Since 1919, Junior Achievement has sought to empower students across the nation with the skills they’ll need to thrive in a global economy, providing lessons on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and work readiness through engaging, hands-on activities. Today, Junior Achievement reaches approximately 4.9 million students per year – from kindergarten through 12th grade – in all 50 states, and involves leaders from the education, business, and civics sectors in its mission to prepare America’s youth for a successful life. The Scarlett Family Foundation has proudly supported Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee since 2008. \
In Middle Tennessee, Junior Achievement serves over 30,000 students per year, many of whom pass through its Nashville-based JA BizTown. This fully-interactive, simulated town allows its visitors to step inside a business community, creating opportunities for students to advance their understanding of the functions of banking, credit, taxes, customer service, and other essential work-and-life topics. Designed for students in the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades, the JA BizTown program welcomes visitors from all school settings, whether public, private or homeschool.
In 2020, Middle Tennessee students in grades 7 through 12 will have access to their own hands-on, state-of-the art program within JA, with the launch of the new JA Finance Park.
A Day in JA Finance Park
In the JA Finance Park program, students will explore how the financial choices they make, from higher education to healthcare and more, affect their personal lifestyles and budgets. Upon completion of a 13-week, in-school course, students will visit JA Finance Park and make use of its digital tools to simulate real-life situations around topics like jobs, family support, budgeting, and investment. Students might use their JA Finance Park tablet to go to the bank to apply for a home loan, job hunt, or even pay for items using their “own” credit card. This experience offers exposure to key skills students might not get from a traditional classroom setting, such as negotiation and spending, role-playing, self-reflection, and decision-making.
Offering lessons like, “Got Skills? College or Not?” and “Where’s All My Money?”, combined with the hands-on experience of a day in JA Finance Park, Junior Achievement aims to give its student participants the knowledge they’ll need to make sound personal finance decisions throughout their lives. To learn more about JA Finance Park, click HERE.Read More
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Almost three-fourths of Nashville’s public school population are students of color. In contrast, a look at Nashville teachers reveals the opposite— with 72% of teachers identifying as white (according to MNPS warehouse data received by the Scarlett Family Foundation).
This racial gap between students and educators reflects a national trend, the Washington Post found, as America’s public school population becomes more diverse, but the educator workforce does not.
In a recent article, the Washington Post takes a closer look at school district data and provides insight into what some cities are doing to address this growing racial gap:
Nationally, a Washington Post analysis of school district data from 46 states and the District of Columbia finds that only one-tenth of 1 percent of Latino students attend a school system where the portion of Latino teachers equals or exceeds the percentage of Latino students.
It’s only marginally better for black students: 7 percent were enrolled in a district where the share of black teachers matches or exceeds that for students. Among Asian students, it was 4.5 percent.
Meanwhile, 99.7 percent of white students attended a district where the faculty was as white as the student body, The Post found.
Over time, the ranks of teachers of color have grown. In 1988, 87 percent of public school teachers were white. By 2016, 80 percent were, according to federal data.
Nonetheless, the racial gap between teachers and students has widened as more young people of color have enrolled each year. In 1994, two-thirds of public school students were white; by 2016, fewer than half were.
Read more and explore their data to see how Nashville compares.Read More
5 Things Districts Can Do to Keep Ahead of Population Changes — and Avoid Enrollment, Planning and Budgetary Disasters
As Nashville continues to be one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, school districts in the region must keep up with the population changes – especially when considering how to adjust their planning and resources. Today, Metro Nashville Public Schools must grapple with dramatic shifts in enrollment— particularly as some regions of the city see schools literally “bursting at the seams” while others see multi-year trends downward.This is a challenge Brian Eschbacher, former Executive Director of Planning and Enrollment for Denver Public Schools (DPS), knows well. In The74, Eschbacher explains how he helped the district weather complex population changes brought about by an enrollment boom, and what other school districts can learn:
During my seven years as executive director of planning and enrollment services for Denver Public Schools, our urban district was among the fastest-growing in the country, gaining more than 20,000 students over 10 years. Since 2017, that trend has slowed, with growth continuing in some neighborhoods but not others. But our team was well-positioned to deal with these changes because of a series of strategies that allowed us to detect, assess and respond to changes in the student population proactively.
