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    Major Charter Operators Move Into Tennessee

    By Sean Cavanagh - Education Week -

    Charter schools are poised to make a major expansion in Tennessee, with some of the sector's biggest and best-known operators swooping into the state as part an effort designed to turn around struggling schools.

    State officials announced Monday that they have approved seven charter school management organizations to open new schools in the state. Over the next seven years, those organizations will open a total of 41 schools serving an estimated 15,000 students in the Achievement School District, a state program designed to improve low-achieving schools, which was created through the state's Race to the Top plan.

    The organizations approved to operate new charters in either Nashville or Memphis include KIPP, Rocketship Education, Aspire Public Schools, LEAD Public Schools, Capstone Education Group, and Gestalt Community Schools. The charter groups' work with begin with them opening nine new campuses in Memphis and Nashville during the 2013-2014 school year, with expansion to follow.

    Applicants to open schools through the ASD went through an independent screening process, which included interviews with members of the community and other reviews, state officials said. The goal of the ASD is focus on schools in the bottom 5 percent of performance and set them on a path toward improved achievement.

    "We have some of the best schools in the country competing to serve our students in Tennessee," said Malika Anderson, chief portfolio officer for Tennessee's ASD, said in a statement.

    Some of the operators who were approved to open new charters have a presence in Tennessee already.

    KIPP, for instance, runs schools in Nashville and Memphis and had plans for more in the works, before the state's announcement. (Nationwide, KIPP is in 20 states, plus the District of Columbia, and serves 33,000 students.) Other operators are new to the mid-South. Aspire Public Schools , which serves 12,000 at 34 schools, has been based solely in California to date. Rocketship Education is based in California, and it recently announced plans to expand to the Milwaukee school system. The charter operator also recently had charters approved in Indianapolis and New Orleans, a spokeswoman said.

    You can read the ASD's description of the various charter operators' plan for Memphis and Nashville here.