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Metro Schools celebrates Class of 2017 success stories


Graduations for the Class of 2017 start this week! To celebrate this wonderful accomplishment, we’ll be featuring various graduate success stories here and through social media. Follow these stories with #MNPSco2017. All of the featured students were nominated by a teacher or counselor.

Here is a preview of the types of stories we’ll be sharing:

Chike Brown, Hunters Lane High School

Chike is one of ten siblings and grew up in a single-parent household, causing him to take on increased home responsibilities. Despite his family obligations, Chike chose to take IB courses in high school and will be a first-generation college student in the fall.

Markia Shaw, The Academy at Opry Mills

Markia admits that she wasn’t focused on school during her senior year, and as a result she didn’t graduate with her class in May 2016.  In July, she suffered a devastating loss when her mother died in a car accident. She moved to a rural Tennessee area to live with her grandmother. Markia knew her mother wanted her to graduate high school, so she tried to enroll in the local school system. Because Markia had already missed her graduation date, she was denied enrollment. Not deterred, Markia moved back to Nashville to finish school at the Academy at Opry Mills while also working two jobs to support herself. As difficult as it was, Markia finished her courses quickly and graduated in December 2016.

William Robinson, Nashville School of the Arts

Will has been through an amazing story of identity and personal growth he continues to live each day. He is an inspiring dancer, and he radiates hope to every person he encounters. He aspires to attend college next year, and has been admitted to a number of colleges already this spring.

Kelton Elliott, Whites Creek High School

Kelton has been living with his grandparents since fifth grade. He has overcome many obstacles and has stayed focused with his academic goals. He is determined to meet his educational goals and will attend MTSU this fall.

Antonious Hanna of Glencliff High School

Three years ago, Antonious moved from Egypt to the United States and spoke barely any English when he arrived. He was originally placed in the Glencliff Adult Program because he was 17 years old and only had a few high school credits from his country.  Antonious fought to attend regular classes because he wanted to take full advantage of the traditional education he had moved across the world for.  He was granted permission to exit the Adult Program and enroll in regular classes, where he flourished. Antonious truly shines amongst his classmates. He is very involved in school activities and loves serving his community and bettering himself through action. Despite being an EL student, he scored seven points higher on his ACT than Glencliff’s average score.

Metro Schools’ 2015 graduation rate rises nearly 3 points in 1 year, 20 points in ten years.

Rate skyrockets from 61.9 percent in 2005 to 81.6 percent in 2015

With a 2015 graduation rate of 81.6 percent, Metro Schools continues its sharp upward trajectory in the number of students who are graduating high school prepared for the rigors of college and success in life after high school. The new graduation rate marks an increase of 2.9 percentage points in a single year, handily beating the district’s goal of 80 percent. In the last ten years, the district’s graduation rate has increased 19.7 percentage points, from 61.9 percent in 2005.

n 2011, the Tennessee Department of Education changed the way it calculates the graduation rate, resulting in a drop.

n 2011, the Tennessee Department of Education changed the way it calculates the graduation rate, resulting in a drop.

“Our efforts at district-wide improvement are paying off in an extremely important way,” said Chris Henson, interim director of schools. “More students are earning their high school diplomas, and that is our ultimate goal. Most districts don’t lead improvements with high school. Ours are blowing away all expectations and cementing Metro Schools as an example of how to do high school reform right.”

The vast majority of individual high schools – 18 out of 23 – saw increases, with Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School remaining steady at 100 percent.

Click to see a full chart of individual school graduation rates.

2015 reflects the highest graduation rate the district has reached since before 2011, when the Tennessee Department of Education changed the way it calculates the rate. Before 2011, students were given five years and a summer to count as graduating on-time. Now they are given only four years plus a summer. Despite this higher standard, the hard work of Metro teachers, principals, counselors and staff are helping more students graduate on time.

“You can’t underestimate the power of our teachers and principals to change students’ lives,” said Chief Academic Officer Jay Steele. “Our schools have become nimble and responsive places where educators can make individualized decisions for students based on real-time information of what they need at any particular point in the school year. They are getting better and better at tailoring instruction to individual students and meeting the needs of our very diverse student body.”

