Dr. Register calls on Nashville to come together with a unified voice during his final State of the Schools Address

State of the Schools 4-11-15 0020

All photos courtesy of the terrific student journalists at BobcatBeat.net, the official news site of John Overton High School.

Today Dr. Jesse Register looked back at the journey Metro Schools has taken since 2009 and spoke of challenges that still lie ahead as he delivered his final State of the Schools Address for Metro Schools. The speech summed up his time as Director of Schools – both the successes and the shortcomings – as he prepares for retirement from the district this June.

Before a crowd of educators, students and civic leaders at Overton High School, he commended the Nashville community for its unified support of public education but also challenged them to avoid divisive debate and continue working together for improved opportunities and outcomes for all students.

“I am proud to say that the experiences our students are having today are much different than they were a little over six years ago,” Dr. Register said, noting gains in academic achievement across all subject areas and the district’s rising graduation rate. “With all of that said, we have to recognize that we’re still not where we want to be. We want to provide an excellent education for every student, regardless of their background, their race, their family or the school they attend. Our students deserve no less.”

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The speech kept students at the center, and Dr. Register was even flanked by 30 students who serve as ambassadors for their high schools. Hitting a theme he would return to at the end of the speech, Dr. Register pointed to the potential in Nashville to create a world-class urban school system for its students and the community support it will take to make that happen.

“It’s taken all of us working together toward common goals,” he said. “We need to build on the progress that’s been made, and push aggressively in the areas where we still need to improve.”

Read the entire State of the Schools Address

The speech recapped the state of Metro Schools over a period of six years, beginning in a time before Dr. Register came to Nashville. He described the district as being in the first stages of state takeover and plagued by a culture of low expectations for students.

“There was a bright side, though,” he said. “When I moved here, the Nashville community was already fully aware of its school system’s challenges and was unified in demanding better for its young people.”

Calling it a “journey of transformation,” Dr. Register outlined the district’s reform efforts over the last six years, beginning with the strategic plan he developed with great community support when he first came to Metro Schools. Called MNPS Achieves, it focused on nine areas of need – such as disadvantaged students, high school reform and district operations – and developed strategies to address them all.

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That journey was accelerated by $40 million in Race to the Top funding, awarded to Tennessee in 2010, that allowed the district’s five-year strategic plan to be completed in just three years. From there, Dr. Register, the Board of Education and other district and community leaders developed a new strategic plan to build on the successes of MNPS Achieves and Race to the Top, called Education 2018: Excellence for Every Student. This new strategic plan encompasses many of the major initiatives and practices underway today.

“[Education 2018] calls for greater school autonomy, redefining central office as a support system for schools and – most importantly – a focus on personalized learning,” Dr. Register said. “Personalized learning is the key to serving our diverse student population.”

In summarizing this plan, Dr. Register highlighted some of the pieces falling into place this year: a move to student-based budgeting for greater school flexibility, a focus on diversity across the district, personalized instruction through technology and a holistic approach to education that gives equal weight to academic, social and emotional development.

“This is a whole-child approach to education where we recognize that preparing for success in life requires more than meeting high academic standards,” he said. “We want to help students develop the social skills needed to manage emotions and build relationships. … We’re national leaders in this effort.”

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One of the areas to receive the most attention – and clearly one of his proudest achievements – is the ongoing expansion and improvement of prekindergarten in Metro Schools. After a local investment of $5 million to add more than 300 new pre-K seats, Nashville won a federal grant for $8.3 million to develop and expand high-quality pre-K with the possibility of a total $33 million over four years.

“We know when students enter kindergarten ready to learn, they’re more likely to be successful not only in kindergarten but throughout their education. It’s smarter to invest early than to remediate later,” Dr. Register said.

Saying, “the progress we’re making as a school district is undeniable, but our work is far from done,” Dr. Register also spoke of the district’s challenges, including the number of priority schools identified by the state. Metro Schools in the bottom 5 percent for performance statewide has increased during his tenure, a development he called “unacceptable” and one that will require “hard decisions and hard work.”

“We can’t be afraid to make tough decisions if it means better outcomes for our students, and we’ve made some hard decisions already,” he said.

Watch the entire event.

He pointed to the decision to convert Kirkpatrick Elementary into a KIPP charter school and the work underway by the East Nashville Advisory Committee as the kind of collaborative work that will drive further achievement in Metro Schools. He also noted the poor performance of Metro students on the ACT, with the majority of graduates failing to meet the college readiness benchmark score of 21.

“In a school district going through transformational reform, like Nashville, test scores are always the last thing to change,” he said. “But we can’t afford to sit back and wait for the reform measures already made to take full effect. Our students can’t afford for us to wait. We have to keep pushing.”

With that, Dr. Register looked ahead at what faces Metro Schools after he leaves. He encouraged an optimistic outlook, saying the district is well-positioned to see accelerated academic achievement, and called on the greater Nashville community to come together once again with a unified voice. He cautioned against divisive debate and urged everyone to keep students at the center of all discussions.

