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  • Positive Momentum For Resetting Charter School Conversation

    by Marc Hill | Aug 29, 2014
    What a difference two years can make. In 2012, the Metro school board was consumed for nearly a year with the Great Hearts charter school application, a standoff between the school board and the State of Tennessee that made everyone involved look bad. Most galling, to many business leaders, was the $3.4 million in state funds that Metro Schools lost as the result of the fiasco.

    So, what’s changed between 2012 and 2014? For one, after more than a decade of reacting to whatever charter school applicants happen to propose, Metro Schools is now asking potential charter operators to consider the district’s strategic needs. Perhaps more importantly, it appears that the school district administration and a majority of the board now recognize that the district’s lowest-performing schools are not improving fast enough, and that the charter sector will need to play a greater role in turning these schools around.

    The most recent step forward for Metro Schools on this issue took place on Aug. 21, when the school board voted to approve the amended application of STRIVE Academy, a charter middle school proposed for the McGavock cluster that was initially rejected in June. The Metro School board’s recent vote means ...
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    Category: Education
  • SuccessPAC Endorses Candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education

    by Marc Hill | Jul 21, 2014
    SuccessPAC, the political action committee created by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce for school board elections, has announced its support for four Metro school board candidates in the Aug. 7 election.

    As previously discussed on this blog, this year's school board elections are a pivotal moment for the future of Metro Nashville Public Schools. Because Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register's contract expires June 30, 2015, chances are good that the school board convening after this August’s election will be responsible for selecting Dr. Register's replacement.

    Due to its status as a nonprofit membership organization, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce does not endorse candidates for political office. As a political action committee, SuccessPAC helps identify highly qualified candidates for the Metropolitan Board of Public Education. To determine its endorsements for this year, the SuccessPAC board conducted its most extensive vetting process to date. Board members interviewed all candidates who qualified for the ballot across the four districts up for election. In addition, all candidates completed a SuccessPAC questionnaire.

    The committee announced its endorsements following the four candidate forums sponsored by the Chamber, the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association and the Urban League of Middle Tennessee.

    SuccessPAC-endorsed candidates are:
    District ...
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    Category: Education
  • Ready For Our School Board to Decide

    by Marc Hill | Jun 03, 2014
    Our nine-member Metropolitan Board of Education has a tough job. They are elected by district and have an obligation to represent their constituents. At the same time, under Tennessee law, their role is modeled after corporate governance. They don’t legislate or run the organization. Instead, Tennessee school boards set policy and strategy for the school system. They have only one employee, the director of schools, who is accountable to the board for achieving the organization’s goals. And they can only act as a board, through majority vote. Once the board has acted, its members have a responsibility to respect and honor that decision.

    A board that has a unified vision and speaks with one voice exudes strength and confidence. A board lacking that discipline can appear to be heading off in nine different directions. Increasingly, members of the business community are wondering which kind of board our current Metro school board wants to be. For the past several months, public statements between meetings by individual members of the school board, on a variety of topics, have started leaving an impression of confusion, if not dysfunction. And as the public opinion polling in the Chamber’s Education Report Card demonstrates each year, ...
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    Category: Education
  • Who’s Running For School Board This August?

    by Marc Hill | May 30, 2014
    Improving public education remains a top priority for Nashvillians, whether you’re a member of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce or the mayor of our city. According to public opinion poll results released in the Chamber’s annual Education Report Card last year, 27 percent of Nashville residents listed education as the most important issue or problem facing our city, 11 percentage points higher than crime, which was second.

    On August 7, Nashvillians will elect four members of the nine-member Metropolitan Board of Education. Why is the school board important? As just about any seasoned executive will tell you, the effectiveness of any organization starts at the top. A board with a unified vision of where they are heading—and the self-discipline to stay that course—engenders confidence and a firm sense of direction throughout an organization. A board that is dysfunctional sends the message that there is no clear direction.

    The most important decision the school board makes is to select a director of schools to lead the school system’s more than 10,000 employees. And with current director Dr. Jesse Register’s contract set to expire on June 30, 2015, there’s a good chance the new board convening after this August’s election will ...
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    Category: Education
  • Academies of Nashville Awards Celebrate Excellence in Public Schools

    by Marc Hill | May 13, 2014
    Last night, more than 300 academy business partners and Metro Schools educators packed Rocketown for the fourth annual Academies of Nashville Awards, a celebration of the successes of Metro's 12 zoned high schools. For the first time in awards history, we had a tie for the coveted "Academy of the Year" award, which is shared by McGavock High School’s Academy of Health Science & Law and Overton High School’s Academy of Engineering. The Academies of Nashville Awards are made possible by presenting sponsor Altria.

    A committee composed of school district, Nashville Area Chamber and PENCIL Foundation leadership selected nominees for each of the 15 categories. More than 400 educators and business partners then voted for a nominee in each category through an online secret ballot managed by Deloitte.

    In addition, one student from each of the 12 high schools will receive an award for Academy Student of the Year. The student winners were selected by the executive principal of each school and will be recognized during the PENCIL Foundation’s Bravo luncheon Friday, May 30.

