Metro schools, chamber set to reintroduce ‘academies’ via tours

Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 6:53pm

Fresh off a year in which Metro schools’ so-called “academies” ran into sharp criticism, district and chamber leaders are reintroducing the project-based learning concept to Nashvillians through a series of tours.

Dates for six separate “VIP tours” at various Metro high schools have been set, with hopes of showing elected and community leaders the merits of “The Academies of Nashville,” the model of redesign for the district’s 12 comprehensive high schools.

The educational approach — which utilizes outside business support via the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce — breaks students up into career or theme-based academies such as hospitality, engineering or marketing in hopes of adding “real-world relevance” to curriculum. The program kicked off five years ago with “Freshman Academies.”

“We’re just wanting to show them the academies because we’ve never really opened them up like that,” said Rita McDonald, the chamber’s director of community and business engagement. “The whole objective is to invite our elected officials and community leaders.” 

A letter signed by both Director of Schools Jesse Register and chamber CEO Ralph Schulz sets tour dates for Antioch, Hillsboro, Glencliff, Stratford, McGavock and Whites Creek high schools.

Academies, advanced by the district’s associate superintendent Jay Steele, came under scrutiny last spring following the controversial transfer of then-Hillsboro International Baccalaureate director Mary Catherine Bradshaw to Martin Luther King Academic Magnet High School.

Many Hillsboro parents and students blamed Bradshaw’s exit on the academies, arguing the highly revered IB program and academies couldn’t co-exist. Critics also argued academies value seeding the workforce over educating students.

With the new school year underway, Hillsboro still offers both IB and the academies to students. Stephanie Knight has replaced Bradshaw as Hillsboro’s IB director.

All six “VIP tours” begin at 7:45 a.m, with the dates as follows:

• McGavock High School; Sept. 28

• Antioch High School; Oct. 5

• Stratford High School; Oct. 25

• Whites Creek High School; Nov. 10

• Hillsboro High School Nov. 29

• Glencliff High School; March, date to be announced

10 Comments on this post:

By: Nitzche on 9/6/11 at 6:58

has this been cleared through the naacp?

By: MAmom on 9/6/11 at 8:57

Like many over-simplified ideas - this sounds okay on the surface - but when you stop and think about it.. there are many things wrong with the "academies" approach to education.

1. Most students entering High School lack maturity and do NOT know what profession they want to prepare for ... for most limiting them like this will do more damage than good.

2. Academies value seeding the workforce VS. educating students.

3. Is the Chamber of Commerce qualified to make decisions about Education policy like this? Aren't they the ones who helped get laws passed that sent millions of jobs to third world countries?

4. The Chamber is not the innoculous, small business organization we remember from our childhood. It has morphed into a monster which represents those who want to control our lives.

5. Privitizing education (i.e.: diverting public funds to "charter" schools) - which will take away the great "equalizer" in our society - a common, quality public education - and create a permanent two-tier educational system which will ruin our society,

6. With the "Academies" idea the Chamber seeks to dictate what those who do not go into their "private"/charter schools will learn.

All kids deserve a good, well-rounded education - one that is not restrictive - one that will give them the tools they need to select a profession that's right for them when they are mature enough to make the decision.

Kids don't need "academies" and charter schools run by businessmen and their representatives whose inspiration is the "profit motive."

By: LizzyD on 9/7/11 at 7:26


Thank you. You did a VERY good job of condensing the issues involved.

I would take it one step further. Our nation's population, in general, is being brainwashed.

"Academic" has been redefined, like a lot of other words, to mean its opposite. That is no accident. And those who scream the loudest about big government are the very ones who are promoting and inflicting forced slavery on the masses, Anyone who thinks that BigOil, and BigPharma, and BigBusiness in general is not BigGovernment should think again.

I call it BigGovCorp. And that is who rules today. They can change slave training to ACADEMIC EDUCATION if they want to. But it does not change reality. BigCorp is now our BigGovernment, and it wants to eliminate our representative republican democracy, WE the People, who are now their chief competition.

By: elrob on 9/7/11 at 7:54

come on by any one of these high schools on a tour date. see for yourself. all the students are required to take the same academic courses that were required years ago plus several more. so there are 4 years of english, PE, social studies, etc. however, now everyone needs Algebra 2. everyone takes personal finance. come to school. your comments indicate that you are all armchair critics. come on and volunteer in a school. take some time to walk the talk.