Unfortunately, too many large districts lack the tools to respond nimbly to complex population trends. They can take a cue from Denver and other cities by adopting five practices that can prevent unforeseen enrollment, planning and budgetary disasters. More often than not, districts with these systems in place have adopted versions of the portfolio strategy for district management, with autonomous, accountable schools, equitable parent-choice systems, and a central office that focuses on quality assurance, support and high-level strategic planning rather than day-to-day school decisions. But any district can consider adopting some or all of these strategies, whether or not the “portfolio” model is in place.
Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty ImagesRead More
The rising cost of college, particularly at the nation’s most prestigious institutions, could soon top $100,000. As these numbers continue to rise, students and families will inevitably be priced out of the most selective— and elite— colleges.
Although many families receive some amount of financial aid to offset the sticker price (the full cost of tuition and fees), colleges depend on tuition revenue more today than they have in the past. Higher Ed institutions face a choice: to stomach an uncertain financial future, or to exclude the many, many students unable to pay such lavish prices for a college education.
The Atlantic explains this trend, and what it means for the future of college affordability:
As admission rates have dropped, the cost of attendance has increased—a correlation seen at many highly selective schools. By 2025, the University of Chicago’s sticker price is predicted to pass the $100,000 mark, which would make it the first U.S. college where attendance costs six figures, according to a new analysis by The Hechinger Report, an education-news outlet. The analysis suggests at least a handful of other U.S. colleges will follow suit soon after Chicago hits that milestone, including California’s Harvey Mudd College, New York City’s Columbia University, and Texas’s Southern Methodist University.
And after that, given the way American higher education has been going, it likely won’t be long before six-figure prices are common among selective colleges and universities. The [colleges] that are expensive are the ones that students want to apply to,” explains the Seton Hall University professor Robert Kelchen, who studies higher-education finance. “Being expensive is seen as being good—if one [elite] college is 20 percent cheaper than another [elite] college, students are going to wonder what’s wrong with it.
Tennessee edges toward the top half of states on the Nation’s Report Card, thanks to drops elsewhere
This week, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released results from its 2019 assessment. Called “The Nation’s Report Card,” NAEP is a nationwide education assessment administered by the federal government every other year to track student achievement. This year’s results revealed that while most states remained flat or declined in reading and math, Tennessee’s student scores at saw either no change, or some small improvement.
The Nation’s Report Card named early literacy as a nationwide challenge. Only 35% of Tennessee’s 4th graders are considered at or above NAEP proficiency in reading, the same as the national average.
The Scarlett Family Foundation recently released a data resource that focuses on specifically on early literacy in Metro Nashville Public Schools. Only 3 in 10 third grade MNPS students are reading on track, a number that has not moved in the last three years.
Chalkbeat Tennessee dives deeper into Tennessee’s results:
Tennessee elementary and middle school students improved or held steady on national tests this year while scores in many other states fell, lifting the Volunteer State’s national rankings to solidly in the middle of the pack, according to results released on Tuesday.
The state’s fourth-graders recovered losses from two years ago in math and maintained their reading scores. Meanwhile, eighth-grade scores in both subjects were up slightly but statistically flat for a third straight testing year going back to 2015 under the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as NAEP. The exam is given every two years to provide a snapshot of U.S. student achievement for the Nation’s Report Card.
With the showing, Tennessee defied national downward trends and edged closer to — but still fell short of — its ambitious goal of moving into the top half of states by 2019 under the strategic education plan developed five years ago under former Gov. Bill Haslam.
In 1993, in its education report card, the Nashville Chamber of Commerce named literacy as a significant issue plaguing Metro Public Schools. 26 years later, this warning has snowballed into what can only be called a public crisis. In the year 2019, seven out of ten third-graders in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) cannot read at grade level – approximately 4,500 children in total.
According to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma than a proficient reader. As these students struggle to keep up with their peers academically, through fourth grade and beyond, the process of dropping out begins – a fate that research connects to higher rates of incarceration, along with other social repercussions. In Nashville, the lack of a high school diploma also carries startling economic implications. According to the Nashville Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Vital Signs report, a local resident with no high school diploma will earn $23,389 on average – about $1,800 below the federal poverty line for a family of four.
