Changes to Teaching, Learning Coming to Nashville Schools

The Tennessean reports that after a recent internal study concluded that nearly 80% of all classes taught in the Metro Nashville schools weren't keeping students engaged in their classwork, district officials are adopting a set of recommendations offered by a UK-based education consulting firm that will drastically change how the city schools operate.

According to the last batch of assessment data, only about a third of Nashville students are performing at grade level in mathematics and fewer than half are proficient in literacy and English language arts. At the same time, the district structure prevents teachers who could make a real difference to these numbers from either teaching effectively or sharing their skills with their colleagues.

Among the changes – which will begin rolling out next month – will be sharp staff reductions at the central office, and the creation of a mechanism that would allow the best educators from around the district to collaborate, learn from each other and transfer their skills to their peers.

The changes however, won't be limited to just administrators and faculty. Roughly 27,000 students from around the district will receive personalized learning plans that will not only assess how well they are performing when measured against metrics set out by the state, but will also point them towards what they can do to catch up and get their skills up to grade level as quickly as possible.

Parents are cautiously optimistic but want to know details after facing waves of reform aimed at improving some Metro schools' dismal performance. Susan Hyde, mother of an Antioch High sophomore, said her son's school sees annual principal turnovers.

"I don't know that moving people around just for the sake of moving people around is the smartest thing to do," she said.

The man behind the sweeping changes is Director of Schools Jesse Register, who earlier this week announced the findings during a speech at the Martin Professional Development Center. Register said that he was confident that by following the recommendations laid out in the report, both the district and its students will eventually see improvement.

There are many reasons to trust Register's words — since taking the reigns in Nashville four years ago, he has already presided over substantial academic gains, though he considers the rate of improvement to be too slow.

The improvement plan comes from Tribal Education, which is in the first year of a five-year, $6 million contract to improve Metro's 34 schools with the lowest achievement or worst achievement gaps among groups of students. Many of the details on how to get them there are contained in a grant application to the U.S. Department of Education. The district is seeking $40 million for reforms, but Register said he'll find a way to carry out reforms whether the application is successful or not.

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