We are so grateful for Hands on Nashville volunteers.

Metro Nashville Public Schools serves 81,000 students and taking care of the places where these children learn and play is a big job. That’s where the Metro Schools Facility and Grounds Maintenance team comes in.

Not only are they responsible for 180 buildings (that’s 14 MILLION square feet of space!), but they also oversee 2,000 acres of campus. And on top of all this, they play a critical role in making Hands On Nashville Day happen each year. (This year’s Hands On Nashville Day Presented by Grainger takes place Saturday, Sept. 22. Read more and register here starting Sept. 4!)

Thomas W. Hatfield, Metro Schools director of facility and grounds maintenance, has been helping to coordinate Hands On Nashville Day for the past 20 years. A proud graduate of Metro Schools, he is perhaps the one person in Nashville who has been intimately involved in planning this day of…

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ACT Now! Our plan to raise ACT scores across the district

Every high school student in Tennessee is required totake the ACT. Tennessee is one of just a handful of states with this requirement and while that is not always good for our public image – it perhaps puts statewide test scores below other states where only the best and brightest take the test – it is very good for our students. Some students who might not otherwise take the test are required to, giving them an additional college credential or even a HOPE scholarship.

We want all our high school students to score a bare minimum 21 on the ACT. Of course, we prepare them to reach much higher than that, but we set the minimum at 21 because that is when scholarships and financial aid to state schools are within reach. With a 21, many students can afford college.

This year’s ACT results for our district show we still have a long way to go, but we’re making progress.  In fact, we’ve advanced our scores at a faster rate than the rest of the state.

But it’s still not good enough. We need better results in a shorter amount of time. We need results like the ones at Hillwood High School.

In the short time since Hillwood principal Dr. Steve Chauncy started his ACT Now program, the percentage of his students scoring 21 or higher has risen nearly 10%. When you consider statewide gains are measured in tenths of a percent, that is a huge jump.

How did Hillwood do it? And how will Dr. Chauncy and the Hillwood team spread similar results district-wide?

  1. Practice, practice, practice
    Before students take the actual ACT in their junior year, they sit for up to six practice tests – one as freshmen, the PLAN test, two practice assessments as sophomores, and two as juniors. Those tests are as real as they come, often actual ACT exams from previous years given through a program called Learning Express. By the time they sit for the real thing, they know exactly what to expect.
  2. Targeted instruction
    Rather than teaching students how to take a test, data from these practice tests is used for targeted instruction in the classroom. Areas of need are identified for individual students, and lessons can be are tailored to those needs. That starts right away. Freshmen come into Hillwood carrying data from the EXPLORE test taken in middle school. That data is used to start building ACT college skills in freshmen seminar classes.
  3. Critical Thinking Classes
    All Hillwood sophomores take a Critical Thinking and Imaginative Writing course where they learn how to apply their knowledge to problem solving and real world scenarios. That helps work through tough questions like those on the ACT and the even tougher questions students will later address in college and in their careers.
  4. Adaptable Solutions for All Schools
    This program has been shared across the district to all zoned high schools. But not every high school is the same, so it is can be easily molded to fit a particular school’s needs, resources, and abilities. As schools find improvements, they will be incorporated into the ACT Now program so the district is in a cycle of continuous improvement.

Development for this program is far from over. We are going even deeper into the data, looking at individual questions on practice tests to identify the academic support students need and we are providing afterschool tutoring for juniors with support from HCA.

The program began at Hillwood in the fall of 2010 and is spreading so all our high schools see rapid growth and all students are college ready and eligible for scholarship dollars.

Rumor Control: Metro Says Student Can’t Slack Off With New Grading Policy – NewsChannel5.com

This piece from Aundrea Cline-Thomas at News Channel 5 sums up the new middle school grading policy pretty well.

Good grades used to be easier to come by.

“In the past maybe some of our grading practices inadvertently kind of made some grades a little bit invalid,” DuPont Hadley Middle School teacher Jennie Presson explained.

Assignments for extra credit would inflate the grades and could be a crutch especially for struggling students.

“Under the new policy students grades will be a really really accurate reflection of their level of understanding,” Presson added.

