Last week, Metro Nashville Public Schools MNPS) were left at the altar by their choice for Director of Schools, but today’s news should help ease that sting. Test scores were released for the district this morning, and they show that when Mayoral candidate Bill Freeman says that the narrative of Nashville schools struggling is overblown, he is correct. The Tennessean may not be impressed, but todays results are among the best ever for MNPS.
These are results that should be pasted on the front page of the paper instead of stories about social media spats. Our public school system is one that we can be proud of. It is not one in need of a “reset” but rather one that needs a continued firm hand on the wheel as we continue to make an upward trajectory. Some will try to spin a false tale of our schools being in crisis and failing to meet the needs of our children, but the truth is that we are systematically attacking our challenges and our children are working hard; proving that when the time comes, they’ll be ready to lead and maintain Nashville’s status as an “it” city. They are doing things the Nashville Way.
Here are results for grades 3-8. They show math jumping from 44.6 percent proficient/advanced to 47.4. Science jumped to 49.1 percent. Reading did dip slightly, as it did for the whole state.
Taking a look at grades 9-12 End of Course (EOC) exam scores and this becomes even more impressive. In English I (9th grade), students scoring proficient/advanced increased to 63.7 percent and English II (10th Grade) increased to 56.3. English III (11th grade) soared to 29.8. These are incredible gains.
Math is the same story, but with even greater gains.
Out of 11 categories, MNPS hit the mark in 10. That’s pretty damn impressive. Especially considering all the turmoil that we’ve seen this year.
I think we can draw several conclusions from these results. First and foremost, we have an incredible group of teachers and administrators who work with and are dedicated to the children of Nashville. They don’t get nearly enough appreciation. We need to remember that every time we say or hear things like, “Our school system is in crises,” or “We are plagued with failing schools.” That just reinforces a false narrative that is not borne out by the data, and therefore disparages the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice of these professionals. We owe them a debt of gratitude and support, not unfounded criticism. Hat’s off to each and everyone of you.
Second of all, why was MNPS Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jay Steele not considered a finalist for Director of Schools again?? African American leaders are currently calling for the school board to reconsider an offer to Dr. Angela Huff for the position of director of schools, yet not a word about Dr. Steele. Like him or not, and there are plenty that don’t, you can not dispute these results. There will be an attempt to add these to Dr. Register’s legacy, but anybody who’s watched Dr. Register up close this last year knows that his hand was rather loose on the wheel this year. The majority of his time was spent battling crisis’s of his own making.
Dr. Steele joined MNPS in 2010 in the position of associate superintendent for high schools and since then, test scores have seen a steady increase. His results were strong enough to attract the attention of the White House and led to a visit by President Obama. This year, he became more involved in middle schools, and once again, the scores have gone up. We say we value data but then we chose to ignore it when it tells us a story we don’t like.
Dr. Huff by all accounts, is a wonderful talented woman, but she’s never been a director, nor has she ever been directly in charge of instruction for a district like Nashville’s. Yet, for some reason her potential is valued more then the body of work Dr. Steele has helped facilitate. If we are not careful, he may be facilitating that growth for someone else. It’s no small feat that almost 19,000 more students are scoring advanced or proficient today than they were in 2010. Calling attention to these results should not be seen as a slight of Dr. Huff but rather an indictment of the search firm Hazard, Attea, and Young and the job they did – or failed to do.
I talked to a gentleman recently who told me about being at a conference with a group of our principals. His assessment was, “You all got a bunch of rock stars.” Yes, we do. Ask yourself though, who do you think recruited them, led them, and is supported by them? Yet we are willing to give credibility to a search firm that said Dr. Steele was not prepared to lead. Take the personality out of the equation and look at the results. They speak for themselves. This should not be seen as a slight of Dr. Huff but rather an indictment of the search firm Hazard, Attea, and Young and Associates and the job they did or failed to do.
Thirdly, I hope State Education Superintendent Candice McQueen takes notice of these numbers and lets the Achievement School District know that we don’t need their help. We have challenges and our schools definitely have room for improvement, but as these score continue to show, we know how to make those improvements and we are making them. Rumors continue to swirl that they have targeted two more Nashville schools. Those actions need to stop and Neeley’s Bend needs to be returned to MNPS. The ASD’s time would be better spent planning Chris Barbic’s retirement party.
Bill Freeman is absolutely right when he says Metro Schools need a cheerleader. It’s obviously not going to be the Tennessean. The work our children are doing is going to ensure a brighter future for all of us. The people guiding them are doing so in an exemplary manner. These results need to be celebrated for what they are: a testimony to the hard work and dedication of Nashville’s students, teachers, administrators, parents, and community members. Let’s all get together and show how proud we are of Metro Nashville Public Schools success.
Test scores are not a complete indication of a schools quality and lord knows, these results come with plenty of questions. However, they are what most people use for a measurement and they have been sanctioned by the state. To not celebrate them would rob us of a day to hug our children and say “job well done”. To not celebrate would deprive us of a day to slap a high five to teacher or administrator. That’s makes today a day of celebration.