Chamber report: Metro school reforms head in right direction but progress crawls forward

Monday, December 17, 2012 at 4:49pm

Charter schools took center stage in the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce's annual education report card that found district reforms heading in the right direction but that progress improving student performance is at a crawl.

District, city and business officials at the report’s unveiling Monday treaded carefully around talk about the emphasis privately run but publicly funded charter schools should have in the district at a time when the issue of charter schools has become a political lightning rod.

"Charter schools are not a panacea, they’re not the sole solution to a very complicated problem. But quality charter schools can, and should, play a big role in reforming our education system," Mayor Karl Dean said during the unveiling at the Adventure Science Center, adding the district should recruit more charter schools that could fulfill particular needs within Metro Nashville Public Schools.

"Our children do not have the luxury of time," he said.

The report states that the district needs to focus on bringing better charter schools into the district fold by developing an integration strategy and sharing services to increase efficiency and save money.

The chamber is “anxious for dramatic gains” in student achievement, business officials stressed at the report’s unveiling.

On average, students in Davidson County lag behind the state average and neighboring districts in reading and math. However, the district has managed to show larger gains in year-after-year growth that exceed the state average.

Last school year, 40.6 percent of students in grades three through eight were proficient in reading and language arts. Of students in those same grade levels, 39.8 percent were proficient in math.

Less than 30 percent of students who took the ACT exam scored a 21, the benchmark necessary to qualify for a lottery-funded Hope Scholarship.

“We cannot bury our heads in the sand and say, ‘charter schools are not good for us,’ ” said Director of Schools Jesse Register who said the district should be looking to steal good ideas from the schools and use them more in the district.

Nashville is home to 14 charter schools, with one slated for closure at the end of the school year and five set to open next fall.

MNPS is still in the midst of a political fight over charter schools after repeatedly refusing a state order to approve the Great Hearts Academies charter application. The state withheld $3.4 million in education funding from the district as punishment, although school board officials say they’re trying to convince the state to release those funds.

Meanwhile, charter school advocates are pushing state lawmakers to consider appointing an outside body to OK charter school applications to circumvent local school district approval.

The report also recommended the school board develop a dashboard to review progress on key performance measurements at their regularly scheduled meetings. It also suggested the district expand the cluster of struggling schools receiving specialized attention from the bottom 10 percent to the bottom 25 percent of schools.

The annual report, which is the 20th from the chamber, also recommended the state legislature require charter schools be shuttered by default if they are placed on the state’s priority list for not meeting performance standards.

6 Comments on this post:

By: Balo on 12/18/12 at 6:31

This article represents an advertisement for the continuing justification for Charter Schools. Again, this generation of shameless politicians urge the citizens to buy into the reinvent the wheel concept of public education. In common sense, it is simply duplication of services and billions of dollars wasted.

As usual, the Chamber brings to the table an opinion which has no justification. It is similar to Jesse James offering an opinion to the Northfield, Minn. banks on security. As usual, this conference is about the Chamber and their good deeds for the community and has very little to do with the work of the educators. The Chamber always shines the light on themselves.

I strongly suggest that the members of the Board of Education file these documents into the nearest garbage can. We need to do this and we need to do that is a way to say it is all about politics. There are educators working and grinding every class period to educate the kids of this community. It is a tough task. For their effort, the report says they are worthy of a crawl. Shameless comment to a proud profession. To be fair, the Chamber members are the ones that promoted the new convention center which is reported to loose millions of dollars. Enough said.

A plea by the mayor for urgency sounds good and caring. However, one of the assets young people have is time because one never stops learning. The graduation of a student is not the end result in learning but the beginning. A false claim by a politician.

I must admit that the Charter School movement will win out because of the modern day entitlement politicians. This article represents more nails into the coffin of public education. In today's political movement, the teacher is bound by a federal mandate to teach and to test (standardized) when the manual indicates. The standard is now set by whoever at the federal government and the traditions of long standing public education are slowly sinking. The teachers' freedom to guide their class is gone. Very soon the proud tradition of USA public education will join the Titanic.

By: BigPapa on 12/19/12 at 1:19

5 paragraphs to say nothing...

Metro schools are terrible, yet when ever someone suggest doing somthing different you get folks squealing & swalking about how horrible it is, how we need to just keep doing what we are doing.

THAT would be a mistake.

By: mnpseducator on 12/20/12 at 6:35

Charters are an important piece of the educational pie in Nashville, but they operate like our magnets do. They have the luxury of being able to send students back to their zoned school if it's just not "working out". Many Nashvillians do not know that every January, when students return to school after break, that there are a nice number of students returning to their zone schools from charter schools. They have been encouraged, pressured, or told that they need to return to their zone schools - either the charter doesn't want to address behavior issues, support children with learning disabilities, or any other number of reasons. Their scores at the end of the year on TCAPS will not include these children. People need to remember that Charters teach 3000 of our children, often doing it well. But MNPS teaches the other 77,000, and we take them all, and keep them all, despite whatever challenges come with the child.

By: Moonglow1 on 12/20/12 at 10:36

Moonglow1: I do not support my tax dollars going into the pockets of a capitalistic for profit enterprise. We are either a capitalistic country or not.

If a business needs taxpayer funding then it should be designated as a government program. If not, any profit should be shared with the taxpayers.

Charter Schools make no sense. A for profit entity exists for one reason only: money\profit. Just like for profit healthcare now owned by big pharma and insurance companies, education will be ruined. Profit has no business in education or healthcare.

By: GoodieTwoShoes on 12/20/12 at 11:26

If Metro Schools are so terrible, how is taking money out of the system and handing it over to someone who has no interest in teaching our kids going to help?

By: ANTIneoliberal on 12/20/12 at 2:21

Oh yes, the charter school agenda. The people of Nashville need to realize that the district and state is the guinea pig for the privatization of PUBLIC schools. The Chamber just states that the charter school is the fix but gives no evidence as to why the charter school is the solution. As a tax payer and parent I would like to see the empirical evidence. "The Great Education Myth" that it is schools and not a societal issue is beyond comprehensible. And the solution should be private companies who want to please shareholders and investors? Charter schools have high expulsion rates in Massachusetts. In Connecticut it is segregating the kids. Even one school in Chicago fines students for poor behavior. It racked in over one hundred thousand dollars. Is that the school or societal? If you want to blame schools for a lack of intrinsic motivation to learn than that charter school should be shut down. 190,000 dollars? That sounds like a societal issue to me. A public school cannot fine, or expel students with ease. The same regulations that charter schools get to discipline students with should apply to public schools immediately. Then you would have the evidence that we have a societal problem and test scores of public schools would GO UP. Even the latest Stanford University study shows that "Charter Schools Perform Worse Than Comparable Public Schools". One needs to look at what privatization of the school system in Chile did to that country. Right now Wall Street is licking their chops at the billions of dollars invested in public education. Not to better the kids but to make money. And they can pay the politicians like the ALEC does to pass their secret agendas. The politicians can pick and choose winners and losers. Wasn't Huffman married to Michele Rhee? Does Mayor Dean's wife have a relative that has a company that is education related? Can we trust any neoliberal? These people are in it for themselves and that is not the definition of public. Schools would love to reform to benefit the children but too many government mandates and secret agendas are in the way. The privatizers see a legal pyramid scheme and they are ready to rip off this state. Look at K-12 Inc. in East Tennessee. Thanks to Republican Harry Brooks that Charter school made 16 million dollars and had the lowest test scores in the state. I'm still waiting to hear this empirical evidence. And please convince me that this solution is about the kids.