The latest enrollment numbers from state-run charter schools help to explain why they’re battling for information about prospective students in Nashville and especially Memphis, where under-enrollment is a citywide challenge.
A Chalkbeat analysis shows that 21 schools in Tennessee’s 32-school Achievement School District have lost enrollment from last year, based on ASD data from the 20th day of this school year.
ASD charter operators say they rely on student contact information to send postcards and make calls to families in their neighborhood zones.
“Families come to us regularly throughout the school year and say that they thought our school was closed. They didn’t know we were an option,” said Megan Quaile, executive director of Green Dot Tennessee.
In Memphis, Green Dot requested student contact information in July, but Shelby County Schools refused to comply. The response contributed to a dispute between the state and its two largest traditional districts over whether they are legally required to hand over that information under Tennessee’s new charter school law. In Nashville, LEAD has made a similar request of Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools. School board members in both cities argue that using student information for recruitment goes against the intent of the state law.
California-based Green Dot operates four ASD schools in Memphis, all of which are under-enrolled and saw their enrollment dip this year.
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has ordered both districts to comply with requests from Green Dot and LEAD by Sept. 25, or face consequences that could include a loss of funding.
McQueen cited this week’s opinion by the state attorney general that sided with the charter schools and stated that information-sharing doesn’t violate a federal student privacy law. School boards in both Memphis have argued they had the right under the federal law to restrict who gets the information and for what reasons.
The ASD isn’t the only school system struggling with under-enrollment in Memphis, where the population declined by 1.7 percent from 2015 to 2016. Shelby County Schools has closed at least 21 schools since 2012, citing in part too many buildings and too few students in an increasingly competitive education landscape.
The chart below shows enrollment so far this year, compared to November of the previous year.
|SCHOOL||2016 ENROLLMENT||2017 ENROLLMENT||CHANGE|
|Raleigh Egypt Middle||205||100||-51.2|
|Georgian Hills Achievement||324||258||-20.4|
|Grad Academy Memphis||536||468||-12.7|
|MLK College Prep||625||564||-9.8|
|Brick Church College Prep||338||326||-3.6|
|KIPP Memphis Achievement Elementary||448||445||-0.7|
|Libertas School of Memphis||220||219||-0.5|
|Freedom Prepatory Academy||567||578||1.9|
|KIPP Memphis Prep. Elementary/Middle||611||699||14.4|
|Spring Hill Elementary||281||354||26.0|
|Neely’s Bend College Prep||255||441||72.9|
|Partners Community Prep||50||N/A|
*Hanley and Coleman elementary also house middle school students. Their numbers reflect total enrollment for their buildings.