Statewide Charter School Incubator Announced for Nashville

Davidson County Metro Government Press Release, Dec. 8, 2009:

“Center for Charter School Excellence in Tennessee” to be developed by charter school expert from New Orleans

NASHVILLE – Mayor Karl Dean announced plans today to develop one of the nation’s first charter school incubators to operate statewide.

The incubator, named the Center for Charter School Excellence in Tennessee, will support and help fund the development of high-performing public charter schools in Metro Nashville, and expand to provide charter school incubation support in school districts across the state within three years.

“During the last State General Assembly, I, along with many others, strongly advocated for a state law that is more receptive to public charter schools,” Dean said. “The new law greatly expanded student eligibility for enrollment in charter schools and the number of charter schools allowed in Tennessee. We need to ensure that these schools are of the highest quality.”

Matt Candler, the former CEO of the successful charter school incubator New Schools for New Orleans, will lead the center’s startup as project manager. His work will include finding long-term leadership for the center.

“Matt is recognized as a leader in the field of public charter schools due to his longstanding work in New York City and New Orleans. His initial involvement will ensure the long-term success of the center,” Dean said.

Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education Dr. Tim Webb and Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools Dr. Jesse Register joined the mayor for today’s announcement and discussed the positive impact the center will have on education reform efforts in Nashville and Tennessee.

“Charter schools are an important partner in developing innovative practices and providing opportunities to serve low-performing students,” Webb said. “This incubator will help Nashville and the state deliver best practices to reform partners as we prepare all students to be college and career ready upon graduation.”

“We recognize the value of having high-quality and highly-effective charter schools that can help meet the diverse needs of students,” said Register. “By their very inception, charter schools require innovative and non-traditional instructional strategies and this incubator will help attract and build the very best not only for Nashville, but for districts across Tennessee.”

The center will partner with the national charter school development organization Building Excellent Schools to offer training through a year-long fellowship program for individuals seeking to become founders of high-performing public charter schools.

“Building Excellent Schools has developed a national reputation for creating excellent schools that prepare their kids for success in college,” Candler said. “The leaders they have trained are closing the achievement gap in dozens of schools across the country. We are honored to have them join us in the effort to close the achievement gap in Nashville and across Tennessee.”

The center will continue to provide support services for the new schools during their first year of operation, including interim assessments of student performance in all grades, governance training for board members, and operation and finance reviews.

In addition to supporting the development of public charter schools, the center will support the expansion of existing initiatives to improve teacher recruitment in Nashville.

“Great teachers are the backbone of any great school, so we will support Teach for America and The New Teacher Project as we build new schools, expanding their efforts in both our public charter and traditional schools,” Candler said.

To ensure its long-term viability, the center will be set up as an independent nonprofit organization. It will be initially funded through the Education First Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which Dean established last year to provide private financial support for new education reform efforts in Nashville.