But ultimately, no child’s future can be predicted with certainty, and Nashvillians should strive to set all children on a path to success in their earliest days. In some ways, the overall health of a community depends upon it. The Blueprint for Early Childhood Success tells us that “every child without a high school diploma costs society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity [per year] – a number that will increase dramatically as low-skills jobs continue to disappear and demand for skilled work increases.”
Nashville’s struggle to turn its youngest residents into skilled, lifelong readers has been publicly acknowledged by city leadership, and has inspired a rise in both enthusiasm for and resources dedicated to fighting the early literacy crisis. In fact, a concrete goal was articulated as part of the city-wide Blueprint for Early Childhood Success initiative: to double the number of third-grade students reading on grade level by 2025. But with only 3 out of 10 Nashville third-graders achieving proficiency in English Language Arts in 2019, it is clear we are not moving the needle quickly enough.
To spotlight our city’s literacy crisis, the Scarlett Family Foundation recently released an interactive data tool focused specifically on third grade literacy rates in Nashville. We recognize that the proficiency numbers listed on this data map do not exist in a vacuum; there is context to every school community, involving factors such as poverty, proximity to resources, percentage of non-native English speakers, and so on. But if we allow these numbers to serve as starting points for discussion, they may have the power to inspire community-wide action that leads to real, tangible improvement for Nashville’s students.
Takeaways from the Third Grade Literacy Data Tool
As previously mentioned, the last few years of available testing data reveal that the percentage of Nashville third graders reading on grade level has barely moved from year to year— both districtwide and for key student subgroups. Only 15% of economically disadvantaged students and 20% of Black/Latino/Native American students are reading on grade level.
The data indicate some variance across school type, with 30.1% of students at public charter schools testing ON track compared to 25.6% at traditional MNPS schools. In Metro Nashville’s magnet schools, significantly more students (43%) are on track in English Language Arts.
But this discrepancy pales in comparison to that seen amongst the various geographic regions of Nashville. Literacy rates are at their lowest in the Pearl Cohn cluster, where only 13% of students on track, followed closely by the Hunters Lane cluster (15%). Comparatively, the Hillsboro (59%), Hillwood (34%) and Overton (37.5%) clusters see significantly higher rates of third-grade reading proficiency, though still far from acceptable. This correlation between literacy rates and geographic location points to a glaring inequity in our city – no child’s academic future should be dictated solely by the neighborhood in which they live.
Some notable improvements in third grade literacy are found across clusters, with two elementary schools standing out as bright spots for growth over the past three years— Napier Elementary and Crieve Hall Elementary.
Napier Elementary, in the Glencliff Cluster, moved from N/A (meaning less than 5% of students tested on track) in 2017 and 2018, to 17% students testing on track in 2019. Crieve Hall, serving students in the Overton Cluster, saw approximately 40% of students on track in both 2017 and 2018. That number increased significantly in 2019, with 67% of students measuring at the on-track level.
Explore the state of third grade literacy in your neighborhood by visiting our Data Tool here.
We have the data that proves the problem. How do we move closer to a solution?
As a city, we’ve articulated a bold, worthy goal: to double the number of third-graders reading on grade level by 2025. But with growth stagnant, what are we as Nashvillians prepared to do to see real improvement?
Start Early, and Empower Parents
A child’s relationship with reading should begin in their earliest days – making the home, the childcare center, or the preschool a perfect place to introduce young children to words, books, and texts of all kinds.
Nashville Public Library (NPL) stands as a hub for reading-readiness resources and programming. NPL’s Bring Books to Life is a free early literacy outreach program that operates in over 150 preschools, pre-k programs, and child care centers across Nashville. The Library equips teachers with the strategies and tools that will allow them to bring age-appropriate literacy practices into the classroom and provide workshops for parents and caregivers that will help create a culture of reading at home.
Almost 1,000 children are registered for the Library’s Read to Rise program, which helps parents get intentional about story-time with the goal of building a habit of daily reading in the home. Additionally, the Ready Rosie application provides quick videos demonstrating how parents or caregivers can incorporate literacy, math and social emotional learning practices into their family’s daily life. With these tools, parents can become better teachers of and future advocates for their young readers.
Not a parent of young children? Volunteer or donate books.
Consider volunteering time or resources to students in need. Through local organizations like PENCIL and Book’em, volunteers can be connected to MNPS students who have been identified as requiring reading intervention. Book’em also welcomes community members to host book drives, an important part of making sure all Nashville students have access to books. An up-to-date listing of open volunteer opportunities across the city can be found through Hands On Nashville.
