City should learn from education bright spots

Metro-Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) is one of the most diverse school districts in the Southeast, if not the entire U.S.  It is a district that serves not only diverse ethnicities, but also a myriad of cultures and languages from around the globe and almost every income level in the socio-economic spectrum.  Student diversity brings both opportunities and challenges to the district that can never be met if the community and the school board continue to spend exhaustive amounts of time and energy discussing events that have little impact on serving the greatest needs in the district. 

education 08.28.2012

To see more information on how McQueen and the College of Education help charter school and district schools to work together, click here.

Yes, I mean Great Hearts Academies.  The controversy may remain for years, but we must move ahead with all urgency.  The singular focus of every conversation we have about education in our city must be on excellence for all students.

What does that mean?  It does not mean looking for a “magic pill” or seeking a pre-packaged solution or developing a complicated plan.

Achieving excellence takes nothing short of very hard work.  Hard work begins with authentic admission of failures, an accurate view of current status, and a clear vision of success.  The hard work should be done collaboratively -- to work with others toward the goal.  I think we are missing a golden opportunity to genuinely co-labor toward doable solutions in the city.  We have schools in our city that are showing yearly growth as measured on state achievement tests.  These schools are both district and charter schools.  Are we intentionally asking:  What can we learn from these “bright spots” that can be scaled in our community?  In what conditions do these schools thrive and how can that be replicated?  What school practices are working with what student populations?   

We should be proponents of quality charter schools for all the reasons most charters exist:

  • They provide school choice,
  • They provide an autonomous option that increases competition that can ultimately improve the quality of all schools, and
  • They provide a smaller, more independent setting to try and then scale up best practices.  

Many charter schools have been very successful and have contributed to not only the lives of their students and families, but also to the body of research on innovation in K-12 school settings.   

I also believe you do not have to be anti-district to be pro-charter.  I am pro-charter and pro-district and believe we can and should look at where progress is being made in any place it occurs, looking for scalable practices.  Some of the best teachers in Tennessee, making significant yearly gains, are teaching in Metro-Nashville Public Schools.    

We need to stop letting the charter conversation be a distraction to the work we must to do to be successful in every community.  We are at a perfect time in our city to move ahead and learn what we can from any school that is having success in our own backyard.  Let’s stop bickering about what has happened and look for real solutions to the larger challenges we have with attention to the opportunities that abound.


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Candice McQueen

Candice McQueen

Senior Vice President

Dr. Candice McQueen taught in both private and public elementary and middle schools before coming to... [More]

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