Blog Archives

Dr. Joseph: “Metro Schools gets a ‘B’ on the start of schools”

Director points to successes and areas for improvement after first full day of school

With nearly 88,000 students coming back to school for a new year, the Metro Schools leadership team is closely examining what went well and what areas need greater support. In a detailed memo to principals and other school leaders, Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph acknowledges the concerns seen and heard in schools and spells out ways they are being addressed.

“We feel like it’s been a good start to the year, but overall I give us a grade of B,” said Dr. Joseph. “We had some great successes, largely due to our phenomenal principals and school staff. The schools look great, the staff are friendly and easy to access and everyone is working with a positive attitude. But there are some issues we saw in multiple areas of the district that we know we need to fix. The next steps are for my team to find resolutions, and quickly, so that principals can worry more about instruction and less about late buses and enrollment questions.”

Leading up to the first day, Dr. Joseph tasked central office leadership with visiting every school between August 3 and August 12 to observe schools, talk to principals and teachers and see what supports need to be given. At the end of each day during this period, the central office team gathers together to go over the issues found and make a plan for solutions.

Some of the issues found in the first two days of school include:

  • Transportation
    Several families in Metro Schools were not assigned school bus routes over the summer as they should have been. This is likely due to issues related to moving to a new student data system, as some student addresses were not transferred in the move. Enrollment staff members are working right now to ensure every student has a valid address, and transportation staff members are working to get them into the routing software as quickly as possible.This issue is leading to some delays in school bus service and, in some cases, families not having a route at all. District officials acknowledge this is a problem, and are working to solve it for all families. In the meantime, families can check the Find Your Bus Stop tool online to see if they have school bus information available. If they do not, they can contact the Family Information Center at 615-259-INFO (4636) or by email at to create a record of their individual issues.
  • Enrollment
    Families continue to enroll throughout the first day of school, and instructions for school staff about enrollment were not clear enough. This caused some confusion over who was responsible for enrollment and how it should be handled. There are also several students with information waiting to be entered into the new student data system, which came online July 11.Schools have now been given clear instructions on how to enroll students on the spot, without having to send them to an Enrollment Center, along with all necessary forms. Enrollment staff members are working to ensure proper entry of all students who have completed the enrollment process.
  • Family Information Center
    With increased phone call volume related to the start of schools, along with an antiquated phone system in the process of being replaced, the Family Information Center phone lines crashed for two hours on the first day of school, leaving many families with no answers to their questions. The system remains at capacity, leading to long wait times and, in some cases, disconnected calls.The phone system is being replaced with a more modern system, though that will not be finished until early fall. Call volume is expected to return to normal levels in the second week of school, which should allow for faster answer times and quicker resolutions. However, other solutions are also under discussion to provide more immediate relief.

Other common issues seen in schools involve access to the new student data system, custodial services and interpretation for families who do not speak English. They are detailed in a memo to school leaders. You can also view the observation checklist used by district leadership during school visits.

“Like we’ve been saying, we have high expectations of ourselves, and we need to live up to and exceed them,” said Dr. Joseph. “That includes giving schools everything they need to serve students. Right now, we’re falling a little short. We need to acknowledge it, fix it and move forward in the school year.

“It was a busy summer for us, with a brand new leadership team coming on board in July, hiring nearly 30 principals, changing systems and processes – we did a lot. But we can always do more, and the lessons we learned this week will make us stronger this year and next August when we open the doors on 2017.”

Dr. Shawn Joseph names three executive cabinet members

NewDirectorTransition_Header_v2Chief academic officer, chief of schools and chief operating officer lead realignment of district leadership structure

Today, Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph announced the first three members of his executive cabinet in naming a chief academic officer, chief of schools and chief operating officer. Under the new executive structure planned by Dr. Joseph, one additional cabinet member—chief of staff—will be named before the team officially begins work in their new roles on July 1. 

