Schools of Innovation


Our Strategy for building strong schools

Strong Leadership
Our focus is on developing high performing leadership teams that provide sustainable, shared and targeted leadership with a clear instructional core that consistently uses data-based decision making.

Effective Instruction
We will provide a system of instructional supports including high-quality literacy and math curriculum, effective literacy and math coaching, and ensuring teachers focus on state-aligned literacy and math student work outcomes.

Student and Family Support
Implement a community-school partnership model that aligns community partners to school goals, and maximizes community resources to grow student, family and school success.

Talent Management
We will recruit and retain high quality teachers by prioritizing internal and external hiring strategies that support school-based leaders in using hiring practices that select high quality teaching candidates to fill vacancies. Additionally, Schools of Innovation will help principals monitor efficacy data and implement strategies to increase retention of high-quality teachers.

How are we supporting 2018 priority/csi schools?

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Success Stories

Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School

Through hard work and support from 40 Community Achieves partners and 27 Academy partners, Pearl-Cohn has turned a tough corner. The end result was improvement. Pearl-Cohn earned a TVAAS Level 5 in growth and, for a school that has struggled with literacy, was the No. 2 high school showing growth in English III scores. Today, Pearl-Cohn High School has exited the state’s priority-designation list.

The Pearl-Cohn story was much different three years ago. After being identified as a priority-designated school in the fall of 2014, which placed the school at the bottom 5 percent of schools across the state of Tennessee, administrators knew they would have their work cut out in turning things around.

Like most inner-city high schools, Pearl-Cohn struggled with student absenteeism, high teacher turnover, and funding inequities which presented its share of challenges serving a high economically-disadvantaged, racially-isolated population of students. In tackling those challenges, the school principal started with a critical look at their leadership, including hers, and began to addresses gaps in systems, structures and processes. A clear profile for teacher quality was developed that targeted purpose-driven, collaborative, learner-oriented educators who were committed to moving the work. And move it, they did.

“I became determined to open our doors with the best teachers I could find in every classroom,” said Dr. Sonia Stewart, MNP Executive Director of Organizational Development and former principal of Pearl-Cohn High School. “I learned a clear lesson during the first three weeks on the job. People matter.”

The school implemented strong instructional coaching and instructional design to support teachers. With a focus on literacy and math as the foundations for learning, the school doubled up on those classes to ensure students touched the content every single day. This was particularly beneficial for English classes, in which many students were not reading at grade level.

Teachers also expanded instructional support to students outside of the classroom creating Lunch & Learns, in which students and teachers ate together during their lunch hours and combined that time with tutoring. Through business support from a CAT Financial grant, the school was able to establish the FAST Program, or Firebird After-School Support and Tutoring, in which teachers were able to stay after school to help students who need extra support. Many teachers even gave up their planning blocks to work on very specific content with students. Every calculated effort to improve helped move the needle and, even led to more engagement with families.

“The issues that confront our students are systemic. Research tells us that only 40-50 percent of a student’s long-term learning outcomes come from their school, the rest is from family and community,” Stewart said. “Until we as a society do something to decrease the weight of the ball and incline of the hill, the best we can hope for is that our educators ‘get stronger’ every year – and that is an unrealistic and complicated strategy. Systemic issues must be addressed for the sake of our kids.”

In just a short time, the school has been recognized nationally for its turnaround efforts. The Institute of Urban Schools named it as a model in urban education. In addition, Pearl-Cohn received a National Award of Excellence from the Coalition of Community Schools and hosted Edutopia as part of the “Schools that Work” series.

Now, when one walks into Pearl-Cohn High School, there is a lively environment like any other high school. Students congregate in the hallways, laughing with their friends as they transition to their next class. It is a school which has built a culture of care and sense of belonging for students – many of whom have had their share of academic and societal struggles. It is a vibrant place to learn and grow.




  • Completed Needs Assessments of Elementary and Middle Schools


  • Completed Learning Visits of High Schools

  • Coordinated Needs with Strategies (Prioritization Process)

  • Collaboratively Developed School-Based Plans


  • Implement Focal Area Strategies (Phased In)

    • Leadership Coaching

    • Community Partnership Model

    • Instructional Support Strategy


  • Implementation of Focal Area Strategies

  • Continue to support Instructional Support Coaching Strategy

  • Schools of Innovation Data Tracking

  • School-based Data Team Meetings


  • Revise Strategies based on November Data Meeting

  • Leadership Coaching & Instructional Support Coaching

  • HR Strategy for Recruitment and Retention Developed

  • Finalized MNPS teacher pipeline project


  • Review Strategy Supports

  • Leadership Coaching, Instructional Support Coaching & Data Meetings

  • Analyze Teacher Efficacy


  • Leadership Coaching, Instructional Support Coaching & Data Meetings Support Coaching

  • Strategy Tracking

  • Launch HR Recruitment Campaign


  • Launch Nashville Teacher Pipeline Project

  • Analyze yearlong Data & Revise School-Based Plans for 2019-20