The Big Surprise For Nashville's New Superintendent? The State Of Middle Schools

Nov 29, 2016

The director of Metro Schools is 100 days into the job and ready to provide a frank assessment of the district, which to his surprise, includes a relatively stiff critique of the district's middle schools.

The newly-hired administrative team held 30 parent listening sessions over the first few weeks. And moms and dads kept talking about middle schools and how they'd like to see them add rigor, more advanced courses and even just a bit more homework.

More: Read the transition team's full report

As a former middle school principal, superintendent Shawn Joseph thought maybe parents were just misunderstanding their pre-teen children. But then he visited many of the district's middle schools, and the concerns about academics were "validated."

"I see a lot of people working hard," he says. "But I understood what parents were saying."

Joseph says he knew before moving from Maryland that Nashville's public schools already see a dip in enrollment after elementary grades. But he says he didn't know why.

In recent years, the district has focused on elementary reading and improving graduation rates with high school career academies.

"Now is the time to give middle schools the love and attention they need to help strengthen our high school programs," Joseph says.

Joseph cautions that he doesn't anticipate any "mid-year, shoot-from-the-hip shifts."

"We'll take a bite at the apple next year with more comprehensive plans in year two and three," he says.

More: See Shawn Joseph's presentation to the Metro school board

Joseph is presenting his extensive 100-day report to the Metro school board Tuesday evening, which also includes his take on the city's system of school choice.

"Here I am, thinking about where my children are going to go to school, and I'm trying to understand it from a parent's perspective myself," he says. "It's very confusing, and I'm the director of schools. So if it's confusing for me, I'm sure it's confusing for other parents."

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