Learn about NPEF's latest announcements and work towards building schools where all kids thrive.
Congratulations to the 2022 Blue Ribbon Teachers!
In late October we recognized the 50 MNPS educators receiving the Blue Ribbon Teacher designation this year. Mayor Cooper and Dr. Battle joined our wonderful hosts at Vanderbilt, Vice Chancellor Nathan Green and Provost Cybele Raver, in honoring these outstanding teachers.
NPEF, in partnership with MNPS and Nashville’s Agenda, has honored over 400 teachers with the Blue Ribbon Teacher designation since the program began in 2014. Each winner receives a beautiful trophy, a $1,000 cash award, and a round-trip airline ticket courtesy of one of the program sponsors, Southwest Airlines!
You can learn more about the 50 teachers, representing schools across our district, including their motivations, their hopes for students, and what makes them feel supported as educators, on our website.
Tackling the Digital Divide
NPEF, MNPS, and Google Fiber are partnering to bring technology, internet access, and digital literacy to MNPS families through Tech Goes Home. In exchange for attending four training sessions on technology education, including how families can access MNPS-specific apps to track student progress, families receive a free laptop and home wifi access.
Tech Goes Home launched at Madison Middle School in early November, with additional locations planned throughout the district this year. The district’s Equity Roadmap helped determine communities that would benefit most from the program and MNPS’s Community Achieves staff helped recruit families for participation.
Who are Nashville's Children and Youth?
We recently released an infographic sharing important data points and context about our city’s 142,000 children and youth. Did you know that one in five children in Davidson County live below the poverty line? Or that 83% of our city’s children and youth are enrolled in public schools? Learn more by viewing the full infographic here.
We believe Nashville can be the number one place to raise a family, but we need to understand who our children and youth are to ensure we are meeting their needs. We created this infographic to help inform the community on key data points affecting our city’s kids. While data can’t tell us everything about the experience of young people, it can help us better understand ways we can support them.
What We've Been Learning
Designing a Future Where All Students Thrive
We recently shared a big milestone – the one-year anniversary of our documentary "By Design: The Shaping of Nashville's Public Schools." This documentary, which premiered in June 2021, examines historical moments in public schooling in Nashville dating back to the 1800s to educate the community and stimulate policy solutions for a system where all students thrive. After about 50 film screenings – including at SXSW EDU in Austin, Texas – we released a condensed version of the film focused on the desegregation era in Nashville and the failings of policies during this time. We have created a new watch guide to accompany this 22-minute film to help jumpstart reflective and solution-oriented conversations after viewing with friends, family, coworkers, and others in your community.
To further unpack how city structures and systems prevent low-income students and students of color from thriving, we have released a policy brief explaining how some of the main policies and decisions in our city’s history continue to sustain inequities experienced by students and families today. We encourage you to read the brief and share it with your network – we all have a role to play in designing a future that provides an equitable and just education for all students.
Helping Children Thrive Since 2002
We are celebrating our 20th anniversary!
Founded in 2002, NPEF has worked to improve public schools, first through fundraising – for major initiatives such as opening the Martin Professional Development Center – and more recently by supporting teachers and leaders, celebrating success, and advocating for change. Over our 20 years, we have evolved our mission to include eliminating systemic barriers that prevent too many students from thriving in school.
As we celebrate our 20th year, we look to the future of our school district and our city by urging Nashville to measure and map student opportunity in our neighborhoods and schools through a Child and Youth Opportunity Index and Equity Metrics.
Stay tuned for more information about this coming later this week!
Investing in Educators as Teacher Leaders
We believe teachers are best poised to drive real change for students and schools. That's why NPEF has doubled down on meaningful teacher leadership opportunities in our district. For the second year, we are supporting the MNPS Teacher Leadership Institute, a cohort of teachers who are growing their skills and experience to address school-based inequities through a multi-year engagement. Our Teacherpreneur program, which will start its second cohort this winter, puts teachers in the driver’s seat of innovation, giving them the opportunity to develop and pitch an idea for addressing inequities for the chance at cash prizes and seed pilot funding. Our College Access Champions Fellowship, a collaboration with Oasis Center, aims to leverage teacher relationships with students and families by training and empowering educators to deliver vital college-going resources. We know teachers are the backbone of our district and will continue to invest in them in multiple ways.
