2018 PPI Score
School Choice Score: 60%
Education Savings Account
Tennessee enacted the nation’s fourth education savings account program in 2015. The program, which launched in 2016, gives parents of students with special needs access to an Individualized Education Account (IEA). An IEA can be used for a variety of educational expenses, including private school tuition, private tutoring, learning therapies and more.
Charter Schools Score: 75%
Tennessee earns a “C” in this round of rankings. Tennessee’s charter school sector is improving, as the achievement school district has increased the reach of charters beyond Memphis. Recent changes to Tennessee’s charter school law have drastically increased the number of charter schools that exist outside of Memphis, and charters have quickly taken hold in Nashville and the rest of the state. Factors that negatively impact Tennessee’s score include a reliance upon school districts for authorizing, a highly regulatory environment, and, as a consequence, slower than desirable growth of the sector.
- Law passed in 2002
- Number of charters: 111
- Estimated charter enrollment: 30,000 (down 10 percent from 2015-16)
- Tennessee does not cap the number of charter schools
- Virtual charter schools allowed
- Statute prohibits charter schools from contracting with EMOs
- A study by the University of Arkansas concluded that charter schools in Shelby County (Memphis) receive 9 percent more in per pupil funding than their traditional public school peers.
- Tennessee earns a 6 out of 15 for “authorizing.” In Tennessee, only two entities are able to authorize charter schools, local school districts and the Recovery School District (RSD). The RSD may only authorize in low performing school districts. In most of Tennessee, districts are the sole authorizers.
- Tennessee earns 13 out of 15 points for “growth.” This higher score is due to the absence of a cap on charter schools. However, there are provisions in Tennessee law that make it difficult for successful charter schools to expand; one example is a requirement that successful charters that wish to expand begin the application process anew each time.
- Tennessee receives 7 out of 20 points for “operations” because the state does not give charters blanket waivers from state rules and regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Instead, charter schools need to apply to the state for waivers from specific regulations. Additionally, the law mandates that charter school teachers be certified in the same manner as teachers in district schools. This limits hiring autonomy.
- Tennessee earns 9 out of 15 points for “funding equity.” Operational funding allocated to district charter schools is equal to the per-pupil state and local funds that districts receive. Funding is the same for RSD charters, but the local education agency (LEA), or district, pays the state 100 percent of the per-pupil share it would have received for a charter student, and that money is redirected to the charter. LEAs can charge charter school applicants up to $500 per application. The state provides a small amount of money (around $300 per student) for charter school facilities funding.
Teacher Quality Score: 85%
Delivering Well Prepared Teachers A-
Expanding the Pool of Teachers C
Identifying Effective Teachers B
Retaining Effective Teachers C+
Exiting Ineffective Teachers C+
Overall State Grade B