Tell us what you think of the 2014-15 district calendar

Two years ago we came to you with an idea to change the school calendar in a pretty big way.  We wanted more balance between blocks of school days and breaks. That meant starting school on August 1, giving us extra days throughout the year to benefit students, and shortening summer break to reduce the gap in instruction from one school year to the next.

Last year we used those extra days for intersession, just like we’ll do this year. Intersession is an opportunity for students to extend learning beyond what they could get in regular classroom time. In order to be truly successful, it requires funding to match its ambitions.

That did not happen. Cuts to federal funding meant we could not serve as many students as we’d hoped. While we are pleased overall with how intersession went in its pilot year and heard good reports from participating families, lack of transportation and limited funding for programs meant most students did not take advantage of it.

Intersession fills a need and want for many families. But it is just one element of a balanced school calendar. We are now exploring alternative ways to extend the school year, including one that benefits all students.

A calendar committee that included parents, principals, administrators and employee union members developed these recommendations for the board of education. In all options:

  • The first day of school is August 1
  • The last day of school is May 28
  • The 2014 summer break is nine weeks long

The options for the 2014-15 district calendar are:

  • Option #1
    Consistent with the current calendar, this option has two intersession periods in October and March. This option is cost neutral.

    • 175 regular instructional days
    • four days each in October and March that could be used either for intersession or an extended break
    • five days each for fall break and spring break
    • five days for teacher planning and professional development
    • five days built in for inclement weather
  • Option #2
    This calendar essentially turns intersession days into regular school days and more professional development days for teachers. This option would cost an additional $20-21 million for the added days.

    • 180 regular instructional days
    • nine days for teacher professional development (including four from local funds)
    • five days each for fall break and spring break
    • five days built in for inclement weather

Option #1 is a good calendar. It served us well last year and will serve us well this year, too. The intersession periods give us the opportunity to reach as many students as we can for enrichment and remediation without additional funds. Given the current economic situation, we do not know what intersession could look like in 2014-15, but we will do our utmost to make it valuable to Nashvillians.

Option #2 is our preferred option. We want to add more time in the classroom for all students so we meet the national standard of 180 instructional days. Further, we want to ensure that time is quality time in the classroom by providing our teachers time for professional learning and growth throughout the year. As a result it gives teachers ten additional paid workdays in the year.

The final decision on which calendar to use falls to the Board of Education, but we want to know what you think. Which calendar would you prefer?

See all calendar options.

Send your feedback to
MNPSCommunications@mnps.org

Come to our public discussion on
July 24 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
in the MNPS Board Room.

Four big reasons behind our budget increase

It’s that time again. Budget time.

Work on the 2013-14 Metro Schools operating budget has been going on for months. Department heads and officials from the district business office have been going through budgets line item-by-line item, looking at each expense and its purpose in fulfilling our mission.

A draft of the budget is ready and available for review online. It calls for $764 million in funding, an increase of nearly $44 million over this year.

What’s behind the increase?

  • Fixed & Unavoidable Costs
    As is the case every year, certain cost increases are unavoidable. Salaries, insurance and pensions cost more. Utilities cost more. Just like in your family’s budget, inflation means it takes more money to provide the same services year over year.
  • Serving More Students
    Our student population is going up, too. We’re one of the very few urban districts in the country with increasing enrollment. That means more teachers, more support staff and more services provided to them.
  • New Schools
    Then there are the new schools opening up next year. We will add four new charter schools to our district, with an added cost of $14 million attached to them, as well as the cost of planned enrollment increases at current charter schools. There’s a lot of debate about charter schools, but what isn’t debatable is the impact they have on the district budget. In 2013-14, $40 million will flow directly to 19 charter schools. Because there are no comparable offsets to district expenses at traditional schools, that means sizeable increases to our operating budget.
  • Vital Technology Needs
    Our technology needs are more pressing now than in years past. Moving to the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of College and Career readiness) assessments means many students have to start taking tests online. This means our technology infrastructure must get the upgrades it needs. We need the computers and internet backbone to allow thousands of students to take these computerized tests simultaneously.

Those four items make up the bulk of the budget increase. There aren’t a lot of major new programs or initiatives included. But there are needs in our Nashville schools that cannot be met without added funds.

Join the Board of Education for a public hearing on this budget on Tuesday, April 2, at 6:00 p.m. in the Board Room.

You are invited: A conversation on School Vouchers

Join in a thoughtful discussion on a topic on many minds in Tennessee: School Vouchers.

The League of Women Voters of Nashville and Vanderbilt’s Peabody College are hosting a panel event called “Options in Education: School Vouchers – What Research Shows Us.” Alan Coverstone, the Metro Schools Executive Officer for Innovation will be on the panel, along with two professors from Peabody College.

The event is open to the public. Details are below.

