Charter-school spotlight shines on Memphis

A story in today's Wall Street Journal explores how states, under pressure from the U.S. Education Department, are expanding opportunities for students to enroll in charter schools, public schools that are run by autonomous groups and that trade increased accountability for greater freedom. Power Center Academy, a charter school in Memphis' Hickory Hill area, gets prominent mention in the story.

Tennessee is among seven states that recently lifted restrictions on charter schools, expanding eligibility to low-income families and increasing the maximum number of charter schools in the Memphis City Schools district from 20 to 35. (Eligibility had been restricted under the 2002 charter-schools law to students from other charter schools, or students who were either low-performers themselves or went to low-performing schools.)

Parents in Memphis already are taking advantage, according to the WSJ story:

Power Center Academy, where Ms. Byrd's son is now enrolled in sixth grade, is a new middle school in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Memphis. Students don uniforms, each gets a laptop, and they learn business concepts along with their other classes.

The school had a waiting list of 30 families who wanted to get in but couldn't because of the existing law. After the law changed a few weeks before the first day of school, Power Center leader Yetta Lewis made a "mad race for the phone" and called those applicants whom she had previously turned away. "I've had parents shout and scream" with joy, she says.

I was puzzled to find that the front page of Power Center's Web site has not been updated to include the new, looser eligibility rules.



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