Raise Your Voice
It’s important to recognize that YOU have the power to make profound change in the lives of MNPS students; and in order for third grade literacy rates to improve at a transformational level, we must all come together to see this issue as a city-wide priority. If the data presented in the Third Grade Literacy Data Tool is shocking to you, tell your elected officials. Make your voice heard by contacting your school board member, your Council Member, and the Mayor’s Office. Let our city’s leaders know that early childhood literacy must remain at the top of Nashville’s priority list if we are ever to truly live up to our “It City” title, and ask them what they plan to do to bring all students up to grade-level reading proficiency.
If we as a community truly believe that literacy is fundamental to our city’s health, we must raise a collective voice and demand more for the children at risk of being left behind.Read More
Through the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee (BBBS), local children in need of guidance and support are provided with strong and enduring one-on-one mentoring relationships. One of BBBS’ school-based programs, the High School Bigs Literacy Program, gives at-risk elementary students the opportunity to be mentored by an exceptional high school student while also working on critical literacy skills.
The Scarlett Family Foundation has supported this innovative mentoring program since 2014. Rebecca Ackerman, Vice President of Programs at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee, oversees the organization’s many mentoring programs. In this Q&A, we talk to Rebecca about how the program works, and why it has such a unique impact on its participants.
Why did Big Brothers Big Sisters start a literacy program?
One of the impacts we see of mentoring programs in general is increasing academic motivation. But we also see big disparities in academic preparation and achievement among elementary students. That time students are spending with their mentors could be leveraged to increase the number of hours of literacy support a child receives in the course of their school year.
So, we found the mentoring relationship is a great time to not only build connection and academic motivation, but build a foundation for academic achievement.
Where and how does the program operate?
The High School Bigs program matches high school students to elementary students within Rutherford County Schools. The Bigs spend about one hour a week with the student for one school year. The hope is for a healthy, long-term relationship because we know the best outcomes happen in relationships that are a year or longer.
Bigs make time to meet with their matches during the school day, and many give up their free periods to mentor. One high school starts an hour later than elementary schools, so those Bigs get up an hour early to meet with their Littles before their own school day even begins.
All of our high school students go through a rigorous application process and interview. We are looking for students who have a level of maturity, commitment and resilience. They are required to participate in a structured, formal training and connect with a coach on a weekly basis for the first year of their mentoring.
What kinds of things do the Bigs and Littles do together and how do these activities improve literacy?
Each match spends time reading together— the Little has the opportunity to read to their mentor or the mentor to the Little. We also provide literacy based-activities and games for the Bigs to do with the Littles.
Student voice is so critical in the learning experience. So conversation is a really important component of literacy building. Children don’t generally have a lot of time during the school day to engage in in-depth, one-on-one conversations. But having an hour for intentional conversation with their Big to read and discuss what was read increases their vocabulary and literacy comprehension.
How does having older students involved in the program make a difference for the younger students?
These matches are one of the sweetest things to observe. Often, the kids referred to us are struggling academically or socially. Because our Bigs are not an adult, they are safer to take risks with and the Littles have less fear. It is relationship-based learning.
Specifically, we often hear that the Littles feel important to their mentors, which is something that’s pretty remarkable when you think about the mentor relationship. Very often it makes sense where the mentor feels important— but this is one relationship in the Littles’ lives where by virtue of the fact that the high school student is showing up every week and giving them undivided attention, it communicates importance.
How does the program benefit the Bigs, too?
This is as much a resilience-builder for the high school student as it is for the Little. Empathy is a skill that is built through this process— and perseverance. It allows high school students to step out of themselves and to gain a different perspective from another person.
It helps them reflect on their own learning and how they’ve built skills and how they have grown as learners and as people. That process of relating to a young person who is struggling with a skill they have mastered is really grounding.
It helps them build the soft skills that are so necessary in the workforce. As they get ready to head off into college or career, for them to have this perspective that is broader than their own is really critical.
One of the only programs of its kind with an emphasis on literacy, the High School Bigs Literacy Program provides Littles with 30 additional hours of literacy programming over the course of the year.
In a city where low literacy levels ‘take your breath away,’ here’s how one Detroit school is teaching third-graders to read
What happens when 5,000 students leave third grade without reading on grade level— year after year? That is the challenge facing the city of Detroit, Michigan.