That diversity is represented in graduation rate gains, as well. Over the last five years, the district as a whole has increased the graduation rate by 5.4 percentage points with several student subgroups improving at an even faster pace. The rates increased significantly for economically disadvantaged students (+7.3 percentage points), students with limited English proficiency (+8.7 percentage points) and Hispanic students (+12.8 percentage points). These rapid gains are helping close the gap between these subgroups and their peers.

Grad Rate Graphs october 2015-page-006 Grad Rate Graphs october 2015-page-007
Grad Rate Graphs october 2015-page-008

The decreases in graduation rates for Asian students and student with disabilities will require close study to determine the root cause and possible solutions. Students who receive a special education diploma or take more than four years and a summer to graduate, as many special education students do, count against the graduation rate.

“Once they reach graduation, students have a world of options available to them, with a focus on college readiness and access,” said Dr. Steele. “With the real-world exploration and experience they gain in Metro high schools through the Academies of Nashville and other programs, students are better prepared to make decisions about where to take their lives. And with dual enrollment, dual credit and advanced placement opportunities, they often head to college already equipped with several class credits.”

Learn more about the advantages Metro students gain for college life in this video, produced through the Academies of Nashville.

Note: A previous version of this post included longitudinal grad rates that were inaccurate. We regret this error and have revised the graphic to reflect the correct rates. 

Glencliff, Hume-Fogg, MLK and NSA all have National Merit Scholar semifinalists!

The school year is barely a month old, but student awards are already rolling in…

19 Metro students have been named National Merit Scholar semifinalists, putting them well on their way to earning one of the top academic honors in the entire country.

They were chosen from among 1.5 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools who took the PSAT last year. The PSAT is a test students have to choose to take, so the scoring is very competitive. Scoring well enough to be a National Merit Scholar semifinalist is a huge accomplishment.

These 19 students will now move on in the competition, where officials from National Merit will look at their applications, academic record, extra curricular activities, leadership roles and more. They will also have to write an essay and get an endorsement from a leader in their school. After all that they will have to take the real deal SAT and score well enough to advance to the finalist round.

It takes a lot of work, but the payoff is worth it. In the spring and summer, 7,400 students will win National Merit Scholarships worth a combined $32 million. Last year 20 Metro students won National Merit Scholarships, National Achievement Scholarships and College-sponsored National Merit Scholarships.

Congratulations to these students, and good luck in the spring!

Glencliff High School

  • Davis Truong

Hume-Fogg Magnet High School

  • Arthur Eff
  • David Feng
  • Varun Gudibanda
  • Adella Kuster
  • Caleb Obregon
  • Saba Rehman
  • Jacob Vest
  • Jonathan Warkentin

Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School

  • Matthew Bray
  • Elom Dumenyo
  • Lillian Ekem
  • Dylan Folsom
  • Matthew Jones
  • Alexander Staggs
  • Tahj Starr
  • April Townson
  • Xiuya Yao

Nashville School of the Arts

  • Blake Skelton

Saluting Excellence: Four MORE National Merit Scholars in Metro Schools

The Metro Schools Class of 2015 continues to impress with four more National Merit Scholars added to the ranks! These awards are sponsored by the colleges these students plan to attend and are just as tough to win as the other National Merit Scholarships. They are given only to students who meet the highest academic standards and are selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors.

The latest National Merit Scholars are:

  • Jonathan Ladd, Hume-Fogg Magnet High School
    Sponsoring College: Oberlin College
    Probable Career Field: Political Science
  • Jessica Orkin, Hume-Fogg Magnet High School
    Sponsoring College: Vanderbilt University
    Probable Career Field: Mathematics
  • Kelsey Veca, Hume-Fogg Magnet High School
    Sponsoring College: University of Tennessee
    Probable Career Field: Engineering
  • Srinivasa Dheeraj Namburu, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School
    Sponsoring College: Vanderbilt University
    Probable Career Field: Computer Science

Let’s go through the full list of 2015 National Merit and Achievement honorees:

This year, more Metro students made it to the semifinals of the National Merit Scholarship program than ever before. Another group of scholars will be announced in July, so stay tuned for even more good news!

