MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The charter school movement has reached its tipping point. Over the past year, Tennessee saw the biggest increase in the nation for new charter schools and the number of students enrolled in them.
For Patricia Ponds the next best thing was KIPP Memphis Collegiate. She made the switch two years ago when she enrolled her daughter there, where low expectations are not tolerated and going to college is drilled into every student.
"I know people are looking for alternatives. If you don't put them in private schools you want the next best thing," she said. "It's zero tolerance for, just you know, negativity and them having self-doubt. They encourage all the students."
Jamal McCall heads up the charter school where 5th through 8th graders outperformed Memphis City Schools and the state in all subjects. He told abc24.com, "These are the high schoolers, they're taking the ACT prep."
When we videotaped students prepping for the college entrance exam, hardly any of them paid attention to our camera. They were focused on their studies, not us. That's unusual.
"One of the things we teach here is focus, urgency on what's important. They know this is more important than a camera," McCall said.
For KIPP and other charter schools, the focus is providing kids with a top notch education, even if it means a longer school day and school year.
"We have the autonomy to do what we want with our budget, our day," explained McCall. "We also have that control in how we hire staff right. So we're not sanctioned by unions, so we can put the best teacher in front of your kids."
Charter school proponents believe the enrollment boom will continue and will force public schools to step up their game or lose more students.