The League of Women Voters of Nashville

in collaboration with

Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College

invites you to attend

Options in Education:

School Vouchers—What Research Shows Us

Thursday, February 7, 2013

4:00 pm to 5:30 pm

The Commons Center in Room 233

Peabody Campus of Vanderbilt University

18th Avenue South at Horton Avenue, Nashville, TN 37212

Parking available in Lot 77, 18th Avenue South at Horton Avenue

Panel

Alan Coverstone, Executive Director

Office of Innovation

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools

Dr. Claire Smrekar, Associate Professor

Department of Leadership, Policy & Organizations

Vanderbilt, Peabody College

Dr. Ron Zimmer, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education

Department of Leadership, Policy & Organizations

Vanderbilt, Peabody College

High school graduate or dropout? It’s complicated.

When is a high school dropout really a graduate? It’s a strange but appropriate question when you look at the way graduate rates are calculated.

The education team at Nashville Public Television explores this question and breaks down what Nashville’s graduation rate really means in a new documentary airing this Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. The special is called “Graduation by the Numbers” and is part of the national “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen” series exploring high school dropout rates and efforts to boost graduation.

If you haven’t seen the previous “American Graduate” entry from NPT, called “Translating the Dream,” you’re really missing out. It looks at the challenges facing English learner and immigrant students as they try to graduate high school and navigate the options – or lack of options – given to them afterward.

If you want to join the conversation about graduates and dropouts, you can join NPT online this Tuesday night, January 22 at 7:30 p.m., for an online social screening of “Translating the Dream” using a new public media tool called OVEE. Producer LaTonya Turner and other panelists will join in on the discussion.

Translating the Dream: Online screening & panel discussion
Tuesday, January 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Click here to take part.

“Graduation by the Numbers”
Documentary airs Thursday, January 24 at 9:00 p.m.
on NPT channel 8

Here is more from the NPT press release:

Half-hour documentary looks at “Graduation by the Numbers;” part of national “American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen” initiative.

NASHVILLE, Tennessee – January 10, 2013 — Nashville Public Television (NPT-Channel 8)  takes an in-depth look at efforts in Nashville to keep students in school until they graduate in “NPT Reports: Graduation by the Numbers,” premiering Thursday, January 24 at 9:00 p.m. The documentary is part of the national “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen” initiative.

In Nashville Public Schools in 2012, one in 11 students dropped out — 8.8 percent — which is almost four times the previous year’s dropout rate. But a student counted as a dropout is not necessarily someone who does not graduate. The result is that the graduation rate can go up—even as the rate of dropouts goes up. The NPT report, produced and narrated by LaTonya Turner, looks at why the numbers for graduates and those for dropouts often don’t add up.

“The numbers can be confusing and in some cases misrepresentative of who is graduating and who is not,” says Turner.

Nashville school officials have taken the lead in Tennessee by looking for ways to make student data more useful, accurate, and accessible, with the goal of spotting students in trouble before they show up in school reports or drop out altogether. The main risk factors for students dropping out are: attendance, academic performance, and behavior. Using a new online digital system for tracking individual student data called the Data Dashboard, Nashville educators can now pinpoint and trace the risk factors and intervene with the student early enough to prevent failure. They are finding that high school may be too late; the risk in many cases begins in middle school or even earlier.

Nashville’s new middle school bridge program was begun to specifically start honing in on earlier for students at risk of dropping out. Simultaneously, some Nashville high schools are now aggressively working to retain the students who might have slipped through but are starting to slip off the path to graduation..” to graduation. A good example is McGavock High School, the largest school in Nashville, which was among the first to embrace the Data Dashboard as a tool – from the office to students in the classroom. It’s part of McGavock’s aggressive effort to turn around a dismal performance record.

Following Nashville’s lead, Tennessee education officials are on the cusp of launching a statewide online data tracking system. The goal is to help educators more effectively identify and reach out to individual students with strategies and support that address their specific risk factors for dropping out before graduation.

“Graduation by the Numbers” is the second in a series of public affairs documentary by NPT as part of its role in the national Corporation for Public Broadcating (CPB) initiative “American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen.” The first was “NPT Reports: Translating the Dream,”  an in-depth look at the graduation rate among ELL and immigrant students in Tennessee; the challenges they face that can prevent them from graduating on time; how schools and teachers are trying to address this increasingly demanding need; and how all of us are impacted when students drop out of school. It is available for free online viewing now at http://wnpt.org/amgrad.

About Nashville Public Television
Nashville Public Television is available free and over the air to nearly 2.4 million people throughout the Middle Tennessee and southern Kentucky viewing area, and is watched by more than 600,000 households every week. The mission of NPT is to provide, through the power of traditional television and interactive telecommunications, high quality educational, cultural and civic experiences that address issues and concerns of the people of the Nashville region, and which thereby help improve the lives of those we serve.