What We've Been Learning
What does the Mayor's $91 million investment in MNPS mean for district employees?
In his State of Metro address last week, Mayor John Cooper announced his proposed budget, which includes a $91.2 million increase in funds to Metro Nashville Public Schools. This funding will be used in part for pay raises for MNPS support staff, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and paraprofessionals who support students as teacher aids in the classroom. NPEF is proud to have helped inform this investment by funding a support pay analysis, conducted by the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy, and collaborating with MNPS and the Mayor’s Office to identify challenges and opportunities for improving pay for our support staff. This is one way NPEF engages with MNPS as a strategic thought partner, similar to the teacher pay study NPEF funded last year, which resulted in $81 million in new funds to provide a historic raise to teachers. The Mayor's investment will also help keep teachers the highest paid in the state and provide paid family leave for employees.
How will a CDF adjustment improve how TISA affects MNPS?
Governor Lee has signed the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) Act into law. This bill will replace the Basic Education Program (BEP) as the state’s funding formula. While it provides much-needed improvements to help address all students’ unique learning needs, there is still much work to be done to improve how we fund public education.
We were pleased to see that the bill passed with an amendment to include a Cost Differential Factor (CDF) adjustment, which helps provide additional funding to districts such as Nashville with high labor and living costs. NPEF advocated for a CDF adjustment to be included in the bill to help address the higher teacher and staff pay necessary to remain competitive and retain great teachers in a large urban district. We continue to advocate for additional ways to increase funding for Nashville’s public school students, including expanding the state’s limited definition of Economically Disadvantaged.
How can our city and state better support college-going graduates?
In April, we released our 5th annual Bridge to Completion report in partnership with the Tennessee College Access and Success Center. Since 2018, these reports have analyzed over a decade of postsecondary data and included interviews with hundreds of professionals – educators and counselors from nearly every high school, school and central office leaders, community-based organizations, and higher education experts with the goal of identifying trends in college-going and making recommendations to improve postsecondary success for MNPS graduates. This year’s report found downward trends in the number of students taking steps towards college (67%), and in the number of students who ultimately enrolled in college (44%). College-going equity gaps widened, with 2021 COVID losses for Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx students at a rate double their white peers. The report recommends Nashville leaders formally create and invest in a citywide college completion initiative and state leaders reform tuition and financial aid policies to be more inclusive and supportive of low-income students and students of color.
What We've Been Learning
Will Governor Lee make a historic investment in public education on Monday?
As the process of reviewing the state school funding formula continues, our goal is to keep you informed on the need-to-know information. With Governor Lee’s State of the State address happening this Monday, January 31, here are our most top-of-mind thoughts and questions.
1. How will teacher pay factor into the new funding formula?
2. How can the state ensure the new formula doesn't advantage already wealthy districts and disadvantage less wealthy ones?
3. How much additional funding is needed to truly meet the needs of our students?
With the state’s school funding formula review process wrapping up both subcommittee meetings and public comment, it is still unclear whether or not a bill to change the formula will be a part of this year’s legislative session. However, we are hopeful that the state chooses to prioritize a much-needed update to this outdated formula and will considerably increase funding to match what our schools, teachers, and students deserve.
How are teachers building solutions to increase parental involvement?
Inspired by words from local entrepreneur and educator Emily Freitag, CEO of Instruction Partners, to “find a problem you can fall in love with,” our 12 Teacherpreneurs are designing solutions to problems they are most passionate about addressing. Some of these include the effect of high teacher turnover on teachers and students, the need for more effective instructional supports for English Learners, and the lack of accessible engagement opportunities for parents.
You will not want to miss what these teachers come up with. On February 24, the educators will pitch their prototypes to a panel of judges for a chance at winning cash prizes and seed funding to help pilot their solutions. The community will help pick an additional prize winner through online voting the week of February 21, so make sure to follow along with their journey on our website and our social media to help make this exciting decision!