Saluting Excellence: The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt Class of 2015

The 2015 class of SSMV, with Virginia Shepherd, director of the Center for Science Outreach and professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at Vanderbilt, at center. (Vanderbilt)

The 2015 class of SSMV, with Virginia Shepherd, director of the Center for Science Outreach and professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at Vanderbilt, at center. (Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt)

Graduation season is almost done, and there’s one ceremony that happened two weeks ago you might not know about. But you definitely should.

On May 9, the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV) held its fifth commencement exercises. Together with their families, friends and community members, 23 graduates from four Metro Schools celebrated completion of the four-year honors program – one of the top high school science and math programs in the country.

Dr. Sharon Gentry, chair of the Metro Nashville Board of Education, was a distinguished guest and speaker. Dr. Jesse Register, director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, gave the commencement address.

These students are all headed to college this fall. Just take a look at this impressive list of graduates and their intended colleges: 

  • Fenan D. Debesai, Hume-Fogg Magnet, Davidson College
  • Kelsey G. Driscoll, Hume-Fogg Magnet, Claremont McKenna College
  • Catherine Elizabeth English, Overton High School, Vanderbilt University
  • Valeria A. Garcia Lopez, Hume-Fogg Magnet, Centre College
  • Evan B. Gordon, Hume-Fogg Magnet, Reed College
  • Varik Sevion Harris, Hume-Fogg Magnet, Reed College
  • Mayra Garitzia Hernandez, Hume-Fogg Magnet, Brigham Young University-Provo
  • Nhung Tuyet Thi Hoang, Overton High School, Swarthmore College
  • Isaac Ige, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Andriana D’an Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet, Vanderbilt University
  • Alex Steven Jolly, Hillsboro High School, Vanderbilt University
  • Elizabeth MacPherson, Hillsboro High School, Loyola University, New Orleans
  • Arturas Malinauskas, Hume-Fogg Magnet, Northwestern University
  • Xena E. McDonald, Overton High School, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Maylan Daniel Mehus, Overton High School, Haverford College
  • Dheeraj S. Namburu, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet, Brown University
  • Susannah E. Price, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Samuel A. Rafter, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet, Northeastern University
  • Efrain I. Salazar, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet, Brigham Young University-Idaho
  • Able Shi, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet, Vanderbilt University
  • Camron M. Shirkhodaie, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet, Vanderbilt University
  • Cochran Gray Tettleton, Hume-Fogg Magnet, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Yae Eun Yang, Hume-Fogg Magnet, Johns Hopkins University

The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt is a joint venture between Vanderbilt University and Metro Schools. The SSMV offers high school students a four-year, interdisciplinary, research-centered learning experience at one of the nation’s most prestigious universities, where internationally recognized faculty are leading the way in diverse fields of scientific study.

The School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt is supported in part by a National Institutes of Health NCRR Science Education Partnership Award, by Vanderbilt University and by Metro Schools.

North Sports Report – Sports are great. Scholarships are better.

by Mark North, president of The Fans, Inc

Big Sports Week…and Graduations

Don the cap and gown, cue the Pomp and Circumstance march, grab the tissue… the culmination of years of hard, sometimes tedious, work receives its reward. They’ve been at this school thing since they were four or five years old, and now their grown and ready to cross that stage and flip that tassel. Graduation gets first billing: everything else is part of the journey. As important as sports can be to a student (and it might be the best dropout prevention program ever devised), the diploma dash – down the aisle and across the stage – will always be the most important run of the season. Congratulations to all the graduates!

That being said…let’s talk sports.

World Cup has Nothing on this One

The Middle School Soccer City Championship might go down in history as the most riveting match in MNPS history with McMurray edging Croft in a penalty kick shootout. The soccer world will talk about this one for years.

Spring Fling – State Track Meet, May 18-22

The state track meet is a spectacle to behold! MNPS athletes competing with the best the rest of the state has to offer. Check out the schedule at and head to Murfreesboro to check out the action. MNPS has several teams that will be in the hunt (some might say favored) to win the state championship. Athletes to watch:

  • Hillsboro’s Janel Pate is the top sprinter in the state
  • Hume-Fogg’s Ben Brunson is the defending Decathlon champion and the state’s top qualifier

In the A-AA Pentathlon, the top four qualifiers in the state are all MNPS student-athletes:

  • Grenetria Shell, East Nashville (3,294 points);
  • Kayla Guthrie, Whites Creek (2,723 points);
  • Darreon Sawyers, MLK (2,648 points); and
  • Micquana Webster, East Nashville (2,617 points)

And many more…

Track: Middle School City Championship

The North Sports Report spent the evening at Cane Ridge High School for the City Championship Track Meet. The place was packed with fans, and these athletes are truly spectacular. Last week, I compared the middle school track athletes to comic book super heroes. This week – photographic proof. The Flash (or is it East Nashville’s Jashon Watkins?) is a blur as he makes the turn in the 200m.


