those students achieved higher proficiency rates than ED peers in traditional public schools . Of the 13 charters that received the 2015 Reward School designation for ranking in the top 5 percent of all schools in the state on academic achievement and growth , all served student populations at least 70 percent ED . 48 These data show that different approaches to schooling can produce positive results — especially among students with the greatest needs .
Underscoring Tennessee ’ s leadership in fostering innovative approaches to schooling , the state received in 2016 one of eight US Department of Education state grants to expand high-performing charter schools . This $ 20 million will support starting new charter schools , helping high-quality operators share their best practices with other schools , and training school systems in authorizing practices for public charters . 49
Much of Tennessee ’ s success lies in its system of charter authorizing and governing . Charter school authorizers and governing boards play a key role in setting high expectations and holding schools accountable for those expectations . 50 In March 2014 , state lawmakers approved a measure that allows the State Board of Education to review and authorize charter schools previously denied by local school boards within counties with the highest number of failing schools in the state . 51 To support the board ’ s oversight role , the General Assembly passed and the governor signed legislation in 2016 allowing the board to collect an authorizer fee of up to 4 percent from the charter schools they have authorized . 52
SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT . Tennessee ’ s approach to improving persistently low-performing schools is centered on enabling districts and schools to design strategies based on the unique needs of their students . This focus on local empowerment is reinforced by ESSA , which provides states and districts greater flexibility to identify and implement school improvement strategies . As part of the ESSA draft implementation plan , which was released in December 2016 , TDOE will continue two primary interventions to support Priority Schools : the Achievement School District ( ASD ) and the district-led Innovation Zones ( iZones ). However , the pathways to and supports for those interventions are being refined . The state ’ s draft ESSA plan includes a new school improvement continuum that would allow custom interventions for Priority Schools based on factors including length of time in their current intervention models . Districts are also creating custom interventions to meet the needs of their students . For example , in April 2016 , Shelby County Schools announced the launch of a pilot Empowerment Zone . This pilot zone includes schools in the district that are at risk of making the state ’ s Priority Schools list in 2017-18 . 53