Nashville's underperforming schools designation ignites debate

Sep 28, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  City leaders are digesting the news that five more Metro schools have been added to the list of Tennessee’s worst performing schools.

Credit tnscore.org

Of Nashville’s 130 plus schools, 21 now have that designation.

School Board Chair Sharon Gentry says the system is committed to improvement. But she also wants parents to understand the challenges faced.

She says both the state and city are failing to provide adequate funding. She also says schools are spending ever more resources on problems outside the classroom.

“Adverse childhood experiences; whether that’s homelessness, it’s poverty, it’s high absenteeism from school, it’s a lack of access for their parents to transportation, high crime rates.”

Adam Lister heads the advocacy group Tennesseans for Student Success. He says Metro Schools can’t hide behind funding issues or social problems.

“I reject the idea that simply because we have a district where students are stuck in situations, at least temporarily, where they are experiencing high levels of poverty that they are destined to an underperforming district.”

Lister notes that other Tennessee systems, and even some individaul Metro schools, are succeeding under the same conditions.

Edward Gutherie does research for Vanderbilt University’s Tennessee Education Research Alliance. He says, if nothing else, having schools on the underperforming list does help the city and state target scarce resources where they’re needed most.

“Those test scores do show you where the highest proportion of students in need of more academic support are concentrated. They are concentrated in these schools.”

Dr. Gentry goes on to note the news isn’t all bad. She points out that four Nashville schools came off this year’s low performance list. She also reports 21 Metro Schools were listed among the state’s highest performing institutions.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Below you will find the full WMOT interviews with Dr. Gentry, Edward Guthrie and Adam Lister. WMOT encourages you to review their complete comments to get a better understanding of each one's unique take on the problems facing MNPS and how the system can address its challenges.