Metro schools improve status in post-No Child Left Behind system

Monday, July 30, 2012 at 11:55pm

Freed from lofty expectations outlined in the now-irrelevant No Child Left Behind law, Metro Nashville Public Schools finds itself in a more comfortable “intermediate” status under new state accountability metrics.

“That’s a nice change from the old No Child Left Behind standard where Nashville ranked on the lowest rung of the latter,” Metro Director of Schools Jesse Register told media Monday at a press conference following last week’s release of district-by-district TCAP scores.

“We’re very pleased with that,” he said.

After landing a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education in February, Tennessee is no longer holding districts, students and schools to President George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind standards known as Adequate Yearly Progress. In its place is a new state-monitored accountability system tailor-made for each district — one that recognizes some school systems historically perform better than others.

In past years, the NCLB law placed Metro in various forms of “corrective action,” labeled dozens of schools “high priority,” and routinely singled out the lack of achievement among Nashville’s sizeable English Language Learners and disabled students as barriers to good standing. The law habitually put Metro school officials on the defensive this time of year.

But the highly ridiculed NCLB system is now a thing of the past in Tennessee. And following newly released TCAP data, Metro is somewhere in the middle — or “intermediate,” as the state calls it.

Metro is not one of the 21 districts statewide that are so-called “exemplary districts” under the new system. But Metro is also not one of the several systems across Tennessee that saw declines within particular demographics: students with disabilities, the economically disadvantaged or designated ethnic groups.

“We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve made advancements in all of these sub categories,” Register said.

Among these, Metro’s ELL population — the largest in the state, and one of the district’s greatest challenges to educate — saw a 5.5 percent TCAP proficiency improvement in math and 3 percent tick in reading at the K-8 level.

Working with the state, Metro created nine benchmarks, according to Paul Changas, executive director of Research, Assessment and Evaluation at Metro. The district hit seven of them, falling short in only third-grade reading/language arts and its overall graduation rate of 76 percent in 2011. (The 2012 graduation rate has not been calculated.)

Metro’s graduation rate had previously increased to 82.9 percent. But a change in state law requires ELL and disabled students to graduate in four years. Previously, they could graduate in four years.

Replacing the NCLB expectation that all school districts reach the same academic benchmarks, Tennessee’s new system focuses on “growth and improvement,” according to the Tennessee Department of Education. The new system also places an emphasis on “gap closure” between demographics.

“I think it’s realistic,” Register of the change. “I’ve said this a number of times: ‘It really increases the pressure on us.’ The expectations that we had under No Child Left Behind were outdated and therefore not realistic. We didn’t have a chance at moving those standards.”

3 Comments on this post:

By: rawhide on 7/31/12 at 10:45

You mean the Ted Kennedy NCLB? The one that was merely underfunded? I definitely think that local or even State control of education is the wisest policy, and disagreed with Dubya's and Kennedy's plan, but it is ironic to see Joey Garrison (and the Dems interviewed for this piece) touting local control and the wisdom of just lowering the standards as the solution to the problem. No doubt the education establishment is relieved to have the standards "modified" and avoid the constant scramble to get out from under the standards from NCLB.

By: Specter47 on 8/1/12 at 6:03

Amen, rawhide! Well said and right on target. MNPS never would have been able to meet the standards set by NCLB. The student/parent buy-in was non-existent. Setting the bar lower placed Metro Schools in a position to succeed. It's like a runner asking that the finish line be moved so he could reach it sooner and finish the race that he could never finish before. By the way, Joey Garrison is a left-wing political hack and will only interview people who share his views and meet the purpose of his article. He's training well for his next job with one of the major left-wing papers.

By: ChrisMoth on 8/1/12 at 8:21

NCLB is ancient history. There is no need to debate the old definition of "quality" (economically integrated schools, where anyone can get ACT of 30, but average is about 20). Friday said goodbye to all of that.

On Friday, the State agreed with The Tennessean, Governor Haslam, Mayor Dean, the city council, thousands of families in private school or Hume-Fogg, and 100s of parents who lined up to speak for Great Hearts.

On Friday, the State identified "quality" to mean 1) ACT average of 26 (like Hume Fogg/Great Hearts) and 2) A loterry, academic, or transportation screened Free and Reduced Lunch group for diversity (about 14%)

I preferred the old definition of quality, personally. My kids were on track for that ACT=30+. BUT, I am a pragmatist. We MUST convert Hillsboro High school, and other perimieter schools to the new "quality" metric - RIGHT AWAY. We must redirect sub-Proficient children to inner city charter schools, and let the perimeter school average ACTs bounce up to 26 territory. This is what Governor Haslam's State Board of Education wants. The Federal Courts green-lighted this idea on Friday, as well.

What are we waiting for? If we wait, it is crystal clear that EVERY neighborhood high school in this city will be swept away as "new quality" huingry parents depart for the State's tsunami of mandated charters. I think that's a bad thing, simply because I love the convenience of my child walking to Hillsboro High. Let's convert Hillsboro to Hume Fogg #2 - and let's do it RIGHT AWAY.

I was limping in the errant 5% minority at nashvillegreaterhearts.com. It feels great to be in the 95% again. What is standing in our way to finish the vision of the State Board of Education?

Chris Moth, 2020 Overhill Dr