The Flash

Congratulations to all the student-athletes and coaches!

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Soccer: Middle School City Championship

McMurray and Croft will take to the pitch for the Soccer Middle School City Championship on Friday at Croft. The pool of great Boys Soccer teams in MNPS high school continues to grow deeper, (see the success of Stratford, Glencliff, Antioch, MLK, Overton, Hume-Fogg and others), and the same is true at the Middle School level. Check out this game Friday afternoon. You will be amazed!


Celebrate! with Stratford STEM soccer


Scholarships in the Community

Stratford football and basketball player Chazz Simpson and Pearl-Cohn track athlete George Johnson were awarded a total of $3,000 in scholarships this week from the Madison Kiwanis Club. Chazz will attend Western Kentucky University and George will attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The scholarships are based on academics, character and service to the community. Congratulations!

MNPS: The First Choice for College and Career Ready Graduates

Saluting Excellence: Celebrate all Metro Schools graduates, valedictorians and salutatorians

With less than a week to go until graduation ceremonies begin, students, families and teachers across Nashville are preparing to celebrate the outstanding achievements of every Metro Schools graduate. There will be 26 ceremonies held in arenas, school auditoriums, college campuses and even the Grand Ole Opry house in a two-week period, April 12-26.

IMPORTANT: Due to forecasted rain, Stratford STEM Magnet High School has moved its graduation to the TSU Gentry Center.
See the full graduation schedule with dates, times and locations for each school.

In addition to the honor of receiving a high school diploma, most schools will also honor the top performing students of each graduating class. The 2015 Valedictorians and Salutatorians are:

School Valedictorian Salutatorian
Antioch High School Nardeen Samih Fayik Dina M. Mikaiel
Cane Ridge High School Merna Auype El Sols Marina Ramzy
East Nashville Magnet School Jostyn Hodges Katherine Climaco Benitez
Glencliff High School Elizabeth Narvaez-Vega Abdel Kareem Moadi
Hillsboro High School Alex Jolly Leah Daniel
Hillwood High School Heaven Anhalt Kenan Sakic
Hume-Fogg Magnet High School Kathryn Elizabeth Pickrell Madison Leigh Cuthbertson
Hunters Lane High School Kallen Shea Donaghey Virginia Cruz Victorio
LEAD Academy High School Antonio Onwu Victoria Stafford
Maplewood High School David Medina Jevonna Nicole Holbert
Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School Bushra Rahman Camron Shirkhodaie
McGavock High School Christopher Harris Taylor III Allison Paige Woomer
MNPS Middle College High School Naba Saleh Al-Akashi Eva Maria Thomason
MNPS Virtual School Madeline Ruth Milam Murphy Lexie Amber Nance
Nashville Big Picture High School DeWanna Andrea Williams DiKaysia M. Buchanan
Nashville School of the Arts Sophia Regina Allison &Allison Morgan Ullein Jenise Krisstarrah Williams
Overton High School Catherine Elizabeth English Maylan Daniel Mehus
Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School Darryl Lamont Harris, Jr. Adrian Jaques Prather
Stratford STEM Magnet High School Nazje Tanae Mansfield Hong Sheng Shi
Whites Creek High School Joanna Brooke Yant Adriana Nichole Buchanan

Next week, the Board of Education will honor these students, as well as those who have earned even more academic distinctions this year, at the annual Salute to Excellence. Student achievements include perfect scores on the ACT, National Merit Scholarship Finalists and even one student with 13 years of perfect attendance, kindergarten through graduation.

Salute to Excellence
Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 4:00 p.m.
Metro Schools’ Board Room
2601 Bransford Avenue, 37204

Saluting Excellence: Four National Merit Scholars in Metro Schools

The National Merit Scholarship is one of the country’s top academic prizes. Of more than 1.4 million qualifying students, just .01% make it to the finals and .001% are named winners. They have to meet the highest academic standards and are selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors.

