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Academic achievement results show Metro Schools outpacing the state

District continues steady improvement in9 out of 10 subject areas

Key takeaways:

  • Metro Schools showed achievement gains in 9 out of 10 tested subjects. In seven of those subjects, gains were larger than the state average and as much as double statewide gains in several high school subjects.
  • The district scored a 5 out of 5 on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System, which measures achievement growth.
  • The district met 10 out of 11 academic targets set by the state accountability system – the highest number the district has ever met.
  • Metro Schools is in good standing with the state once again at Intermediate status under the Tennessee Department of Education accountability system. Four years ago, the district was in Restructuring status, the lowest possible rating under No Child Left Behind.
  • TCAP tests, which measure student performance in grades 3-8, saw moderate single-year gains in the number of students scoring proficient or advanced in math and science and a small decline in reading. Five-year gains, however, show growth in every subject, including significant growth in math and science.
  • End-of-Course (EOC) exams, which measure student performance in grades 9-12, saw single-year gains in the number of students scoring proficient or advanced in every subject. Five-year gains are very strong, reaching double digits in most subjects.
  • The percentage point increases over five years equates to 13,808 more students scoring proficient or advanced on TCAP tests and 5,129 more students scoring proficient or advanced on EOC exams for a total of 18,937 more students when not accounting for student population growth.
  • In total, 51% of all Metro schools (75 schools) are growing and/or achieving at levels higher than the state average: 39% in elementary, 65% in middle and 58% in high.

Academic achievement data for the 2014-15 school year shows Metro Nashville Public Schools overall proficiency increasing at a faster rate than the state. As a result of last year’s gains, Metro Schools met 10 out of 11 achievement measures on the state’s accountability system – the most ever for the district.

District data also shows student growth outpacing the state, which reflects year-over-year academic progress for students regardless of proficiency. Metro Schools received a growth rating of five – the highest possible score – in the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS).

Last year’s scores mark a five-year trend of steady increases in student proficiency in 9 of 10 tested subject areas. In 7 of those 10 subjects, Metro Schools’ increases were significant enough to outpace improvement statewide, which similarly saw increases in every subject area except Reading / Language Arts for grades 3-8.

“Teachers and principals need to be proud of the progress their students are showing. We are certainly proud of them,” said Interim Director of Schools Chris Henson. “They have all worked very hard to improve academic opportunities and outcomes for Nashville’s children, and the progress they have made is significant in many areas. Though some years’ gains may seem modest, added up over time they are often quite large. That means more than just a score on a report – it means thousands more students performing at grade level and preparing for higher education.”

The Tennessee Department of Education implemented new standards and assessments in 2010. Since then, the number of students scoring proficient or advanced (P/A) grew significantly in every subject tested, particularly at the high school level, with most climbing by double-digit increases over five years.

If current proficiency levels were applied to the same student population size that the district had in 2010, nearly 19,000 more students are scoring proficient or advanced on the state’s standardized tests than were back then. Although the actual increase in the number of students meeting proficiency is even higher since the district’s student population has grown significantly during that time.

Grades 3-8 TCAP Single-year Gains (in percentage points) Five-year Gains (in percentage points) Increase in Students Scoring P/A compared to 2010
Math 2.8 20.4
Reading / Language Arts -1.4 4.5 13,808
Science 1.0 12.9


Grades 9-12 End-of-Course (EOC) Exams Single-year Gains (in percentage points) Five-year Gains (in percentage points) Increase in Students Scoring P/A compared to 2010
English I 1.3 15.1
English II 1.2 8.9
English III 6.9 8.1*
Algebra I 8.6 27.7 5,129
Algebra II 11.8 23.3*
Biology I 2.3 10.8
Chemistry 11.4 N/A**

*Since 2012, first year of English III and Algebra II EOC exams. **The Chemistry EOC exam began in 2014.

All Grades TCAP and EOC Exams Increase in Students Scoring P/A compared to 2010
TOTAL 18,937

High school subjects are the most consistently improving areas of academic performance. In fact, Nashville’s high school students grew at a faster rate than the state average in six out of seven EOC subjects. Though they have seen large jumps in long-term growth, elementary and middle school achievement levels are still a concern. Literacy, in particular, remains a needed area of focus after a slight decline in overall scores last year and flat scores over the last four years.

“Growth across the board is very promising, but the fact is that fewer than half of our elementary and middle school students are performing at grade level,” said Henson. “It is extremely important that we continue and accelerate this growth. We are ready to keep pushing forward this year with expanded programs to address our weak spots, particularly literacy, and added resources to help special groups of students like those living in poverty or learning to speak English.”

Read about efforts to improve literacy in Metro Schools.

When considering those special groups of students, called subgroups, and the achievement gaps that exist between them and the student body as a whole, the results are mixed. Overall, achievement gaps in Metro Schools are still smaller than achievement gaps statewide in 15 of 16 measures (see chart below). High schools fared better than other grades, meeting targets for minority and economically disadvantaged students, the two largest subgroups in grades 9-12. While all subgroups improved in at least half of the subjects tested, elementary and middle schools only met one target for achievement gap closure.

Read about efforts to improve English learner services.

About half of all Metro schools are achieving or growing at higher levels than the state average. In total, 75 district schools, or 51 percent, exceeded the state average in academic growth and/or achievement. Nineteen of those schools, or 13 percent, surpassed the state for both growth and achievement. These schools exist in every cluster and at every grade level, representing magnet, charter and zoned neighborhood schools.

“Schools all over Nashville are improving, which is good news for students and families,” said Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jay Steele. “This shows that our teachers and school leaders are developing solutions to meet the unique needs and challenges of their students. There is no secret trick to a successful, growing school. It takes empowered principals who can set goals and make instructional decisions at the school level, along with a great faculty to carry it out.”

That kind of flexibility is gaining even more ground in the 2015-16 school year as student-based budgeting has rolled out district-wide. Principals will have access to more funding for subgroups of students so they can better address their particular needs.

In addition, there are district-wide supports available to principals in areas that need improvement. The district’s literacy program is expanding this year thanks to a $1.3 million investment aimed at meeting aggressive three-year goals. The Office of English Learners is also prepared to enhance support for teachers, students and their families through a new department strategic plan and $1.1 million in additional resources.

Long term, the expansion of prekindergarten to every child who wants or needs it is expected to make a major impact in the years ahead as students enter kindergarten with better literacy skills and a much better grasp on the English language. The district received a major federal grant for the expansion and development of high-quality pre-K programming with $8.3 million being invested this year and the possibility for a total of $33 million over four years.

“There is an enormous amount of hard work happening in our schools, but to really accelerate the pace of learning, we will need the full backing of our community,” said Dr. Steele. “Particularly when it comes to literacy, there is a lot parents and community members can do. All of our schools have volunteer opportunities for tutoring, literacy clinics, after school programs and more. Anyone who wants to pitch in to help a child should contact a school or visit”

“We are fortunate to have an excellent strategic plan guiding our way forward,” said Henson. “It calls for greater supports for our schools, personalized learning for every student and empowering principals to make decisions. That is the philosophy driving our actions now and into the future. Regardless of my status as Interim Director of Schools or the on-going search for a permanent leader, this plan and the leadership team that has been carrying it out are still pushing us forward. There is a lot of work still to do and we are unwavering in our commitment to our students.”