We, Tess Wilkinson, from The Castle School near Bristol, and Sam West, from Homewood School in Kent visited the Academies of Nashville in April 2014 to explore their approach to deep enagagement with employers and the wider community. The experience was very worthwhile, with many thoughts and ideas gathered to bring back to the UK. We were able to visit two of the schools, McGavock (President Obama visited this school in January), and Glencliff.
The change that the Metropolitan National Public Schools (MNPS) have gone through is complex, and largely successful. It was provoked by the moral and economic obligation of a community to give its young people aspirations and hope for the future. The key partners that have been involved in this transformation are MNPS, Pencil Foundation, Alignment Nashville, Ford NGL and Nashville Chamber of Commerce.
The keys to the success of the Academies are that they have such strong support from the city and the communities they serve and that learning is done in Small Learning Communities or SLCs. This means that the same group of teachers work with students during their time in school. In each Academy, students are exposed to all sorts of career opportunities and learn through Project Based Learning. The students we saw were able to work with business partners through mentoring and had access to equipment that simulated real life work places, such as a hospital ward, a garage and an engineering space with flight simulators, aircraft and a 3d printer donated by NASA. The students’ enthusiasm in these schools was tangible, and although we were aware that we only got shown what the schools wanted us to see, the data demonstrates success in most of the schools. Interestingly, Tennessee is the fastest improving state regarding education.
The future for these Academies seems to be ensured, and while we were there, Roberto Rodriguez, one of President Obama’s top education advisors, came to Nashville and made a policy speech about national high school redesign, which built on themes President Obama explored in his State of the Union Address and his speech at McGavock High School January 30.
The Academies of Nashville also received ‘Model Community’ status from Ford NGL and received a significant investment from Ford NGL to continue developing projects.
See the full tour report here – Nashville study visit 31 March – 2 April 2014 (1)