Fresh off a year in which Metro schools’ so-called “academies” ran into sharp criticism, district and chamber leaders are reintroducing the project-based learning concept to Nashvillians through a series of tours.
Dates for six separate “VIP tours” at various Metro high schools have been set, with hopes of showing elected and community leaders the merits of “The Academies of Nashville,” the model of redesign for the district’s 12 comprehensive high schools.
The educational approach — which utilizes outside business support via the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce — breaks students up into career or theme-based academies such as hospitality, engineering or marketing in hopes of adding “real-world relevance” to curriculum. The program kicked off five years ago with “Freshman Academies.”
“We’re just wanting to show them the academies because we’ve never really opened them up like that,” said Rita McDonald, the chamber’s director of community and business engagement. “The whole objective is to invite our elected officials and community leaders.”
A letter signed by both Director of Schools Jesse Register and chamber CEO Ralph Schulz sets tour dates for Antioch, Hillsboro, Glencliff, Stratford, McGavock and Whites Creek high schools.
Academies, advanced by the district’s associate superintendent Jay Steele, came under scrutiny last spring following the controversial transfer of then-Hillsboro International Baccalaureate director Mary Catherine Bradshaw to Martin Luther King Academic Magnet High School.
Many Hillsboro parents and students blamed Bradshaw’s exit on the academies, arguing the highly revered IB program and academies couldn’t co-exist. Critics also argued academies value seeding the workforce over educating students.
With the new school year underway, Hillsboro still offers both IB and the academies to students. Stephanie Knight has replaced Bradshaw as Hillsboro’s IB director.
All six “VIP tours” begin at 7:45 a.m, with the dates as follows:
• McGavock High School; Sept. 28
• Antioch High School; Oct. 5
• Stratford High School; Oct. 25
• Whites Creek High School; Nov. 10
• Hillsboro High School Nov. 29
• Glencliff High School; March, date to be announced