Nashville must unite, bicker less, on public school challenges | Opinion
The conversations surrounding our city’s public school system are persistent, and at times emotionally charged.
The four of us wanted to take this moment to express that we are committed to working together in support of one another while ensuring Nashville becomes the highest achieving urban school district in the country.
This goal is ambitious. Some might find it unrealistic in light of certain metrics which are far from satisfactory.
For example, recently released data shows that MNPS is moving faster than the state and nation on third through eighth grade reading, but despite those gains, we are still far from where we want to be.
And, certainly the news on Friday that we now have six more schools on the state’s Priority Schools List(those performing in the bottom 5 percent in the state) — from 15 to 21 — is deeply disappointing.
We can – and must – do better.
Strong public-private partnerships are essential
While those headlines are deflating, we cannot settle for quick fixes where the performance is fleeting. There is too much at stake.
What we are seeking is a transformation of learning in every classroom in every school for the benefit of every student entrusted to us by their parents through a covenant we are not willing to compromise.
But we will only succeed if we find a way to bicker less and instead work together to equitably address historic challenges of underfunding of our public schools.
In the same way that we have come together around early literacy – resourced the need and forged strong public/private partnerships to fasten the pace of the work, we must now do that more broadly to accelerate progress in underperforming schools.
Results will not materialize overnight. But, much work is already underway, successes are revealed every day, and the groundwork is in place on many fronts for the reversal of results that are unsatisfactory by anyone’s standards.
This includes the extraordinary work by teachers and principals across the district who work tirelessly every day to help their students achieve their full potential.
Indeed, amidst the bad news we often read are stories of great success – schools and teachers getting terrific results for kids. We must learn more about those bright spots and help share and scale their lessons learned citywide.
Debating school improvement is productive
We appreciate that no issue facing our city is the singular domain of one institution.
Rather, matters such as public education are a concern for the entire community.
Debating matters about how to improve our schools is productive, but only when it is grounded in mutual respect, and an appreciation for joint creativity. When it comes to investing in the future of the City’s youth, we believe that our signing this guest column is an important signal to Nashville — a signal that we are prepared to be supportive of one another in pursuit of our schools being safe places where students flourish.
And, it is a signal that we all share a tremendous sense of urgency to accelerate improvement.
We love Nashville, and are committed to getting this right for our children. Our city has a long history of coming together in extraordinary ways for the good of the community. This is one of those moments when we must showcase the best Nashville has to offer and lean in, together, to do what’s right for students and families.
David Briley is the eighth mayor of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County, Dr. Sharon Gentry is the chair of the MNPS Board of Education, Dr. Shawn Joseph is the superintendent of Metro Nashville Public Schools, and Jim Shulman is the recently elected vice mayor.
[Read more at The Tennessean]