Curious how we support MNPS as a consultant and thought partner?
One way is NPEF's project management support for Better Together, a joint initiative between Metro Nashville Public Schools and Nashville State Community College. Did you know that roughly 1 in 5 MNPS grads enroll in Nashville State each year? The purpose of Better Together is to ensure that any MNPS student can be successful at Nashville State. NPEF has helped MNPS and Nashville State identify opportunities to help support these students, such as by offering dual-enrollment courses to students at their local high schools, and making sure they have a seamless transition to college when they attend.
Since so many of MNPS students – around 20% – attend Nashville State after high school, the potential for impact on Nashville’s graduates is huge. We are excited to be a part of moving this initiative from concept planning to implementation.
What We've Been Learning
How Can Nashville Become a City that Prioritizes Children and Youth?
What would it look like for our city to truly prioritize our youngest generation? Although this question may have several answers, most Nashvillians agree our community is currently missing the mark. According to our most recent annual citywide survey conducted at the end of September, only 1 in 5 Nashvillians polled believe the city is placing children and youth at the forefront of decision making, a proportion that presented consistently even when focusing on those with children in the household and those specifically with children in public schools.
While this data is challenging, it presents an important opportunity for Nashville to make a strong, deliberate commitment to our city’s youth. But the responsibility to do so does not fully lie with one entity. Nashvillians agree on the importance of non-school factors on student success in addition to needed improvements across our public schools. They recognize it takes a variety of approaches by a vast array of organizations, sectors, communities, and individuals to bring about the crucial resources and positive changes we need. We look forward to working across the diversity of our city to ensure Nashville can one day be seen as a city that prioritizes ALL children.
State to Review Education Funding Formula
The state recently announced plans to review the Basic Education Program (BEP) school funding formula. We remain cautiously optimistic and urge the community to accept the state’s invitation for public engagement to ensure updates and changes to the formula reflect the needs of Nashville’s students. Our President and CEO Katie Cour will be serving on one of several school funding review committees along with several district, nonprofit, and community leaders. You can watch a conversation between NPEF’s Vice President of Policy and Programming Jennifer Hill and NewsChannel 5’s Chris Davis on OpenLine to learn more about the formula and the potential implication of the state’s review. To help demystify the BEP funding formula, we have created several resources that explain how it perpetuates inequities for students and what types of improvements would make the greatest difference for schools and kids.
Harnessing Educator Innovation
How can we harness educator innovation to address systemic inequities in our schools? NPEF’s new Teacherpreneur program will provide professional learning to an inaugural cohort of teachers to support the development of prototypes designed to address a systemic inequity present in our local education system. By the end of the cohort experience, participants’ prototypes will be ready to be tested and put into action on a large scale. The experience will culminate in a prototype pitch event in which top concepts will be awarded a total of over $25,000 in cash prizes and seed funding for implementation and expansion. This program, generously supported by Amazon, is based on other successful models across the country that bring the spirit of entrepreneurialism into the education space to give teachers the opportunity to pitch and potentially scale game-changing ideas for systems-level change in Nashville. Know a teacher who sounds like a great fit? Share the application – open through November 14.
What We've Been Learning
Why a Documentary about Nashville's Public Schools?
We started with a simple question—why are our schools the way they are and what's preventing some of our students from thriving in school? While we had some theories about those questions, we began to realize that we didn't have a solid understanding of why certain policies and decisions were put in place decades ago and the effect of those polices and decisions on our students today.
Fast forward two years and hundreds of conversations later and By Design: The Shaping of Nashville's Public Schools was born. With this one-hour film, we hope to create a shared understanding of how we got to where we are as well as provide space for conversations about where we go from here so that all our students can thrive in school. Learning about inequities in history is not about making people feel guilty. It's about understanding where we made mistakes so we can do better in the future. We hope you'll join us at an upcoming screening and learn about how you can take action today to dismantle inequities in our city.