Nashville Finds The Money For Total Middle School Overhaul

Jun 26, 2017

Nashville's public schools have found the money for a district-wide overhaul to middle grades. Administrators said they'd be forced to scale back plans to rework curriculum for middle schools if the mayor didn't fully fund their budget. The money didn't come through, but the district is making it work anyway.

Metro Schools wanted $5 million to fund a grand plan that includes getting laptops in the hands of most middle school students, moving to digital textbooks for science and adding an instruction specialist at each school to help teachers better use technology.

Metro Schools put the project out for bid even without the money and got a better deal than expected. Discovery Education is about half the cost.

Superintendent Shawn Joseph says this update in middle schools should be more substantive than the recent rebranding of grades 5-8 as "middle preps."

"We're going in and really looking at the teaching and learning on this round," he says. "It's more than just changing the name on a school. It's impacting what teachers do and how they do it."

Joseph says the district will start with half the middle schools this fall, just as originally planned. The other half will be phased in over the next two years. The overhaul also includes new after school programs, field opportunities in both science and the arts, and an initiative beginning this week to equip teachers interested in helping students learn computer coding.

In time, Joseph also wants to add honors courses and look at moving 5th grade down to elementary schools. The moves are partially intended to retain families who pull their children from Nashville's public schools after fourth grade. At the same time, the district's middle schools have struggled to perform. Joseph says he believes increasing the rigor helps both ends of the spectrum.

"I think when you raise expectations, students do better."

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