A Tale of Two Charter Policies

Kentucky has zero charter schools, Tennessee has many but what does it mean?

Tennessee has moved aggressively to privatize-by-charter since a state law allowing charter schools was first passed back in 2002.

The past decade has seen a particular focus on charter schools as a way to provide opportunities for students from low income backgrounds.

Kentucky, however, has zero charter schools and a judge there recently found that charter schools do not meet the definition of “public schools” for the purpose of state education funding.

The states have taken different approaches – and the results suggest that Tennessee just might be on the wrong track.

What’s happened in the intervening 10 years? Has Tennessee closed the gap with Kentucky when it comes to economically disadvantaged kids?

Actually, no.

In both 8th-grade math and reading, the gap with Kentucky has expanded. Tennessee trailed Kentucky by 2 points in 8th-grade math in 2013 but now trails by 7. In reading, Kentucky went from being 2 points ahead to being 6 points ahead.

In 4th grade in both math and reading, the gap between the states remained the same (+3 for Kentucky in math, +8 for Kentucky in reading).

Turns out, another decade of pushing for privatization has not helped those Tennessee kids most in need of help.

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