“When the debate becomes about adults and not kids, we’re in a dangerous place,” he said. “Nashville is a world-class city. The appeal and success of Nashville right now are undeniable. And there’s one key ingredient that made it all possible: optimism.

“People have invested their time, energy and money into a vision for what Nashville could be. That same passion exists around education in this city. We’ve seen it. We’ve benefitted from it. Now is the time to harness an optimistic vision for Metro Nashville Public Schools. And it’s up to you and all of us in this room and others across the city to see that vision come to be.”

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Tell us what you want in a new Director of Schools

The Board of Education is searching for a new Director of Schools. Dr. Jesse Register will retire from Metro Schools this summer, and the Board has set a goal of finding the new Director by late June.

You can play a big part in this search process. Your opinions are vital to helping the Board know what kind of district leader Nashville needs. The input you give will have a direct impact on the kinds of candidates the Board seeks and the ultimate decision of who is hired.

There are three ways to participate:

Tuesday, April 14
10:00 a.m.
I.T. Creswell Middle Prep
3500 John Mallette Dr, 37218
Wednesday, April 15
7:00 p.m.
Cane Ridge High School
12848 Old Hickory Blvd, 37013
Thursday, April 16
7:00 p.m.
East Nashville Magnet School
110 Gallatin Rd, 37206

Cambridge advanced academic program expands to Croft Middle Prep

Cambridge logo for Advanced AcademicsMetro Schools is strengthening the advanced academic pathway in the Overton cluster by adding the Cambridge program to Croft Middle Prep. This is the third Nashville middle school to earn the Cambridge designation and the eighth school overall. Croft Middle feeds into Overton High School, which is already a Cambridge school.

“Cambridge challenges students with a world-class curriculum and prepares them to compete with any students they encounter from around the world,” said Matt Nelson, director of advanced academics and talent development. “By giving students the opportunity to take on this challenge at Croft, they will be even more prepared for the rigorous courses they will find at Overton. From there, they will be prepared for whatever they encounter in college, career and life.”

The Cambridge International Examinations program is affiliated with the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and offers courses comparable in rigor to British A levels and the International Baccalaureate Programme. It is available to students at every grade level, including a complete K-12 continuum in the McGavock Cluster through Hermitage Elementary, Donelson Middle and McGavock High. The Overton Cluster is building a Cambridge pathway through Overton High, Oliver Middle, and now Croft Middle. Additional Cambridge programs are offered at Cane Ridge and Whites Creek high schools.

“Croft is already a unique school,” said Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jay Steele. “It is the epitome of what we designed the Middle Preps to be. It’s focus on project-based learning and the amazing partnership with the Nashville Zoo keeps students engaged in what they are learning. Now Cambridge will take the school to the next level with brand new opportunities for students.”

Nelson added, “The Cambridge curriculum will engage Croft students in active and creative learning and will enhance the academic structures that already exist at the school. The school is a perfect fit for this program, as are the Middle Preps in general.”

The mission of the Middle Preps of Nashville is for students to “experience rigorous academics, engaging activities and creative arts in a safe environment with caring and nurturing adults.” The Cambridge programs supports this, giving middle school students a holistic understanding of the core subjects, with focuses on enquiry, problem solving and next-level thinking. The Cambridge programs helps students see the world from an international point of view and promotes cross-cultural understanding.

“We have been very intentional about expanding advanced academic offerings in the Middle Preps,” said Dr. Steele. “We offer high school credit courses in every middle school and aim to have every student earn at least one high school credit before leaving eighth grade. Cambridge is the perfect addition.

Once they leave middle school, all Metro students have access to high-quality advanced academic programs in high school. They can earn the Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Diploma at Overton, Cane Ridge, McGavock and Whites Creek. Hillsboro and Hunters Lane High Schools offer the International Baccalaureate program, with Antioch High School soon to join them. Nearly all Metro high schools offer Advanced Placement classes through the College Board, including MNPS Virtual School, giving every student the opportunity to earn college credit in High School.

Prekindergarten Application Week is now open!

Prekindergarten can help prepare your child for success in elementary school and beyond. Metro Schools offers more opportunities for pre-K than ever before, and now it is easier than ever to navigate the different options.

The Prekindergarten Program Guide is a new booklet available this year online and in schools to help families see all the options in one place, including information about who is eligible for which programs and what kinds of services they offer.

Pre-K Program Guide - Cover


DOWNLOAD the Prekindergarten Program Guide in English and Spanish.

Once you have found the right option for your family, you can submit a pre-K application at any of the district’s 12 Enrollment Centers, the Ross Early Learning Center, the Bordeaux Early Learning Center or the Customer Service Center at central office.

The deadline for applications is Friday, April 24 at 3:30 p.m.

Enrollment Centers are open
Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Early Learning Centers are open
Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Customer Service Center accepts applications
Monday-Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Applications received before the deadline will be included in a random selection process that determines who gets admitted to each program and who is on the waitlist. Applications received after the deadline will be added to the end of the waitlist.

If you have questions about pre-K in Metro Schools, call the Customer Service Center at (615) 259-INFO (4636).

