The proportion and number of students enrolled in charter schools is increasing in Memphis and around the country, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual update on the “market share” of charter schools in various cities.
Six percent of 104,959 public school students in Memphis City Schools attended publicly-funded, independently run charter schools in the 2012-13 school year. (The numbers are from before the legacy Memphis City Schools merged with legacy Shelby County Schools.)
In 2012-13, 6,756 students in Memphis were enrolled in charter schools. That’s 207 more students than in 2011-12, an increase of 3 percent from last year.
While Nashville was not on this year’s list, the NAPCS anticipates that it will be featured in next year’s report, given trends in enrollment in the city, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.
Nationally, the number of students enrolled in charter schools increased by 225,000, to 2.3 million students. That’s one in every 20 public school students, according to the NAPCS.
Supporters of charter schools say that increased autonomy allows the schools to be more efficient and innovative than regular district schools. Critics have raised concerns about charter schools’ impact on regular school systems and which students attend the schools, among others issues. Research has shown that the quality of the schools varies.
Neither Tennessee city has anywhere close to the number of charter schools present in some other urban areas. According to the report, 135 cities have at least 10 percent of students enrolled in charter schools. In New Orleans, fully 79 percent of students are enrolled in charter schools, and in Detroit and D.C., more than 40 percent of students attend such schools.
In Nashville, plans to expand the sector have been fraught with contention, but the city is likely to see more charter schools join the current crop of 21. In Memphis, there were just three charter schools in 2003, but there are now more than 40. The state-run Achievement School District also authorizes charter schools. This infographic from Education Week illustrates the growth in the number of such schools in the Memphis.