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Charter Schools in Tennessee

Charter School

September 2023

The Tennessee General Assembly first authorized charter schools to operate in the state in 2002. As of the 2023-24 school year, more than 100 charter schools operate in the state under six authorizers:

  • Achievement School District
  • Hamilton County Schools
  • Knox County Schools
  • Memphis-Shelby County Schools
  • Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Tennessee Public Charter School Commission

One charter school is scheduled to open under a seventh authorizer – Rutherford County – for the 2024-25 school year.

This website includes a number of resources about charter schools in Tennessee.

Author: Dana Spoonmore

This infographic provides a simple breakdown of charter schools in Tennessee, including the requirements for operating charter schools, funding mechanisms, accountability measures, and the number of Tennessee charter schools and authorizers. 

Author: David Melendez

The Tennessee Public Charter School Dashboard provides useful information about public charter schools in Tennessee. Select a charter school from the drop-down list for information on student enrollment, student demographics, and grades served. 

Schools are categorized by charter school authorizer, the entity responsible for their operation. A link to the selected charter school’s website is provided.

Notes on the Data

Data shown is for the 2021-22 school year. 

Charter schools that closed during or after the 2021-22 school year are not shown on the dashboard. Charter schools included that opened during the 2022-23 school year are listed but do not show enrollment information.

Due to data suppression laws in place to protect identifiable data for minors, placeholder percentages are used in some cases in the data on student demographics.   

School profile data from the Tennessee Department of Education was used to create the dashboard.

Last updated: August 1, 2023

Author: David Melendez

This brief outlines the application process for establishing new charter schools in Tennessee. A charter school sponsor’s application must include details regarding their proposed academic, operational, and financial plans and capacity. Authorizers (e.g., local boards of education) review applications and recommend them for approval or denial through a process detailed in the brief. If the application is denied, charter school sponsors may amend their application for reconsideration. If the amended application is denied, the sponsor may appeal the denial to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission.

Author: David Melendez

This brief details the appeal process Tennessee charter school sponsors can pursue if their charter school application has been denied twice by a local board of education. To appeal, a charter school sponsor must submit its denied application to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission (TPCSC). Upon receiving an appeal, the TPCSC reviews the denied application, interviews members of the proposed school’s governing board, and conducts a public hearing. Following this, the Executive Director of the TPCSC issues a recommendation to the TPCSC to grant or deny the appeal. The TPCSC then decides whether to grant or deny the appeal. 

Author: Dana Spoonmore

The Tennessee Public Charter School Commission (TPCSC) is the state-level appellate authorizer of charter schools in Tennessee. This brief supplies information on the function of the TPCSC as an appellate authorizer as well as its role in the charter school application and appeals process. As of March 2023, nine schools operate under the authority of the TPCSC, and three more TPCSC schools are set to open in 2024-25.

Author: Dana Spoonmore

This brief provides information about the Achievement School District (ASD), Tennessee’s state-run school district that provides operational oversight for selected priority schools (i.e., schools with TCAP scores in the bottom 5 percent statewide or schools with a graduation rate of less than 67 percent for the most recent school year). Once a school is selected for placement in the ASD, the ASD may either directly operate the school or recruit a charter operator to manage it; as of 2023, all ASD schools are administered by a charter operator.

The brief covers academic growth expectations for ASD schools and includes a breakdown of the number of students and schools within the ASD.