The chief academic officer position is being filled by Monique Felder, Ph.D., who currently serves under Dr. Joseph in Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland as the executive director of teaching and learning. Sito Narcisse, Ed.D., has been named chief of schools. Dr. Narcisse also comes from Prince George’s County but with strong Nashville ties, having earned his master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and serving as a student teacher at Antioch High School. Current Interim Director of Schools and Chief Financial Officer Chris Henson has been appointed to serve as chief operating officer. 

Read more about them in their personal biographies.

Chief academic officer and chief operating officer are existing positions on the district’s executive team. Each will be reshaped with a new scope of work. Chief of schools and chief of staff are newly defined positions. These changes to the district’s leadership structure result in a reduction in the number of direct reports to the director of schools from six to four.

“Our goal is to ensure we have a structure that effectively serves students, families and schools.”
— Dr. Joseph.

“The four chiefs will work closely together so that silos within the organization are broken down. The new executive team will be expected to work cross-collaboratively to give clear direction and effective supports to our school leaders, educators, staff and students.”  

Dr. Felder has over 25 years of experience as an educator. She has served as a teacher, principal and a district administrator for advanced learning. She holds a bachelor’s in elementary education, a master’s with a specialization in elementary science and math and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies. She also holds an advanced certificate in equity and excellence in education. 

As chief academic officer, Dr. Felder will oversee all aspects of instruction and curriculum from prekindergarten through graduation. While this position previously oversaw principal and teacher supervision in addition to academics, it will now focus on student learning and social and emotional supports for students.

“If we are going to have real academic alignment through all grades and the highest quality instruction for all students, we need a chief who only thinks about teaching, learning and the social / emotional supports that are needed for student success.”

Dr. Narcisse’s career has taken him from teaching locally in Nashville and Williamson County to serving as a school leader in Pittsburgh City Public Schools and Boston Public Schools. He also worked on school improvement in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland and as associate superintendent working on school improvement in Prince George’s County. He holds a bachelor’s degree in French from Kennesaw State University, a master’s from Vanderbilt in secondary education and a doctorate in educational administration, policy studies and leadership from the University of Pittsburgh.

In his role as chief of schools, Dr. Narcisse will be responsible for overseeing the mentoring, support and evaluation of all school-based administrators.

“Dr. Narcisse and Dr. Felder will bring an intentional focus on excellence and equity to Metro Schools,” said Dr. Joseph. “Their collaborative spirits and propensity for research-based practices will strengthen our strategic plans.”

They both possess the passion and sense of urgency needed to ensure that all kids receive high-quality learning opportunities. We are fortunate to be adding two highly-skilled equity leaders to our team.”

Henson has been with Metro Schools since 2002, serving as chief financial officer and twice as interim director of schools. He became the interim nearly one year ago, in July of 2015, and previously served in the role in 2008. Under his leadership, MNPS was the first district in Tennessee to be awarded the Meritorious Budget Award for Excellence by the Association of School Business Officials. Before coming to Nashville, he served as CFO for Franklin Special Schools and Sumner County Schools. His expertise in school finance and operations is unmatched in Tennessee. He has served on the State Board of Education’s Basic Education Program (BEP) Review Committee for over 15 years, recently served as a member of the Governor’s BEP Task Force, and is a past president of the Tennessee Association of School Business Officials. He began his career with Deloitte and holds a bachelor’s in accounting and business administration from Trevecca Nazarene University. 

As chief operating officer, Henson will continue to oversee the district’s finances but also take on an expansion of his current responsibilities, overseeing all operational and business aspects of the district. 

“Mr. Henson is a proven leader, and I thank him for serving so well as interim director of schools,” said Dr. Joseph.

“This realignment allows us to streamline business operations and provide better services and supports to schools and communities.”

Additional staff announcements will come later this summer, including a full organizational chart expected in July.



