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    Frequently asked questions about charter schools

    The Tennessean -

    What is a charter school?

    A charter school is a publicly financed school that is run by a nonprofit organization instead of a traditional local school district. The school is given the freedom to create its own curriculum, but its students are subject to the same standardized tests that traditional public school students take.

    Who can attend a charter school?

    After a change in state law last year, any student in Tennessee may attend a charter school. Initially, charters were open only to students who were failing or who were zoned to attend a failing school. In 2009, the law was changed so that students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunches — about three-fourths of the students in Davidson County schools — could choose to attend charters. The law was changed to open enrollment in 2011.

    How many charter schools are there in Tennessee?

    There were 40 charter schools operating in Tennessee for the 2011-12 school year. They served 9,811 students. Of the 40 charter schools, 25 were in Memphis, 11 were in Nashville, three were in Hamilton County and one was in Shelby County outside of Memphis.

    How are charter schools approved?

    A local school board generally approves charter school applications. If a charter operator has its application denied, it may appeal to the state Board of Education.

    What is the Achievement School District?

    The Achievement School District is an office located within the state Department of Education. Created with federal Race to the Top funds, the ASD has a mission of taking the bottom 5 percent of Tennessee’s public schools and putting them in the top 25 percent. The ASD also has the authority to approve charter schools under state law.