So, yeah, it’s a pretty tough award to win.

That’s why it is so exciting to have FOUR National Merit Scholars from Metro Schools – a record number!

  • John McCaw, Hillsboro High School
    Probable Career Field: Engineering
  • Sarah Hua, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School
    Probable Career Field: Neurology
  • Bushra Rahman, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School
    Probable Career Field: Medicine
  • Cathy Zhang, Martin Luther King, Jr. Magnet School
    Probable Career Field: Public Health

This year, more Metro students made it to the semifinals of the National Merit Scholarship program than ever before. Last month, four Metro students won the related National Achievement Scholarship, which is given to high achieving African-American students. More awards from National Merit, including college-sponsored scholarships, are expected later this month and next month.

Congratulations to all of these students! The Class of 2015 is one for the books!

WATCH: Nashville Public Television documentary and live town hall on immigrant and refugee students

Deana Conn, OverDeana Conn, English Language Teacher at Overton High School is featured in the PBS documentary.

Deana Conn, English Language Teacher at Overton High School is featured in the NPT documentary.

Nashville Public Television will present the online event and documentary American Graduate: Translating the Dream TODAY, November 18 at 3:30 pm.

This program deals with the challenges that immigrant and refugee students face in graduating high school. It follows several Metro students and teachers including Deana Conn, teacher at Overton High School.

During the documentary, Deana and other education experts will participate in a live town hall, answering your questions and giving additional insights into the issues explored in the film.

To chat during the live event:

Metro Schools graduation rate rises 20 points in 10 Years

2013-14 graduation rate hits 78.7%

Nashville has reason to celebrate its public schools as the official graduation rate at Metro Schools reaches new heights, rising more than 20 percentage points in the last 10 years. The 2013-14 graduation rate hit 78.7%, up from 76.6% in 2012-13 and 58.2% in 2003-04.

These dramatic gains point to long-term improvements district-wide in all tiers. Ten years ago, last year’s graduates were in second grade. As they moved through elementary, middle and into high school, they experienced firsthand major educational changes like the move to higher standards, increased focused on social and emotional learning and a seismic shift in educational technology. Teaching and learning in Metro Schools are wholly different enterprises than they were 10 years ago, and those changes were clearly for the better.

MNPS Graduation Rate 2004-2014

“This news is welcome, and it is due to the hard work of the teachers and students of Metro Schools. They are to all be commended for reaching this milestone,” said Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register.

Year over year, the graduation rate at Metro Schools grew twice as quickly as Tennessee as a whole last year, rising 2.1 percentage point versus the state average of 0.9 percentage points.

“The changes we’ve seen in our high schools in the last 10 years are remarkable. They are completely different schools reaching students in completely different ways,” Dr. Register said. “Students are finding ways to learn that work for them. Through high school innovations like the Academies of Nashville, our magnet schools, Virtual School, Middle College and Big Picture, as well as the Academy schools at Old Cockrill, Opry Mills and Hickory Hollow, there are choices to fit every student’s needs.”

There are 24 high school options in Metro Schools, and nearly all of them are open for application to any student in the county entering grades nine through 12. The Optional Schools Application period opens Monday, Nov. 3, and every student will be able to choose the school that offers his or her best chance for success.

“Every student is different. They all have different interests, needs and styles of learning,” said Chief Academic Officer Jay Steele. “Our high school options give every student an individual path to graduation. That’s one of the biggest reasons why there has been such an enormous increase in the graduation rate. When students are more connected to what they are learning and are empowered to make their own decisions about learning, they can find their path and see it through to graduation.”

While district officials are proud of the increase in the graduation rate, they recognize it is still behind the national average and well below where it needs to be.

Steele said, “We continue making improvements to our high schools. The Middle Preps are working hard to keep students on track and focused during the key middle school years. The StrIDe program with MTA now makes it possible for high school students to have more transportation access to optional schools. As a district we are intensely focused on serving the whole child and giving all students the best chance for success at every level. All of these and many more strategies added together can lead to even bigger gains in the graduation rate. Now it’s up to us to keep working hard and make sure that happens.”

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