Personal Biographies

Sito Narcisse, Ed.D.
Chief of Schools

Dr. Sito Narcisse personally understands the challenge of being a young student trying to learn English and living between two cultures, all while navigating the American public education system. The son of Haitian immigrants, Dr. Narcisse’s family moved to Long Island, NY, in the pursuit of a better life for him and his siblings.

As an English language learner, Dr. Narcisse learned to navigate both the social and academic obstacles that confront millions of New American students today. His success as a student led him to enroll at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. Seeing his second language as a strength, Dr. Narcisse graduated with a degree in French and pursued a Master’s Degree from Vanderbilt University in Secondary Education.  

Dr. Narcisse was a student teacher at Antioch High School in the Metro Nashville Public Schools prior to teaching French in Williamson County Public Schools (TN). Doctoral studies led him to Pittsburgh where he earned a Doctorate in Educational Administration and Policy Studies and Leadership from the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Narcisse has been a teacher, a principal—opening a high school in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and leading turnaround efforts in the Boston Public School system—a Director of School Performance and Acting Chief School Improvement Officer for Montgomery County Public Schools (MD), and an Associate Superintendent overseeing school improvement efforts for 74 schools in Prince George’s County Public Schools (MD).  His laser-like focus on creating equitable schools has resulted in improvements in graduation rates, the establishment of two International Schools for English Language Learners, and increased achievement in schools he has supervised.  

Monique Felder, Ph.D.
Chief Academic Officer 

Growing up in the culturally-rich community of Queens, NY, Dr. Monique Felder learned quickly that schools may have children of different backgrounds and cultures within them, but all children within those schools are not given an equal invitation, access, or opportunities to experience and engage in rigorous programs. After graduating from York College with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, she set herself on a path to answer the equity call that was placed upon her heart.   

Dr. Felder went on to earn a Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University with a specialization in elementary science and mathematics and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Felder has pursued post-doctoral studies at McDaniel College earning an advanced certificate in Equity and Excellence in Education.

Over the course of the past 25 years, Dr. Felder has been a classroom teacher, a principal—being recognized by the International Reading Association’s Award for Exemplary Reading Programs in the state of Maryland during the 2004-2005 school year—a Director of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction for Montgomery County Public Schools (MD), and the Executive Director for Teaching and Learning within Prince George’s County Public Schools (MD).

In 2015, she co-authored Increasing Diversity in Gifted Education: Research Based Strategies for Identification and Program Services. In all of her roles, Dr. Felder has sought to raise levels of expectation from both students and staff to ensure that students’ innate potential and innate gifts are identified, valued, and maximized.   

Chris Henson
Chief Operating Officer

The son of a music teacher, Mr. Chris Henson learned early in life the importance of a great education and the hard work required by educators to provide it. He graduated with honors from Trevecca University.

After starting his career in the private sector with Deloitte, Mr. Henson found his calling in public education. He served as the Associate Director of Schools for Finance and Administration for the Franklin Special School District (TN) and as the Budget and Finance Director and Interim Director of Schools for Sumner County Schools (TN) prior to joining Metro Nashville Public Schools in 2002 as Chief Financial Officer.  

Mr. Henson was appointed by the Board of Education in July 2015 to serve as the Interim Director of Schools—a role he previously served in from January of 2008 until January of 2009.

Under his leadership, Metro Schools implemented an innovative Student-Based Budgeting model, which directs dollars to schools based on students’ needs rather than positions, giving school leaders more direct control over programming. His stewardship for ensuring taxpayer resources are directed to best serve students led Metro Schools to be the first school district in Tennessee to be awarded the Meritorious Budget Award for Excellence by the Association of School Business Officials International.

Mr. Henson is a member of the Governor’s Basic Education Program (BEP) Task Force, the State Board of Education’s Basic Education Program (BEP) Review Committee, Tennessee Association of School Business Officials (Past President), Council of the Great City Schools, Trevecca University President’s Advisory Council, and The Tennessee Credit Union Board of Directors.