    Academies partner with area businesses, community agencies and postsecondary schools to provide an enriched experience in and out of the classroom, creating relevancy in education and ...
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    Category: Education
  • What Does Every Business Need To Know About Health Care Reform?

    by Marc Hill | May 07, 2014
    Set aside, for the moment, your personal feelings about the federal Affordable Care Act, even though there is pretty much a consensus among business folks that its implementation will probably eat into your company’s bottom line. You might have seen the recent news that 151,352 Tennesseans have enrolled in an exchange-based insurance plan under Obamacare in its first year. The health care landscape is clearly changing, and businesses need to anticipate and adapt to these changes in the months and years ahead.

    The Nashville Area Chamber assembled an expert panel in November 2013 covering the tax, legal and human resources implications of the Affordable Care Act that every business should consider. This 60-minute program features Brian Haile with Jackson Hewitt Tax Services, Susan Heard with Paradigm Group, Tom Lee with Frost Brown Todd, and Alex Tolbert with Bernard Health. With shifting requirements and changing deadlines, these business leaders talked about the kinds of things you need to be thinking about in the months and years ahead.

    Here are a few of the questions addressed by the experts:
    • Should your business continue to offer health insurance to your employees?
    • Would ending your employer group plan shift costs to your employees?
    • When ...
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    Category: Policy
  • Nashville Area Chamber Statement on SB1266

    by Marc Hill | Mar 13, 2014
    Today, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted to adopt two amendments which delay further implementation of Tennessee’s Common Core State Standards and the corresponding PARCC assessment for two years. The amendments were added to an unrelated bill regarding the teaching of American history that had already passed the Tennessee Senate. SB1266, amended by the House, now goes back to the Senate for a decision on whether to agree to the House amendments. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce urges its members to contact members of the Senate and ask them to “nonconcur,” or vote against, the House changes to the bill.

     

    Statement from the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce:

    “Our businesses are doing their part to create jobs in Tennessee, but today many of our legislators took actions that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for our graduates to be prepared for those new jobs. Today’s vote on Common Core State Standards puts our recent progress in education at risk. We are asking members of the Senate to protect Tennessee’s recent academic gains and reject this reckless attempt to hijack unrelated legislation."

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    Category: Education
  • Nashville Chamber Endorses In-state Tuition Legislation for Immigrant Families

    by Marc Hill | Feb 28, 2014
    The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors has endorsed state legislation that will make it more affordable for children of undocumented parents to attend Tennessee colleges. The annual cost difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition can be as much as $8,000 for a public university in our region. The proposed legislation aligns with the Chamber’s policy principles of increasing the number of postsecondary degrees in the region and immigration-related reforms that address workforce needs. The Chamber board voted to add the issue to its 2014 state legislative agenda at its Feb. 27 meeting.

    We’ll be communicating to our regional legislative delegation that we are supporting the following bills:
    • HB1929 by White/SB2115 by Gardenhire, which allows in-state college tuition rate to apply to Tennessee high school graduates whose parents are undocumented if they are U.S. citizens and have lived in Tennessee for at least one year.
    • HB1992 by Floyd/SB1951 by Gardenhire, which allows in-state college tuition rate to apply to undocumented Tennessee high school graduates if they attended a Tennessee school five years prior to graduating and if they attain at least a final GPA of 3.0, 21 on the ACT, or a 980 on the SAT.
    The Chamber ...
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    Category: Policy
  • Chamber's Report Card Committee Sees Mixed Results in a Time of Great Change

    by Marc Hill | Dec 17, 2013
    On Dec. 16, the Chamber’s Education Report Card Committee presented our 2013 Education Report Card for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to a standing-room-only crowd at the Adventure Science Center. Along with school system performance, the committee chose to focus on Common Core State Standards, the state’s new academic standards that align with college- and career-readiness benchmarks.

    After an in-depth examination of the 2012-2013 school year in Metro Schools, the committee found that the academic results are mixed. Tennessee was named the fastest-improving state in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and MNPS students contributed to these state results. MNPS has also seen strong improvement in TCAP math scores over the past four years.

    Still, growth in reading remained essentially flat, as it has across the state. In addition, MNPS did not make progress increasing the percentage of students making at least a 21 or higher on the ACT exam. Finally, the graduation rate – which only counts students who graduate within four years and a summer – seems to have hit a plateau over the past three years, falling slightly from 78.4 percent in 2012 to 76.6 percent in 2013.

    Despite these mixed results, the ...
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    Category: Education
  • Assessment Says Tennessee Students Are the Fastest-Improving in the Nation

    by Marc Hill | Nov 07, 2013
    In August 2011 during a visit to Nashville, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan challenged Tennessee to be the fastest-improving state in the country. Two years later, the state has shown that we can rise to that challenge.

    Today, Gov. Bill Haslam announced that Tennessee is the fastest-improving state in the U.S. on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

    NAEP, often called "the nation's report card," assesses students in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. All 50 states have taken NAEP since 2003, and the results are regarded as the best way to compare educational outcomes across states.

    The state also made strides in improving its national ranking, although we still have a long way to go. In fourth-grade math, Tennessee students went from 46th to 37th in the nation, and in fourth-grade reading, Tennessee students went from 41st to 31st in the nation.

    For these gains, we thank the teachers, students, and education leaders across Tennessee who have worked hard every day to make education improvement a priority. We also thank the hundreds of business leaders who have rolled up their sleeves and contributed their time, money and advocacy toward improving public education in Metro Schools and ...
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    Category: Education