“It is a culture shift and we know it’s going to take some time,” Dr. Lora Hall, Associate Superintendent of Middle Schools said.

Full story:
Metro Says Student Can’t Slack Off With New Grading Policy – NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports.

Statement on Great Hearts Academy’s Charter School Application – August 16, 2012

The new Metro Nashville Public Schools Board of Education will have its first meeting, with the election of the Board’s Chair and Vice Chair, Tuesday, September 11. The Great Hearts application will be on the agenda for that meeting.

In addition, the district is working to schedule a time for the board to hear from Dr. Len Stephens, who is an expert in inclusive practices for schools that welcome all families. Dr. Stephens was a witness in the Spurlock v. Fox case and is preparing a comprehensive report to the Board to frame our future vision of diversity in the district.

Statement on Metro Nashville Board of Education Action on Great Hearts Academy’s Charter School Application

At its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, August 14, 2012, the Board of Education took action on the Great Hearts Academy charter school application as ordered by the State Board of Education.

The Board’s action deferred approval of the application pending Great Hearts Academy’s satisfaction of the stipulations ordered by the State Board of Education.

The application will be reviewed again when Great Hearts Academy has submitted its transportation and teacher certification plans and its acknowledgement that the application is for one charter school.

Metro Nashville Public Schools is a District on the Rise

Our mission in Metro Schools is to be the first choice for families – all families. We are on our way to meeting that mission because we are a district on the rise.

Enrollment in public schools is up, at its highest levels since the mid 1970s. That’s because we’re giving Nashville more. Student test scores are up, our standing with the state is higher than it has been in years, and our students are reaching greater levels of achievement. Their hard work – along with that of teachers, administrators, and support teams – has positioned our city as a bright spot in education reform and growth. We are becoming a model of success, setting the example for districts across the country.

One reason is because we have academic rigor at the end of every yellow school bus route in Nashville.

Students are preparing for college with Advanced Placement classes, available in every high school, with even more offered through the MNPS Virtual School. The International Baccalaureate Programme at Hunters Lane and Hillsboro High Schools offers an internationally recognized diploma. The experiences students gain and the lessons they learn in the Academies of Nashville bloom far beyond the classroom, into college lecture halls and diverse career choices. Through dual enrollment with area colleges and universities, they are racking up college credits in high school, even earning associate degrees as well as diplomas.

Those classes aren’t full – yet. We have room for more students in both AP classes and the IB Programme, with even more available through our Virtual School, where students can take core subjects and nearly any AP class out there. We’re rewarding students for taking these harder, more advanced classes by changing the way grade point averages (GPAs) are calculated.  AP, IB, dual enrollment, and honors classes are now given greater weight in the GPA formula. We want all students to seek tough classes and get a leg up in college.

Neighborhood schools continue to offer broad educational choices: STEM, Montessori, Spanish immersion, Chinese language, fine and performing arts, literature, and Paideia are just a taste of the choices available from pre-kindergarten through high school, giving Nashvillians a rich educational portfolio.

These efforts have been showing big results for years – more graduates, fewer drop outs, higher test scores, more student engagement, and a place in the national conversation on education reform.

As Race to the Top proved, Tennessee is an American leader in education reform – and Nashville is at the center of it. Our educators are training others across the state in how to use the new Common Core Standards. They are leading national organizations like the National Association of Elementary School Principals and showcasing our successful programs as models for other districts to follow. Several of our high school Academies have received national awards, including five that now serve as nationwide models for other schools.

Our progress can accelerate with the continued support of our city. We are fortunate to have city leaders who believe in public schools. Families and communities work hard to support their schools through volunteering, fundraising, and parent participation. Our district needs that support to continue the steady march toward our mission.

As the conversation about public education in Nashville grows, it becomes more and more important for all of our stakeholders – parents, students, employees, taxpayers, city leaders – to see the change for themselves.  Visit your zoned schools. Talk to teachers. Talk to students. Talk with those directly affected by what happens in our classrooms.

Made up of nearly 150 exceptional schools, our district is on the cusp of greatness. We want to be the first choice for Nashville’s families.