Flyer - Pre-K


DOWNLOAD the Prekindergarten Application Week flyer in English, Spanish, Arabic and Somali.

Andrew Jackson Elementary unifies for Autism Acceptance in an amazing photograph

by Becky Brewster, member of the Metro Schools Autism Team

Photo curtesy of Andrew Jackson Elementary School, Autism Acceptance Month kickoff event

Photo curtesy of Andrew Jackson Elementary School, Autism Acceptance Month kickoff event

Have you ever heard the term, “school culture”?

School culture generally refers to the beliefs, perceptions, relationships, attitudes and the written and unwritten rules that influence every aspect of how a school functions. Positive school cultures are conducive to professional satisfaction, morale, effectiveness, as well as student learning, well-being and fulfillment.

Here at Metro Schools, we strive to make the culture of every school positive for the students and staff. In April, Autism Acceptance Month, many schools across the district are taking a stand to educate the staff and students about Autism and how to effectively include students on the spectrum in all aspects of the school culture.

One of these schools is Andrew Jackson Elementary School.

Andrew Jackson ES is the learning environment to at least 15 students with a diagnosis of Autism. Their involvement and acceptance at the school is very important to their learning and to the learning of all students at the school. Andrew Jackson kicked off Autism Acceptance Month as a school-wide event, including staff and students in their initial event to get the entire school involved.

They called it “Lighting it up blue” and had staff and students wear blue in solidarity of Autism Acceptance. The staff and students formed a ribbon and took a picture for their website.

This month, the teachers, staff and volunteers will be reading books, watching short videos and having open discussions with their students to help raise awareness of Autism: what it is, what it isn’t and how students can help be a friend to the peers within their community that have Autism.  It’s very exciting to have an entire school open to learning and sharing knowledge about Autism in both the staff and students.

Curious about your school and their efforts to raise acceptance of students with Autism? Just ask.

Metro Schools thrives on the importance of acceptance and inclusion of all students. Join the conversation, get involved, be aware, be accepting.

Incredible student projects that perfectly explain what a “museum magnet school” is really all about

Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary and John Early Museum Magnet Middle are gaining attention state-wide! Both of the museum magnet schools received Awards of Excellence during the recent Tennessee Association of Museums (TAM) conference in Jackson, TN.

Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary received its Award of Excellence for its temporary exhibit, Robert Churchwell: The Jackie Robinson of Journalism. This project was organized in cooperation with Robert Churchwell’s family, the Tennessee State Museum, and the Nashville Room at the Downtown Public Library. The exhibit consisted of such artifacts as family photographs, eyeglasses, typewriter, and awards on loan from the Churchwell family. The State Museum lent items including a painting of Churchwell’s hometown of Clifton, TN, a Nashville Banner newspaper bag and lunch counter stools from the sit-ins that took place in downtown stores during the Civil Rights Movement. Photographs from the Nashville Banner collection housed at the Downtown Public Library also added to the project.

The exhibit opened on September 9, which was Robert Churchwell’s birthday. Students, staff, and community members celebrated Mr. Churchwell’s legacy with a public program, tour, and reception. In addition, students interacted with members of Churchwell’s family during the exhibit grand opening and during a special launch of a children’s book, Robert Churchwell: Writing News, Making History: A Savannah Green Story, which was written by family member, Gloria Respress-Churchwell, and illustrated by local artist, Michael McBride.

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Students and community members not only learned about the legacy of the school’s namesake, they also learned the valuable role objects and oral history play in shaping and telling one’s story. Students continue to learn these lessons on a daily basis as they created their own exhibits related to classroom instruction.

John Early Museum Magnet Middle Prep received its Award of Excellence for its year-long Project-based Learning (PBL) partnership with the Croft House at the Nashville Zoo. The project, which centered on the slave cemetery on the zoo property, allowed 7th graders to conduct in-depth inquiry across the curriculum. Students conducted primary source research, looked at cultural burial customs from around the world, conducted DNA analysis and explored the probability of genetic dissemination from generation to generation. The next step is for the students to give the “Unknown 20″ buried in the cemetery a voice and share their stories through the incorporation of the performing arts (a play written, directed, and performed by 7th grade students).

The partnership consisted of quarterly entry events including a tour of the Croft House, a presentation of archaeological investigations conducted by Dr. Shannon Hodge of MTSU who worked on the cemetery project at the Zoo, and a visit to an actual archaeological dig. Additional partnership components included multiple planning meetings with teachers, interactive tables during Museum Exhibit Nights at the school,and student interaction with and presentations to Croft House staff.

Students and staff at both museum schools have worked very hard this school year and take pride in their accomplishments. Be sure to check out their websites for more information about upcoming museum programs, exhibits and community presentations.

Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Middle School

John Early Museum Magnet Middle School

Created in 1960 , TAM “fosters communication and cooperation between museums, cultural societies, and other members on matters of common interest to all. The organization’s goal is to inform the public on the importance of understanding and preserving Tennessee’s cultural, historical, and scientific heritage,” according to their website. Over 150 museum professionals from across the state acknowledged the work and dedication of the two museum schools.


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