This year’s Hume Award winner is …

Congratulations to East Nashville High School senior Devarius Quantez Cortner, who is this year’s Hume Award winner.

Each school in the Metropolitan Nashville Public School System submits a candidate chosen by the principal and football coach on the basis of scholarship, sportsmanship, individual performance and value to the team.

A committee composed of a representative of the host club, the president of the Secondary Schools Principals Association, the president of the Middle Tennessee Football Officials Association and the sports writer covering high school football from each of our daily newspapers selects the five finalists and the winner from the candidates submitted by the schools.

See the pictures from the event and the event program below:



Here’s a list of free holiday concerts happening in Metro Schools



Bring your hot cocoa and warm up with these local holiday concerts, brought to you by the talented student musicians of Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Not only is it a good opportunity to visit a school and get a glimpse of the building, the teachers and staff, but it’s also an affordable night out with the family. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Check out this list of holiday concerts happening in our schools:

Choir Winter Concert

Date: Thursday, December 3 at 6 p.m.

Participating School: East Nashville Magnet

Grade Level: High School

Admission Cost: Free and Open to the Public

Event Contact:

Winter Concert

Date: Thursday, December 3 at 6 p.m.

The Music Department will have their annual Winter Concert in the Auditorium with performances by the concert and marching bands, chorus and string students.

Participating School: Cane Ridge High School

Grade Level: High School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:


Holiday Concert

Date: Thursday, December 3 at 6:30 p.m.

The Winter Band is performing.

Participating School: DuPont Hadley Middle Prep

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free


Whites Creek HS Fine Arts Night

Date: Saturday, December 7 at 7 p.m.

Whites Creek’s Fine Arts Night will showcase not only the performance choir pop ensemble (performing 5 numbers with solos), but the drama, dance, and visual art department.

Participating School: Whites Creek High School

Grade Level: High School

Admission Cost: Free
Event Contact:

5th & 6th Grade Winter Concert

Date: Saturday, December 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Performances by the 5th Grade Strings, 5th Grade Band, 6th Grade Strings and 6th Grade Band

Participating School: Bellevue Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Winter Program

Date: Wednesday, December 9 at 6 p.m.

Join us as our 1st graders sing classic holiday songs!

Participating School: Cane Ridge Elementary School

Grade Level: Elementary School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Chorus Holiday Concert

Date: Tuesday, December 8 at 6:30 p.m.

The school’s chorus will be performing.

Participating School: DuPont Hadley Middle Prep

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free


Vanderbilt Music Advocacy Concert

Date: Wednesday, December 9 at 4 p.m.

The John Early Museum Magnet Middle School Band will perform with the Vanderbilt Symphonic band. The Vanderbilt Jazz Band will perform for our students, this event will be held in the Steve and Judy Turner Recital Hall at Blair School of Music.

Participating School: John Early Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

East Nashville Magnet Winter Band Concert

Date: Thursday, December 10 at 6 p.m.

Join the East Nashville Magnet Middle School and East Nashville Magnet HIgh School Bands as they present their Winter Concert in the East Nashville Magnet High School Auditorium. Come see the 5th, 6th, 7th/8th grade Bands as well as the High School Concert Band and Jazz Band perform. The bands are directed by Katherine Aydelott and Frank Zimmerer.

Participating School: East Nashville Magnet

Grade Level: High School and Middle School

Admission Cost: FREE

Event Contact:

Hillsboro Winter Concert

Date: Thursday, December 10 at 6 p.m.

Hillsboro Band, Orchestra, and Choir Winter Concert

Participating School: Hillsboro High School

Grade Level: High School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Holiday Sing-Along

Date: Thursday, December 10 at 5:30 p.m.

3rd & 4th Grade Sing-Along Holiday Concert at Warner Elementary Auditorium, directed by Jill Courtney.

