Chamber 'encouraged but impatient' in schools report card

Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 12:37pm

Recognizing the good and bad at Metro Nashville Public Schools, the theme of the latest Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce annual Education Report Card is “encouraged but impatient.”

Released Thursday morning, the 18th version of the chamber’s report card is the product of a 24-member committee assigned this past year to assess the progress of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Opting not to tag an official letter grade on the district’s state, the committee instead recognized advancements and areas of weakness.

On the positive end, the committee noted, is the district’s 10-point graduation rate improvement, the expansion of alternative educational programs for high school students and the arrival of corporations that have stepped up to partner with “career academies” operating within Metro schools.

Then there’s flip side: A measly 27 percent of Metro high schools seniors scored a 21 or greater on the ACT, the score required to qualify for the HOPE scholarship. The district failed to meet adequate yearly progress under federal No Child Left Behind, and was spared from consequences only because of May’s flood. Meanwhile, the number of students to reach proficient TCAP test scores decreased across the board because of increased standards.

“It’s now time for the many reforms that have been underway to make a measurable difference,” said committee co-chair Cabot Pyle, director or charitable giving with Turner Family Foundation.

“We are encouraged that we do believe that Metro schools is headed in the right direction, and we have confidence that many of the reform strategies are underway,” he said. “At the same time, we still await ... improvement in student achievement. 2011 is the year we expect that improvement to become visible.”

The committee provided 10 recommendations for change, many of which Director of Schools Jesse Register said are already being implemented. Register has overseen MNPS for two years.

“I am very pleased and encouraged that this report and its findings are so aligned with the vision and the reform efforts and the direction that I think we’re making in this district,” Register said. “This is indicative of a common vision that is developing in this community of creating the best possible public education system that we can imagine for our youth and our community.”

The 10 recommendations are as follows:

• Conduct an external, business processes audit of a sample of individual schools to identify inefficiencies in school-level infrastructure and staff deployment.

• The state should preserve a consistent comparison of high school graduation rates across years by continuing to report the current National Governors Association (NGA) calculation of four years and a summer school for most students, and five years for English Language Learners and students with disabilities.

• The many leadership development programs and initiatives within MNPS should be integrated into a cohesive system, creating a true pipeline of leadership from the classroom to the director’s office.

• Teacher leadership roles — such as team leader, department chair and mentor teacher — should be encouraged and rewarded as part of a differentiated compensation system.

• Each principal evaluation should include a section on how principals are developing leadership capacity in their buildings, including the periodic reassignment of duties among assistant principals so that these future school leaders have experience with all aspects of running a school.

• Support efforts by the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA) to play a leadership role in education reform, such as human capital reform or the creation of a teacher-led school

• Each school should develop a plan for student leadership beyond the traditional student government structure that engages a significant portion of its student body.

• The governor and Tennessee General Assembly should protect existing pre-K funding as a critical building block for the effective education of Tennessee’s children.

• The State of Tennessee should create a measurable definition of kindergarten readiness.

• The Mayor’s Advisory Council on Early Childhood Development and Early Education should create a citywide plan with a unified vision for Nashville’s existing pre-K programs that is driven by current research, best practices and program evaluation.

7 Comments on this post:

By: courier37027 on 2/17/11 at 7:07

Will these suggestions, if enacted, create positive results without adding tax dollars? Probably not.

By: govskeptic on 2/18/11 at 8:47

The Chamber and Metro Education are very pleased with the
Graduation rates being increased! The problem with those
congradulations, however, comes with the fact that very-very
few of the high schools have an average ACT score at 19 or
above. This registers to me as "let's just get them out of schools"
whether they have learned/been taught anything or not. This
also translates to very few being elgible to get into ever the
lowest standards State College or Universityies and also not
being eligble for any of the Lottery Schlorships. "Yes, there's
big problems right here in River City"! Reforms needed badly.

By: richgoose on 2/18/11 at 8:47

I would just as soon share a recommendation from "Good Housekeeping" as the Nashville Chamber of Commerce.

By: d4deli on 2/18/11 at 9:40

This day in age, it takes a special person to teach in some of our inner city schools. The demographics of the district have changed, and white flight continues. I have seen really, really good teachers struggle in dealing with some of the behavior issues. You can't touch a student, and if they pose a threat to the rest of the class, you are to remove all the other students from harm. The message that we are sending our students, is that they run the school, and no one can do anything about it. Rather than giving needy students a pull out time for some one on one or small ration time instruction, the exceptional teachers come into the classroom for 40 minutes or so. That is like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. The classroom behaviors of 4-5 students prevent the learning for an entire class. In the mean time, good, qualified teachers would like to do what they were hired to do....teach! If these mounting issues cannot be addressed, then we won't see the success we would hope to see in our public schools.

By: LizzyD on 2/19/11 at 4:25

AMEN, d4deli !!!

THAT is the biggest bunch of bullcrap I've seen since I left the employ of MNPS.
If they take away your union, teachers, you are canon fodder. KNOW THIS!

By: LizzyD on 2/19/11 at 4:44

richgoose,

I doubt that the Nashville Chamber wrote that. Either they commissioned some phony educaTOR guru to do it, OR they got it from the U.S. Chamber headquarters. The latter would not surprise me at all, considering that bit about the "...human capital reform or the creation of a teacher-led school" What is going on in the Tennessee legislature is so like some others around the country, and in our new "cost cutting" House in D.C., that it cannot be coincidental. This is a nationwide campaign by the cost cutter OCDers. Most of them are too stupid to see what they are doing -- until suddenly one day they find themselves "out of" the muling and puking wannabee gang and left to make it on their own. The "top 5%" truly will be just a top "0,5% within a few years, and many a mini-mansion dweller will be sharing the streets with the rest of that 99.5%.

I'm pretty old already, and I expect to see the bulldozers razing the mini-mansions before I die. If I were a principal or assistant principal in Metro schools, I would be looking at that "teacher-led school" thing with at least one raised eyebrow.

I will query of my relatives in Wisconsin as to whether such "recommendations" have been rendered by their local C of Cs to their school districts. A positive answer is likely, I think. That or something similar.

By: richgoose on 2/19/11 at 6:19

LizzyD.........I hope you were not a teacher in the employ MNPS. Just being able to comprehend what you are trying to say in the comments to me would deserve an A in any "Reading with Comprehension? class in the entire United States.

I did love the connection between the bulldozers and the muling and puking wannabee gang and the mini-mansion dweller. That was some rhetoric!!!