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tennessean.com
April 25, 2013

Tennessee Charter School Incubator to expand services

By Lisa Fingeroot

The Tennessee group known for helping its participants start successful charter schools is branching out to help other charter operators start second schools.

Greg Thompson, executive director of the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, announces his organization’s “Replication and Expansion Program, or REP” this morning.

The incubator began in 2009 to recruit potential charter school operators and help them prepare to open high-quality schools in Nashville and Memphis. Nashville schools that opened with the backing of the incubator outscored Metro Nashville Public Schools by at least 10 percentage points in every subject tested on the 2012 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program test.

An expansion of services allows the group to “make a bigger impact and help a growing market,” Thompson said.

The incubator was already organizing training developed to create charter school leaders and realized the same services could be used by existing charter operators who need to find people to operate second locations, Thompson said.

The group is already working with Freedom Prep, which opened in Memphis in 2009, and Promise Academy, which opened in Memphis in 2007.

“We’re starting off with these two right now and we’ll grow it from there,” Thompson said. The incubator is currently working with those schools on an “at cost” basis and has not made any decisions about how it might charge subsequent participants. The fellows chosen for training each year by the incubator do not pay fees.

As it does with the fellows chosen for training, Thompson expects the incubator will establish standards for the clients it takes.

“We will make sure they are high achieving,” he said. “Most organizations that are seeking to grow are the ones that are doing well. If they’re not doing well, the chances of getting approved for a second school are not high. Obviously, we don’t want to help someone grow that we don’t think will serve students well.”

Thompson is well aware of the incubator’s current reputation for turning out successful charter school leaders and said so much of that reputation rests on the selection of the right people. “Training is very helpful, but if you don’t do the selection well, it’s hard to overcome,” he added.

Reach Lisa Fingeroot at 259-8892 or atLFingeroot@Tennessean.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaFingeroot

 


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