Metro Nashville School Board District Profiles: Good data empowers parents, advocates and local leaders
Even while a lot of media and attention is paid to state and Federal races this election season, public engagement in local school board elections is just as important.
School board members have a major impact on education in Nashville, and this election will set the direction for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and the 85,000+ students it serves.
On August 2, along with the statewide primaries, Nashville will vote on four of the nine school board seats— Districts 2, 4, 6, and 8.
Board members serve a four-year term and act as the primary oversight of our public schools, make key decisions about academic strategies, and develop the annual operating budget. They have a big influence in how taxpayer funding is allocated to schools, classrooms and special services. The Board also has oversight authority over the District Superintendent and reviews charter school applications.
While voters should certainly learn about candidates for the Metro Nashville school board, they should also learn about the school district, the students served, and the teachers and principals it seeks to attract and retain.
Because some education data is hard to track down or spread out across different state and district sources, we compiled key metrics to empower local voters with the right data for sound-decision making.
Our goal in providing this data is to equip our community with good information as we work together to ensure every child receives a high-quality education.
Key Insights about Metro Nashville Public Schools
Demographically, MNPS is unique for a few reasons. Twenty percent of the student population qualify as English Language Learners— four times the state number. Additionally, half of the students are economically disadvantaged, compared to 35 percent statewide.
Of the 85k-plus students served by MNPS, about 12 percent attend charter schools, which are independently run public schools that have increased flexibility in exchange for greater accountability. Charters serve demographically-similar student populations as MNPS traditional schools do but with a slightly larger percentage of economically disadvantaged students.
When looking at student and school culture data, some concerning trends emerge. MNPS has high chronic absenteeism, with 17 percent of students missing a tenth or more of a school year. This means almost one in five students are missing a large chunk of instruction every year.
Recruiting and retaining great teachers and school leaders is also a known challenge— and the most recent data affirms it. The teacher retention rate for the 2017-2018 school year was 76 percent for MNPS traditional schools and 75 percent for charters. And the average principal has served in their role for only four years.
Finally, while MNPS lags behind the state in student achievement, there is a difference in achievement levels for different types of schools. When comparing traditional MNPS schools to charter schools, charters show near equivalent or higher achievement scores and surpass the state in growth scores.
Digging Into the School Board District Data
In addition to MNPS data, we have compiled key achievement, student culture and teacher data by School Board district. You can download the district profiles for the 2016-2017 school year here to see detailed breakdowns for each.
Here are a few key takeaways:
- Districts 1, 3 and 7 have the lowest percentages of students qualifying as “college ready” in MNPS (7%, 11%, and 15% respectively).
- District 2’s student population is so diverse it has no racial or ethnic majority, and its charter schools have the highest achievement and growth scores in MNPS.
- District 4 has the longest average for years a principal has served in the role, but is still only 4.9 years. District 8 has the shortest average for years a principal has served at 2.6 years.
- District 5 serves more students than any other district. It has the highest percentage of students in charter schools and the highest district growth score in MNPS.
- District 6 serves the second largest student population and is home to three newly-founded charter high schools (one in 2015 and two in 2017).
- District 7 has the highest percentage of ELLs in MNPS and the second lowest cumulative growth score.
- Districts 8 and 9 have the smallest student populations and lowest percentages of economically disadvantaged students; while they have higher than average district achievement data and percentages of “college ready” students, growth scores are lower.