By: kenstegall on 9/7/11 at 7:58

1. Less than 40% of the U.S. population ever earns a college degree. For many high school graduation is a terminal degree. The college gap is probably even wider for urban school systems like Metro. Learning Career Skills in high school is predictive of post-high school employment (rather than un-employment).
2. Even for college bound students or students seeking alternate paths in careers (different from their Academy), the skills gained in Academy CTE courses are valuable in life and may provide a marketable skill for job market entry above minimum wage. In fact many students are dually enrolled (earning college credits) through their Academy courses.
3. Career awareness and career exploration are a part of the Academy preparatory assessment and curriculum. While this does not insure that every child is perfectly matched to an Academy, it does match general preferences and interests. With limited resources, no school can be all things to all people, but there is a range of options to choose from.
4. The Chamber as a monster that wants to control your life... Really? Is that hyperbole or mental illness? I am glad area businessmen have invested their time, finances and resources in our education system to improve the educational outcomes for our students. They deserve our thanks, not this sort of fear mongering.
5. Career skills can and should be a part of a common, public education and help reduce the tiers of social haves and have nots by increasing skilled employability and thereby increasing earnings and choices. Many students otherwise disinterested in purely academic subjects bloom when they see the connection to their career interests and engage their studies with more enthusiasm.
6. The Academy offerings are fairly broad with multiple pathways within each academy increasing the options and breadth of the curricula. For the vast majority of students their Academy course is an opportunity to see the application of their academic courses in math, science, language, etc... applied to real world problems. Far from dictating their future, it is designed to engage them in their future whether the next step is college or a career.

By: MAmom on 9/8/11 at 7:15

See some things the US Chamber of Commerce is pressuring the Federal government to do according Fox news - a group which is not doubt close to the "Chamber":

1.Offer reduced tax rates to corporations on profits earned overseas
2 Pass pending trade agreements with Columbia, South Korea and Panama
3 Increase oil and gas exploration, expand oil and gas exploration, approve the $7 billion 1700 mile pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast
4 Facilitate tourism... steamlining visa applications and speeding up security screenings
5 Provide regulatory relief for industries

Idea 1 encourages corporations to send jobs overseas
Idea 2 also encourages corporates to send jobs overseas
Idea 3 is meant to prop up the oil industry (one of the biggest industries they represent) and indirectly siphon resources from alternative energy production
Idea 5 provide regulatory relief for industries so they can pollute, mistreat employees, etc. and be lawless as they want to be. This is okay if you have a bunch of guys in charge who are honest and long-term thinkers ... but most US Corps are controlled by short-term thinkers who do what is expedient to increase this quarter or this year's earnings per share numbers.

I have no problem with small business owners - in fact I wish there were more of them - but the fact that the US Chamber of Commerce has morphed into a behemoth which dictates policy to the US Government which affects us all - to our detriment at times - is true.

By: HelpThem on 9/8/11 at 12:20

MAmom: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Nashville Chamber are not affiliated. They're not connected, nor does the Nashville Chamber base its local focus on what the U.S. Chamber is doing.  Check your facts first before criticizing an organization that has no obligation to provide staff time to develop programs that help public schools, but it does. Of course no Chamber is an expert on educational issues- that's why research is done, other cities are visited, and best-practice models are implemented. 

By: richgoose on 9/8/11 at 2:30

There is something sinister and foreboding about these "academies". An insider on Bransford has insinuated that this is an attempt to educate the uneducable by providing a gobbedly gook curriculum which the underclass may buy into.

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce represents less than 1% of the best interests of Nashville individuals. I would not trust one of them to invest in anything that does not enhance the pocket of the chamber member who makes a recommendation. Not that is any different from myself.

By: pswindle on 9/8/11 at 2:56

Good Gosh! Just ask a teacher, she knows the problem with education and could fix it, if allowed.

By: MAmom on 9/8/11 at 8:34

To HelpThem: What I said about the US Chamber is still true. Our local Chamber behaves similarly, i.e.: it meddles in local State and City politics. Are you sure they aren't "cousins"?

What I said about Academies is true also:

-Most students entering High School lack maturity and do NOT know what profession they want to prepare for ... for most limiting them like this will do more damage than good.

-Academies value seeding the workforce VS. educating students.

-Privitizing education (i.e.: diverting public funds to "charter" schools) - will take away the great "equalizer" in our society - a common, quality public education - and create a permanent two-tier educational system which will ruin our society,

-All kids deserve a good, well-rounded education - one that is NOT restrictive - one that will give them the tools they need to select a profession that's right for them when they are mature enough to make the decision.