As an employee of the public school system, it was my job to rally against anything that threatened business as usual. Let’s just say I was busy. Within a relatively short period of time, proposals inundated the school district, each offering challenges to our status quo. Charter schools, school uniforms, year-round calendar, and alternative teacher licensing programs all hit the scene hard and fast and met resistance every step of the way.
But there is something to be said for strong leadership in the face of adversity. From 2007 – 2015, Nashville’s education landscape benefited from a mayor who campaigned on an education first platform and actually made good on his promises. Mayor Karl Dean did more than challenge the status quo, he annihilated it with the creation of a charter school incubator and recruiting the likes of Teach for America and The New Teacher Project. The former city law director’s heavy-handed approach was not well-received by public school loyalists (including yours truly) but years later his influence is undeniable and thousands of students are beneficiaries of the decisions made a decade ago.
In a recently released teacher prep report by the Tennessee State Board of Education, one such bold move made by Mayor Dean can be detected at the top of the teacher program ranking. Teach for America – Nashville, an alternative teacher licensing program, recruited here two years into Dean’s tenure in 2009, is now the #1 teacher prep program in the state! Teach for America has two networks in Tennessee and both are killing the game in building excellent educators in schools most in need of them.
The State Board of Education evaluates programs across three performance categories:
Ben Schumacher, executive director for the Nashville team wrote: “Teach for America – Nashville and Teach for America – Memphis were the only two programs to receive the highest level for all three performance categories!”
Also, impressive is TFA – Nashville’s #2 spot for student academic growth performance, top-third placement for teacher diversity, and top quartile for teacher preparation for high-need subjects. Killing. It.
“The need for extraordinary education leaders in every classroom and school in Nashville is clear. TFA Nashville is proud to collaborate with partners across the city to recruit and train some of the most effective new teachers and school leaders in the city. We know that our amazing students have limitless potential. If we all keep our eye on the ball of student growth and achievement, I know we’ll build the system our kids deserve, a network of schools that gives all of our students access to an empowering, equitable, excellent education.” – Ben Schumacher
I agree with Ben. Our students have limitless potential and deserve teachers who not only recognize their potential but possess the skills to help students realize their greatness. We are fortunate to have excellent teachers throughout Metro Schools, but we suffer from deficits of quality and number. Fortunately, we have in Teach for America a pipeline of well-trained educators assigned to the district’s most vulnerable students.
Nashville was slow to embrace the maverick teacher prep programs, and there may be some who refuse to buy into the hype. But the data speaks for itself. Teach for America is making a difference in the lives of Nashville’s children.