Participating School: Warner Elementary School

Grade Level: Elementary School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Hillwood High School Winter Concert

Date: Thursday, December 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Rock Bands, Mixed Chorus, Chamber Choir, Percussion Ensemble, Symphonic Band

Participating School: Hillwood High School

Grade Level: High School

Admission Cost: FREE

Event Contact:

Winter Concert

Date: Friday, December 11 at 6:30 p.m.

The H.G. Hill Middle School bands (5-8) will be hosting their winter concert in the gymnasium.

Participating School: HG Hill Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Band & Strings Winter Concert

Date: Friday, December 11 at 6 p.m.

The concert will be in the Head Magnet gym.

Participating School: Head Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Joelton Middle Prep Band Concert

Date: Monday, December 14 at 6 p.m.

Joelton Middle Prep band concert featuring the advanced band, intermediate band, and beginning band. Dinner Seth for parents, families, and students at 5:30 in the cafeteria.

Participating School: Joelton Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free but donations are gladly accepted

Event Contact:

7th & 8th Winter Concert

Date: Monday, December 14 at 6:30 p.m.

7th, 8th and Symphonic Band Advanced Strings

Participating School: Bellevue Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Winter Concert

Date: Monday, December 14 at 5:30 p.m.

Participating School: Donelson Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free Event


Holiday Concert: Past, Present, and Future

Date: Tuesday, December 15 at 6:30 p.m.

At Antioch High School – Holiday Concert of Past, Present, and Future featuring Una Elementary, Margaret Allen Middle, and Antioch High School performing holiday music.

Participating School: Antioch High School, Margaret Allen Middle School, Una Elementary School

Grade Level: High School, Middle School, Elementary School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Choir Concert

Date: Tuesday, December 15 at 2 p.m.

All Choirs, Marilyn J. Smith Director

Participating School: Oliver Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: $1.00

Event Contact:

3rd Grade Holiday Concert

Date: Tuesday, December 15 at 6 p.m.

Participating School: AZ Kelley Elementary School

Grade Level: Elementary School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

Winter Program

Date: Thursday, December 17 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The program will take place at Bellshire Assembly which is located at 116 Darbytown Dr; Nashville, TN 37207. The first and third graders of Bellshire Elementary will be singing and presenting songs to help spread peace, love, and holiday cheer. They will be accompanied by Nashville’s award winning funk band, Dynamo.

Participating School: Bellshire Elementary School

Grade Level: Elementary School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:

John Early Museum Magnet Middle Performing Arts Showcase

Date: Thursday, December 17 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

John Early band, choir and recorder class will perform.

Participating School: John Early Middle School

Grade Level: Middle School

Admission Cost: Free

Event Contact:


Hope you enjoy the holiday season with us!

Events were compiled with entries from the Music Makes Us Holiday Concert Calendar. Want to add to our list? Email us at

Vote for Bellevue Middle Prep to win $25,000 for new athletic equipment

Bellevue Middle Prep Basketball

Pictured: The Bellevue Middle Prep basketball team. 

Bellevue Middle Prep is participating in a national contest that will award them with $25,000 for new athletic equipment if they receive the most votes.

The school is currently a finalist in the Bridgestone “Fuel the Drive” grant contest, which awards prizes to schools that are dedicated to encouraging activity and healthy nutrition.

Voting ends on December 14 at 9 p.m. You can vote once a day, every day, until then.

So share with your coworkers, friends and neighbors to support Bellevue Middle Prep now!

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. 

Metro Schools’ model prekindergarten program begins district-wide expansion

Development and expansion of new pre-K program continues with help from Vanderbilt research team

Starting this month, the high-quality, play-based curriculum guiding instruction in Metro Schools’ three Early Learning Centers is being expanded district-wide to 174 prekindergarten classrooms located in over 60 schools.

The latest research from Vanderbilt University on statewide prekindergarten offerings reiterates the need to provide consistent, high-quality curriculum and build upon the benefits of pre-K in early elementary grades. Metro Schools has proactively taken on that challenge and is building a high-quality pre-K program in Nashville that is unique in Tennessee and can help improve early learning practices district-, state- and nationwide.

