Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) received critiques recently from two influential groups about what is and is not working in the district’s improvement plan called MNPS Achieves. The plan is closely monitored by the National Advisory Panel of 5 education experts recruited by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform (AISR), which consults for MNPS.
Members of the panel recently visited Nashville to meet with public school leaders about their findings during last year, the second year of its evaluation. One of the advisors is Dr. Andy Hargreaves, is a Boston College professor and author of 2 dozen books about education change.
“Metro Schools are progressing well. It’s clear that this is a change in working with the professionals, a change through working with the culture, a change in terms of building on the assets that the schools already have in this city,” says Hargreaves.”
Hargreaves says the ambitious 9-step MNPS Achieves is based on best practices of high-performing systems around the world. He and other national advisors praise Metro Schools for trying to make real reform in the last two years and avoiding quick fixes like ramping up testing.
Those findings are included in the year 2 report by the AISR. Other positive findings include Metro Schools’ efforts to provide more training for principals and teachers; finding quality teachers; and encouraging customized learning plans by using information from the data warehouse known as LEADS- Longitudinal Educational Analytics and Decision Support System.
The panel’s main criticisms are directed at communications from the Central Office, and a need to narrow the focus of the school improvement plan.
“It’s fairly typical at this stage of change—Nashville is not unusual in this sense,” explains Hargreaves. “When you start many things, it’s really about pulling them together and leaving some things on one side so people aren’t overloaded. And through that, which is the second thing, is building the quality of communications.”
Within days of receiving the report from Annenberg Insitute, Metro Schools also heard from the Nashville Chamber of Commerce in its annual Education Report Card. It, too, points to a need for better communication within the school district and more effective usage of student data—especially to improve scores on college entrance exams like ACT.