Unfortunately, Detroit is far from alone in this third-grade literacy crisis. In fact, Nashville’s numbers rival Detroit’s. With only 28.8 percent of Metro Nashville Public Schools students on track in English Language Arts , 4500 students left third grade last year without achieving reading proficiency.
Early literacy must be treated as a top, city-wide priority. That’s why, in the month of October, the Scarlett Family Foundation will be releasing a new data tool that will allow our community to explore the third grade literacy challenges facing Nashville.
Chalkbeat Detroit is highlighting how city schools are working to improve third grade literacy:
“Three boys sat down around a table at Detroit Premier Academy and opened up their picture books. It was the beginning of the school year, and the race was on.
Their teacher, Whitney Vanatta, showed them an index card with the letters ‘Ck’ written on it.
“‘Ck’ says ‘kuh,’” she said.
“Kuh,” they echoed.
The lesson was designed to help the students learn the basic building blocks of English, sound by sound. It wouldn’t be out of place in any kindergarten classroom.
But these weren’t kindergartners — they were third-graders who were badly behind in reading.
They are far from alone. When Michigan’s controversial new “read or flunk” law goes into effect this year, as many as 5,000 third-graders who are reading on a second-grade level or below will be at risk of being held back.
The state of Tennessee released graduation data for the 2018-2019 school year. There’s good news: the graduation rate has increased— reaching 89.7%— and is the highest the state has ever seen.
The Tennessean shares the key takeaways:
The state increased its overall graduation rate to 89.7% and gained half a percentage point over the previous year. Over 72,000 students graduated in 2018-19, with 183 graduates over the previous year, according to state numbers.
The state’s graduation rate is the highest-ever for the state, which has steadily seen increases since changes made in 2011.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn celebrated the accomplishment, but said she believes the state can top this year’s results.
“Ultimately, I would like to see all 130 districts that serve high school students have a 90 percent graduation or better,” she said. “That’s something my team will be very focused on over the next four years, along with making sure those students have a career or college path in mind the day they walk across the stage to get that diploma.”
Metro Nashville’s graduation rate also increased by two percentage points, to 84.7%. The graduation rate is important, but it does not answer a deeper, more critical question: Are these graduates ready for college or career when they leave high school?
The state also measures readiness by the percent of students who score a 21 on the ACT and graduate on time, called a “Ready Graduate” metric. While those updated numbers have not yet been released, last year, the percentage of MNPS graduates qualifying as Ready in the 2017-2018 school year was only 24%.
The purpose of high school is greater than just reaching Graduation Day— we must ensure that our students are gaining the skills and knowledge they need for the next step in their lives.Read More
Millions of Students Are Chronically Absent Each Year. Improve School Conditions and More Kids Will Show Up, Report Argues
This week, the American Institutes for Research and Attendance Works released a new report on the issues contributing to student chronic absenteeism (students missing more than 18 days of school a year). In it, the authors zoom in on the factors that affect student attendance, factors both inside the school building and out. The report also makes recommendations for encouraging attendance, including the development of a welcoming and safe environment for students, strong relationships between adults and students, and increased access to engaging learning opportunities.
The education news website, The 74 highlighted key takeaways from the report:
An obvious educational rule of thumb is that in order for students to learn at school, they first have to show up.
But with millions of children counted “chronically absent” each year, a new report argues that educators can improve attendance by first making their schools more welcoming places to attend.
The report, released Tuesday by the American Institutes for Research and Attendance Works, argues that schools can improve student attendance if children feel safe and included at school. A comprehensive strategy to improve students’ health and safety, sense of belonging, emotional well-being and academic engagement are all key to combating chronic absences, according to the report.
Those elements work together to “pull people in or push them out,” said David Osher, vice president at the American Institutes for Research and a co-author of the report.
“You want school to be a place people want to be,” he said. “For too many students, particularly too many students who face economic disadvantage and often are culturally marginalized, what they experience in school tends to not be highly engaging.”
Chronic absenteeism challenges Metro Nashville Public Schools, particularly at the high school level. A third—and in some schools, even more— of MNPS high school students miss at least 18 days of school per year. If our goal is to see all Nashville students receive a high-quality education, we must contend with the factors that keep students out of the classroom.Read More