The three Early Learning Centers that opened in the district last year are designed to be models for a brand new pre-K program based on research and the specific needs of young children. The expansion of Creative Curriculum – which offers a style of teaching based on structured play instead of large group instruction – is the first major step in a series of initiatives being funded by a federal pre-K grant that will improve the quality and consistency of pre-K instruction citywide. The grant gives the district $8 million in year one, with the possibility of another $25 million over the next three years.

The three primary goals of the federal pre-K grant are:

  • Expand pre-K seats so more families have access
  • Improve pre-K programming so it makes a longer lasting impact on student achievement
  • Unify early childhood learning citywide – among public and private providers – so every child in Nashville can have a consistent experience and be prepared for elementary school

“Winning the grant was a game changer for early childhood education in Nashville, and we already had a big head start,” said Dana Eckman, director of Early Learning Innovation. “Thanks to a local investment from the Metro Council and the Mayor’s Office, Metro Schools was perfectly positioned to carry out an ambitious plan to rebuild pre-K. And thanks to a partnership with the team at Vanderbilt University, we have access to the very latest research to help shape what we’re doing in real-time.”

“We should all be proud of the investment we’ve made in high-quality prekindergarten and hopeful for the future of early childhood education in Nashville,” said Nashville Mayor Megan Barry. “As I’ve toured our early learning centers and spoken with our pre-K teachers, I have been incredibly impressed with their dedication and professionalism. Metro Schools is blazing a new path in pre-K that is building a foundation in learning that we can and should be building on in elementary school and beyond.”

In order to judge the effectiveness of this program as it develops, the Vanderbilt team is conducting a separate research project just about Nashville’s pre-K development. They are in the Early Learning Centers, speaking with teachers, observing and assessing students so the program can continue to evolve with the very latest and best expert feedback.

“We have been working in a collaborative partnership with the Metro Schools Early Learning Centers since they opened in 2014,” said Dale Farran, co-investigator of the Vanderbilt pre-K study. “Our goal is to assist them as they develop a vision for what an effective and positive pre-K experience should be. We provide real time extensive feedback to the teachers and coaches about the interactions and instructional quality of the classrooms. Teachers and coaches use those data to create goals for better practices. Our work from last year identified eight areas of practice that we showed were linked to higher gains for the children. Those eight areas are the focus for coaching and professional development this year. We are pleased that MNPS is taking its pre-K program so seriously and seeking to create a genuine evidence-based set of practices that will support the development of many young children.”

The new research from Vanderbilt on Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K Program shows that once students leave statewide pre-K classrooms, many of them begin to slip academically in later grades. By the time they reach third grade, many have fallen behind their peers who did not attend pre-K. To combat this elementary school slide on the local level, the district is putting a strong emphasis on early grade alignment, meaning that kindergarten, first, second and third grade will be built to support the instruction and style of learning students experienced in pre-K. Going further, there will be greater collaboration between pre-K and elementary grade teams, with teacher professional development designed to build a continuum pre-K through fourth grade.

“If we’re giving four year olds developmentally appropriate instruction in pre-K, we need to make sure we continue that practice as children move through the other early grades,” said Eckman. “That means we’ll be doing more experiential learning, arts, music, movement, foreign languages and outdoor learning in elementary schools.”

Watch as the early learning experts at Vanderbilt talk about the importance of high-quality pre-K and how to take it to scale.

To help this effort, former elementary principal Robin Cayce has been tapped to join district leadership as the executive director of professional development for grades pre-K through four. She is building education programs for elementary teachers that will spread these best practices throughout the district.

Along with Cayce, the support team for pre-K has grown with the addition of federal funding. The pre-K office will soon have its own dedicated staff of a dozen family involvement specialists who can build community and social supports for children and families. They will also work to get families engaged in their children’s learning early on to build good habits that can carry through in later grades.