About American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen
American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is helping local communities identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. American Graduate demonstrates public media’s commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves. Beyond providing programming that educates, informs and inspires, public radio and television stations — locally owned and operated — are an important resource in helping to address critical issues, such as the dropout rate. In addition to national programming, more than 75 public radio and television stations have launched on-the-ground efforts working with community and at risk youth to keep students on-track to high school graduation. More than 800 partnerships have been formed locally through American Graduate, and CPB is working with Alma and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation .

About CPB
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,300 locally-owned and -operated public television and radio stations nationwide, and is the largest single source of funding for research, technology, and program development for public radio, television and related online services.

Wear blue for Metro Schools!

Wear blue for Metro Schools on Tuesday, June 5!

We want to send a clear message to the city and the Metro Council: we support Metro Schools and want the district to continue its improvements.

Wear blue on Tuesday to work, to the store, walking around the neighborhood, and most importantly to the council meeting that night.

Wear blue to spread the message throughout the city that we want more for our students, teachers, and schools.

Wear blue as the Council votes for the second time on the Mayor’s budget and property tax proposals.

Wear blue and send us a picture of your support so we can show everyone how strongly our community feels about furthering the great work being done in Metro Schools.

Wear blue!

Send your pictures to MNPSCommunicationsOffice@mnps.org. Post them to Facebook and tag us. Share them on Twitter and mention us.

And remember to attend that night’s Council Meeting and show your support in person!

Meet the School Board Candidates

From the fine folks at Friends of Metro Schools:

This August, Nashvillians will head to the polls to elect five of the nine Metro school board members. Friends of Metro Schools, with the support of the community partners listed below, will host a series of School Board Candidate Forums in June. This is your opportunity to learn about the candidates in your school board district before casting your vote. Nashville Education, Community and Arts Television (NECAT) will be videotaping portions of each forum for later broadcast on Comcast channel 10 in Davidson County.

District 1
Monday, June 11, 5-6:30 p.m. (program will begin at 5:30 p.m.)
Isaiah T. Creswell Arts Magnet Middle School; 3500 John Millette Drive; Nashville, TN 37218
Candidates: Sharon Gentry, Ed Kindall
Moderator: Ron Corbin, principal, RBBC Holdings; co-chair, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Education Report Card Committee

District 3
Thursday, June 7, 5-6:30 p.m. (program will begin at 5:30 p.m.)
Madison Middle School; 300 Old Hickory Blvd. West Madison; Nashville, TN 37115
Candidates: Jarod DeLozier, Fred Lee, Jill Speering
Moderator: Mark North, vice chair, Metropolitan Board of Public Education

District 5
Monday, June 25, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (please arrive at least 15 minutes early; program will begin at 6:30 p.m.)
Rosebank Elementary School; 1012 Preston Drive; Nashville, TN 37206
Candidates: John Haubenreich, Elissa Kim, Erica Lanier, Gracie Porter
Moderator: Councilman Anthony Davis, District 7

District 7
Wednesday, June 20, 5-6:30 p.m. (program will begin at 5:30 p.m.)
Croft Middle School; 482 Elysian Fields Road; Nashville, TN 37211
Candidates: Will Pinkston, Alan Sharp, Al Wilkins
Moderator: José González, co-founder and finance director, Conexión Américas

District 9
Thursday, June 21, 5-6:30 p.m. (program will begin at 5:30 p.m.)
Hillwood High School; 400 Davidson Road; Nashville, TN 37205
Candidates: Bob Bogen, Eric Crafton, Margaret Dolan, Amy Frogge, Ronnie Osborne
Moderator: Beth Baker, H.G. Hill Middle School math teacher; Tennessee Education Association Distinguished Educator of the Year

Invitation: Wear blue to show the Metro Council how much you support our schools

More pay for all teachers. A new school to ease overcrowding. Preventing dropouts before students even reach high school. Maintaining everyday services to 81,000 students and 10,000 employees.

An enormous amount of thought and effort went into preparing every single line this year’s Operating Budget proposal. It is a carefully crafted plan for continuing the successes already seen in the last three years:

  • more graduates
  • fewer dropouts
  • higher standards
  • greater achievement
  • classes more rigorous than ever before

To vote against fully funding our schools is to slow the forward momentum created under the reforms of MNPS Achieves.

So how can we ensure receiving our full budget request of $720 million?

You are the answer.

We’ve already asked you to contact Council Members to urge support of the Mayor’s budget and property tax proposals. Now we’re asking you to come show your support in person.

Tuesday, June 5, the Council will discuss these proposals and vote on them, the second of three required votes. We want Metro Schools supporters there in force to show Council Members how much we care about our students, our schools, and the future of public education in Nashville.

We’ll all be wearing blue to show our support. All are welcome to join.

WHEN: Tuesday, June 5, 6:30pm
(Come early to be sure you can find parking and arrive before the meeting starts.)

WHERE: Council Chamber, Metro Courthouse

WHO: Everyone who cares about public education. Please wear blue as a visual symbol of your support.