In Great Hearts wake, school board to consider diversity plan Tuesday

Friday, February 8, 2013 at 5:27pm

Metro school board members expect to approve a diversity plan developed largely due to last year’s high-profile clash with Great Hearts Academies charter school operator.

An eight-page draft of the plan, which can be found here, identifies goals and objectives to managing the district’s diversity going forward, but is short on specific details on how those standards will have bearing on groups applying to open new charter schools.

“It’s unfortunate we had to have a meltdown over a single charter school to accelerate this work,” said board member Will Pinkston. “It may be the one good thing that came out of the whole Great Hearts debacle, that we got serious about articulating our goals on diversity.”

School board members are expected to vote on the diversity plan at its next meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12.

The plan outlines goals for schools to have no one racial ethnic group make up more than 50 percent of their student population, three racial ethnic groups that each make up at least 15 percent of the student population, or two racial ethnic groups that make up at least 30 percent of the student population.

Each school is also expected to have at least two thirds of their student population qualify in at least two of the following categories: as low income, as non-native speakers learning English, or as have a disability. The plan also calls for diversity in teacher staffing.

Existing schools that don’t already meet the diversity plan “will be considered in need of greater diversity, and this need will be addressed as practicable by the central office,” according to the plan.

Metro Nashville Public Schools is home to six major ethnic groups, none of which make up more than half the system. Between almost 80,000 students, 44 percent are African American, 33 percent are white and 18 percent are Hispanic, according to the district. The rest are Asian, Native American and Pacific Islander.

“It’s not just a black, white issue. It’s really all different races,” said Amy Frogge, a school board member. “We have all these different countries and different languages in our schools and we take that into account. But also socioeconomics has a great impact on a lot of our achievement issues, and so we’re considering that issue as well.”

The idea of a diversity plan became a hot topic last year as members of the school board criticized Phoenix-based Great Hearts Academies’ plan to open a charter school in affluent West Nashville. The board voted repeatedly to deny the charter, citing concerns about transportation and asserted the school would lack adequate diversity as state law no longer geared registration to low-income students.

But the school district itself lacked a single diversity plan for Great Hearts to mirror.

The plan on the table includes a section for charter schools, calling for applicants and existing charters to follow the plan. Pinkston said the board’s next move is to outline specific diversity objectives for charter schools eyeing MNPS as their home district. Ten charter school operators have sent the district letters signaling they intend to apply to open a school with the district. Final applications are due Apr. 1.

While specific guidelines may not be ready by that time, Pinkston said the goal is to outline those directives soon so charter school operators can factor those details in by the time the board evaluates applications.

Diversity Plan 113 draft.pdf80.19 KB

6 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 2/8/13 at 9:27

I hope that the School Board will decide to use the money that they would spend for Charter Schools and put it back in Metro's Public Schools. They have everything that a child needs to learn. We have to make changes there and not through Charter Schools.

By: ancienthighway on 2/9/13 at 12:14

"Each school is also expected to have at least two thirds of their student population qualify in at least two of the following categories: as low income, as non-native speakers learning English, or as have a disability."

This statement is incorrect. In the draft plan the wording is actually:

" - (A school's) percentage of students eligible for free or reduced meals is at least two-thirds the average for school in its tier.
- (A school's) percentage of students eligible for English language service is at least two-thirds the average for school in its tier.
- (A school's) percentage of students classified with a disability is at least two-thirds the average for school in its tier."

If the average number of students classified with a disability works out to 9% in a given tier, then a school within that tier must have at least 6% of it's student body classified with a disability.

By: Rasputin72 on 2/9/13 at 7:38

The only true alternative to "diversity" is money. Only at the 25000 dollar per month rate after all taxes can a Davidson county resident rescue himself and his family from "diversity"

By: David_S on 2/9/13 at 2:11

Because the most important thing in education is not silly things like "learning" or "critical thinking". It is ensuring we get the maximum amount of poor and disabled students mixing with students who actually have a shot at going to college. That will certainly solve all of Davidson Counties educational problems. If we could all just learn to move past quaint concepts of "knowledge" and "ability", and strive ever forward towards the ultimate goal of any quality education system: Diversity.

By: ChrisMoth on 2/13/13 at 6:30

Clinging to race quotas and the horrors of the previous three centuries cannot be helpful to the academic performance of our children. Algebra is Algebra, regardless of one's height, weight, or DNA sequence. I cannot begin to imagine the pain caused to our African American communities through Jim Crow, segregated and horiffically underfunded schools in the 20th century. But, we all have to find a way to move forward from that pain. We have to recognize that, in 2013, poverty, and English Language Learning, and Special Ed, are the diversity metrics that impact educational outcome. DNA sequences impacting skin color do not. For our school system to not be a basketcase, affluent parents must also step up. We must accept that having impoverished, ELL, and Special Ed kids under the same roofs as our children is NOT going to impede their progress. It may not "feel" that way - but test scores across the land prove that it is the case. Moreover, there is evidence that impoverished students may receive social benefits by attending school in the same buildings as the more affluent.

Alas, all of this "diversity" discussion is moot. The State is going to authorize Davidson's Charter Schools for us, going forward. We can absolutely be sure that "diversity" the Legislature means, "Our schools feel as cozy our churches on Sunday morning." You'd think we've "been there done that..." Oh well, some lessons take a few iterations to learn....

Chris Moth, 2020 Overhill Dr

By: chelle baldwin on 2/13/13 at 9:10

It is stunning to read such blatantly bigoted comments such as David_S put on here. I will have to assume you are an older individual and have not had the fortune of experiencing the education experience put forth in the 21st century. Thankfully we no longer operate in the 1950's mentality of separate but equal. We do not shuffle our lower income students into one building to keep them away from "those who have a shot" nor do we throw all our kids with disabilities into a room away from "those who have a shot". The reason we do this is not so we can feel good about ourselves or pat ourselves on the back for doing the right and decent thing. On the contrary, the poor kids and the disabled kids are educated along side every other kids because THEY DO HAVE A SHOT! There are colleges all across our country that have alumni that are disabled and or came from poverty. The idea that a human is not capable of attending college purely based on their socioeconomic status or a disability they have is based in ignorance. To think that the disabled and the poor should not be educated along side everyone else is quite frankly, reprehensible.