Seven Big Ideas From Metro Schools To Keep An Eye On

Feb 8, 2017

First-year superintendent Shawn Joseph's transition team has laid out 100 ideas to make Metro Schools better, and some of them would be major undertakings. Many of the suggestions are not yet fully fleshed out.

One of the biggies is looking into whether fifth grade could be moved off of middle school campuses and join elementary schools. This is a more substantive proposal than it might sound.

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

Metro Schools has a huge problem with families attending their zoned elementary school and then either moving to private academies or out of the county. The thought from this 47-member transition team is that moving fifth grade could ease some of the attrition. Surrounding districts, like high-performing Williamson County, have fifth graders in their elementary schools.

Other transition goals include keeping closer tabs on teacher absences and possibly rewarding educators with perfect attendance. The team, which issued its report this week, also suggests de-emphasizing the use of standardized test data in teacher evaluations, at least as much as the state will allow.

Seven Excerpts From The Transition Team Report

Here are seven highlights to watch (download the full report here). Shawn Joseph has not committed to these, and of course, some of them would cost considerable money.

  • "Determine feasibility of moving 5th grade to elementary schools to help address student attrition between elementary and middle school." —Moving fifth grade to elementary schools would be in line with some surrounding districts. It's an attempt to stave off the current attrition after elementary school.
  • "Create an elementary-level arts magnet to establish vertical alignment across tiers in the district’s arts offerings." —The transition team also wants to look at moving Nashville School of the Arts from its current campus.
  • "Study whether all students who meet the academic eligibility requirements should be automatically entered in the academic magnet schools’ lottery." —Equalizing the academic magnet selection process has been pinpointed as a priority. The transition team also contemplates making sure each part of town gets a similar number of seats in sought-after schools like Meigs and Hume Fogg.
  • "Create and disseminate regular employee absentee reports to supervisors and consider incentives for employees who have good attendance." —Teacher absences have been a problem for MNPS at times. 
  • "Provide, in every high school, a liberal arts pathway for those students who do not wish to participate in the academies." —High school academies have gotten lots of attention, even from the White House. But there has been some concern that there's not as much focus on college-prep.
  • "Analyze the distribution of effective teachers to ensure that the highest-needs schools have the highest-quality teachers and consider incentives for staff to choose to work in high-need schools." —This raises the sticky issue of merit-based pay, which is being done on a limited basis at the moment.
  • "De-emphasize, within state guidelines, the use of test scores to determine teacher effectiveness as instructional reforms are being put into place." —There's a thought that teacher evaluations have been too focused on standardized tests in recent years, which is a state requirement.
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