“As Chief Financial Officer, I was proud to advocate for expanded and improved pre-K. As Interim Director, I’m proud to continue to build this program,” said Chris Henson. “It is one of the smartest high-yield investments we can make in the future of this district. With a brand new, high-quality pre-K program, our students will be prepared for anything they face leading up to and after graduation.”

Fundraiser Alert: Save money and donate money to schools all at the same time.

How can you save money on your family budget and give back to a deserving Metro school? PENCIL Foundation has made it easy.

The answer (duh.) is a coupon book! Yeah, yeah, we know. You’ve seen the coupon books for sale at some schools. But this one is different. It’s a wholly original book produced by the PENCIL Foundation specifically for Metro Schools.

PENCIL Pocket Saver

Click here to buy one!

The new PENCIL Pocket $aver includes money-saving deals from merchants all across Nashville (see the list here), such as a free trial class at the Nashville Ballet School, a free doughnut at Fox’s Donut Den, a $5 discount at Applebee’s, and buy-one-get-one free deals on admissions to the Frist Center, Belmont Mansion and Vanderbilt women’s basketball games. There’s also a travel section with discounts for Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge!

So how is it different?

  1. Price – This book is just $10.
  2. Schools get to keep $7 of that $10 price. That’s a higher percentage than schools earn from almost all other fundraisers.

Sales continue through Sept. 21 at about 40 participating Metro schools (see the list here). 

Many thanks to the PENCIL Pocket $aver sponsors whose support helps us keep the price of the coupon books so low and earmark so much of the revenue for schools. Sponsors include HCA TriStar Health, Aegis Sciences Foundation, Creative Artists Agency, DK Brand Strategy, LP Building Products and the Ryman Hospitality Properties Foundation.

Because PENCIL is a nonprofit organization, the remaining $3 goes back into the community to support PENCIL programs such as LP PENCIL Box (our free school supply center for teachers) and free background checks for school volunteers, with a small portion used to pay for production costs.

If you prefer, you can also order your coupon book  at the secure PENCIL Pocket $aver page.

Remember: The Pocket $aver is a great way to help students, help schools, help PENCIL provide much-needed programs and help yourself enjoy some fantastic bargains. Thank you!

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

Three Metro Schools named SCORE Prize finalists for 2015


SCORE (the State Collaborative on Reforming Education) has released its latest list of SCORE Prize finalists. This year there are THREE (3!) Metro schools on the list, including TWO (2!) repeats:

New Vision is the new addition to this list, and KIPP and MLK both appeared on the list last year. The SCORE Prize recognizes the schools and school districts that are leaders in student learning, particularly those “significant and sustained academic achievement.”

From the SCORE website:

  • KIPP Academy Nashville is a public charter school serving roughly 350 students in grades 5-8, and the school was a SCORE Prize finalist in 2014. KIPP students outperform the state average in reading, math, and science, and the school has shown strong growth in math and science over the past three years.
  • MLK Magnet, a middle and high school, serves approximately 800 students in grades 9-12 in Nashville. Nearly 100 percent of the high school students score proficient or advanced on end-of-course exams in English II, Algebra I and II and Biology. MLK boasts a tremendous college-going culture – students have an average ACT score of 25.8 over three years, 100 percent of students graduate high school within four years, and more than 90 percent go on to college.
  • New Vision Academy is a public charter school in Nashville serving more than 175 students in grades 5-8. New Vision has experienced strong gains over the past three years across reading, math, and science. Student scores in science are more than 10 points above the state average.

SCORE Prize winners in each school category will each receive $10,000. The overall winner will receive $25,000. Winners will be announced October 26 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The event will be hosted by SCORE Chairman and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and will highlight the outstanding work of the finalists. Musician and actor Charles Esten, who stars as Deacon in ABC’s Nashville, will provide a special musical performance.




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