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safety   zoning  

You don’t have to take our word for it. One of the most well-respected educational research outfits in the country says MNPS Achieves is working and making our district better.

Back in April of 2010, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University started a two-year evaluation of the district’s massive reform effort. In the Institute’s ‘Year 2’ report, which is now available online, evaluators say that MNPS Achieves is moving the district “in the right direction.”

The report includes a lot of praise for collaboration both within the district and with the community as a whole. It also notes the visible culture change taking root in Central Office and a more focused and shared understanding of what effective teaching should look like.

For the full report, head over to the MNPS Achieves page. While you’re there you can learn more about the massive reform effort that’s been underway since 2009. Below you’ll find our official press release, which points out some highlights from the report.


Brown University’s Annenberg Institute Issues Year 2 Assessment; National Advisory Panel Offers Recommendations

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 13, 2011) – “MNPS Achieves,” the system-wide transformation of Metro Nashville Public Schools that began in 2009, shows great promise according to the second annual report issued today by the Brown University-affiliated evaluation team. The report’s release coincides with the reform effort’s National Advisory Panel meeting in Nashville.

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (AISR) submitted its 54-page assessment, covering August 2010-May 2011, to Dr. Jesse Register, director of MNPS Schools, and the Metro Nashville Board of Public Education, noting, “MNPS has much to be proud of in building a comprehensive and inclusive system-wide transformation effort.”

“We are making progress in public education in Nashville and it is good to have our progress recognized by national experts as well as our school families,” said Director of Schools Jesse Register. “We have much more work to do to improve student achievement and we look forward to additional feedback on our efforts from the National Advisory Panel.”

A draft of the Annenberg Institute’s complete report was shared with the five-member National Advisory Panel for “MNPS Achieves,” recruited by AISR in fall 2010, to aid in evaluation conceptualization, provide feedback and suggest improvements to the reform model’s design and implementation. Members include AISR’s Norm Fruchter; Boston College’s Andy Hargreaves; San Diego State professor and National Center for Urban School Transformation Executive Director Joseph Johnson; University of Pittsburgh’s Carrie R. Leana; and Harvard University’s Thomas Payzant, the former superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. All but Payzant will be in Nashville Thursday, December 15 and Friday, December 16.

A central focus is the implementation of “MNPS Achieves,” a transformational change leadership model that has engaged more than 100 leaders throughout the district and community in a systematic process to improve student achievement. “MNPS Achieves” is organized around nine transformational leadership groups (TLGs) that are areas of concern, such as English learners, human capital systems and students with special needs. In AISR’s evaluation, researchers focused on assessing these TLGs, as well as collaborative culture and capacity building, and one of the improved performance outcomes: a shared understanding of effective teaching and learning.

In the examination of district culture, researchers found that the significant improvement in collaborative practice identified in last year’s report was maintained, and furthermore, the district’s close partnerships with community organizations, businesses and individuals through their involvement as TLG members has “contributed to the shift to a more hopeful culture.”

“’MNPS Achieves’ has brought together partners across the city, and there is alignment on several important issues…,” noted the report. “Some participants also mentioned…a citywide focus on education, with increasing collaboration with, and support from organizations such as the mayor’s office and chamber of commerce, as well as an improved sense of confidence in the district from the community at large….”

At the central office, researchers found a general sense that MNPS possesses a vision and mission focused on student achievement, highly effective teaching, leadership development, and continuous improvement, and is “’moving in the right direction.’” Researchers observed that changes in attitude and actions of MNPS leadership have “begun to take root across the district, and a major factor in accelerating that shift has been the investments made to develop the capacity of principals.”

Within capacity building, survey and interview results were consistent among central office and school administrators in their support for “data-informed decision making,” identified as a major focus and priority of MNPS.

In contrast, researchers noted that district communication continues to be a challenge, as fewer than half of the staff felt that the channels of communication were open. While there was improvement noted in communication between schools and the central office, schoolbased staff complained about inconsistencies in communication from the central office.

Regarding a shared understanding of effective teaching and learning, the theme of differentiation was most frequently identified -- instruction tailored to the needs of individual learners or groups of learners -- as the vision of good instruction. Whether that vision was shared district-wide, one teacher summed-up by saying: “I think the most productive part of this initiative is that no matter what need the student has, we must meet it…Metro has put it out there…we do it.”

Respondents, however, pointed to two challenges to defining and further developing instructional vision: (1) The Common Core Standards mean that any connections between standards and the instructional vision are at an early stage (K-2 only); (2) tools meant to support good instruction – such as pacing guides and benchmarks – are not seen as useful by teachers.

About the Annenberg Institute

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University is a national policy-research and reform support organization that promotes quality education for all children, particularly in urban communities. The institute's primary lines of inquiry include college readiness, extended learning, and school transformation. Its focuses on developing and promoting the concept of a “smart education systems,” a comprehensive set of community-centered school reforms that coordinate educational supports and services at school, at home, and in the community to provide all children with equitable opportunities and high-quality learning experiences.

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