Days after the Metro school board approved another charter school, some parents are wondering why charter schools have become so popular in recent years, and whether there is really a difference between traditional public schools and charters.
"I think we pair academics with culture, and so that gives students an overall experience," said Dr. Schunn Turner, school director of LEAD Academy Middle School.
Turner said while charter schools teach the same Tennessee curriculum, their methods are very different than what one might find at a traditional public school.
She should know, because she spent the past 15 years as a principal in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
"A lot of the testing that schools do relates to material they've covered to assess what they've learned over the year. We are assessing college-ready skills," Turner said.
To drive home the message, the academy's students, some as young as 10, routinely visit college campuses.
"Our students have that experience, not just talking about college, not just filling out that college application, but we are actually going to go on visiting a college, so that it's nothing new. It's just what's expected," Turner said.
That's one of the many reasons Kim Martin enrolled her child at LEAD.
"We want to send him to a school that would be more engaging, bring out his creativity, bring out his leadership," Martin said.
It's a direction Clint Wilson, principal at Glencliff High School, says Metro schools are also moving in.
"We're really trying to give kids ownership of their learning," Wilson said. "A lot of that focus is knowing and giving feedback to each individual kid."
This year, the district rolled out its Literacy Revolution program, infusing reading and comprehension into every facet of the curriculum, from math to science and even music.
The result at Glencliff has been a 25-point gain in math scores, as 66 percent of its students are now testing at proficient or advanced levels.
Right now, the district has 17 charter schools, and next year it will have 21.
"I would say parents really take a look at the academic, the social and emotional needs of their child, and then make a decision," Turner said.
MNPS will host its First Choice Festival on Sept. 23 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the state fairgrounds.
Representatives from Metro schools, including magnet and charter schools, will be on hand to answer questions and help students and their parents explore their options.
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