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    10 Memphis charter schools outperform neighborhood schools, study finds

    Jane Roberts - The Commercial Appeal -

    Ten charter schools in Memphis outperform traditional neighborhood schools, according to a Stanford University study that compares charter students to their "virtual twins" in other schools.

    The schools are: Power Center Academy High, Freedom Preparatory Academy, Promise Academy, Power Center Middle Academy, Veritas College Prep, Star Academy, Circles of Success Learning Academy, KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle, Soulsville and Memphis Academy of Health Sciences High School.

    "We are excited. We were high performers last year, and we are continuing the trajectory," said Tom Beazley, head of Promise Academy, an elementary school in North Memphis.

    In five other Memphis charters — KIPP Memphis Collegiate High, Memphis Academy of Health Sciences Middle, City University of Liberal Arts, Southern Avenue Charter Academy and City University Boys Prep — Stanford researchers found little difference in achievement. And in eight others, students in traditional schools outperformed the charters. Those charters are: Memphis Business Academy High, Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, Memphis Business Academy Middle, Southern Avenue Charter Middle, Memphis School of Excellence, Omni Prep Middle, New Consortium of Law & Business Memphis and New Consortium of Law & Business Shelby County.

    The research was done by Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). Its groundbreaking research in 2009 showed 17 percent of charter schools reported academic gains significantly above traditional public schools, while 37 percent of charter schools performed below the traditional schools.

    CREDO compares a charter student to a group of statistical equals or virtual twin in a nearby public school.

    Critics say the methodology was flawed because the quality of neighboring schools could vary. A charter compared to a traditional school likely would score lower than the same charter compared to scores in a low-performing school.

    "That is why we say it is just one measure of quality of schools," said Margo Roen, director of new schools in the statewide Achievement School District.

    "There are a lot of measures and this is not to say that one is more important. It is another data point telling us interesting information about the quality of a school."

    The ASD will recruit charters in the highest-performing category to take over public schools performing in the bottom 5 percent. Those charters already approved to work in the ASD were eligible to apply for $1 million in federal grants to cover expansion costs.

    The winners will be announced in early October.

    The funds are part of an $8 million "investing in innovation" grant Tennessee received last year through its cooperation with the Louisiana Recovery School District.

    "Promise is not interested in joining," Beazley said. "If we join the ASD, our students would have to come from the bottom 5 percent of schools. We have students from 20 schools at Promise and many are not in the bottom 5 percent. We would lose many students and we don't want to do that."