can overrule the local board’s decision.
According to Superintendent Justin Robertson, Hamilton County School has never denied a charter application.
While the local board does have to approve the charter schools, those schools function independently from the district. They have their own procedures for hiring and create their own curriculum, although it must meet all Tennessee state standards.
In the state’s last audit of Hamilton County’s charter evaluation process in 2021, the district rated 1.83 out of 4, which is considered “approaching satisfactory.” The district was required to submit an action plan to correct issues by January.
School Board Chairwoman Tiffanie Robinson of Chattanooga wanted to know why the board was not made aware of the evaluation from the state. Other board members noted that, even though charter schools are autonomous, those students are still part of the district and they still have a responsibility to them. Coffelt was in agreement.
“They’re our students, our data,” Coffelt said. “They are part of our districtwide data. And that’s why it’s important that we follow these things.”
She also noted that, while charter schools must send benchmark testing scores to the state, they are not required to submit those scores to the district. This makes it more difficult for the district to monitor the progress of those students in charter schools.
The Hamilton County School Board will vote on those contract amendments on Thursday.