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Budget at Work: Public Education

Metro Nashville Public Schools – 18 National Merit Semifinalists in Metro Schools

Out of 1.6 million juniors from more than 22,000 high schools across the nation, 18 Metro Schools students were selected among 16,000 Semifinalists in the 63rd National Merit Scholarship Program. The total pool of Semifinalists entered the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2016 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Each of the students selected represents less than one percent of U.S. high school seniors and includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state.

National Merit Scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments, and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference. The eighteen Metro students represent four different MNPS high schools including Hillsboro High School, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School, Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet High School, and McGavock High School.

Metro Nashville Public Schools – GRAMMY Music Education Coalition (GMEC)

As of November 2017, more than 30 of the most forward-thinking music education organizations came together to establish the GRAMMY Music Education Coalition (GMEC). GMEC is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit that was formed with the goal of increasing the number of youth actively participating in U.S. public schools by working with districts to provide needs-based grants, increase the number of students actively engaged in music instruction and music making, and build skills that benefit children academically, emotionally and socially.

As Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow puts it, “The GRAMMY Music Education Coalition has one mission – to increase the number of students actively making music across the country with particular emphasis on underserved communities.” To date, more than $2,500,000 has been raised and the GMEC plans to expand its partnerships to include artists, additional school districts, corporations, non-profit organizations and foundations.

Metro Nashville Public Schools Music Makes Us has been announced as one of the first proposed beneficiaries that will receive customized funding and strategic services based on school system needs assessments that will result in millions of new music makers and creators. Dr. Lee Whitmore, Executive Director of the GMEC, states, “By increasing the number of students actively making music, we are fostering the development of essential cognitive and social skills that better prepare them for success as well as beginning a lifelong appreciation of music.”

Metro Nashville Public Schools – Two ‘Out of the Box’ MNPS Employees Chosen to Represent District by National Organization

In August 2017, Principal Jill Pittman of Overton High School and Coach Nekesha Burnette of Antioch High School were selected from educators across the United States to participate in a year-long, thirty person fellowship called the Career Academy Leaders’ Collaborative (CALC). The Collaborative was a new program created by the National Career Academy Coalition (NCAC), University of Florida Lastinger Center, Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), and School Reform Initiative (SRI) to provide educators an opportunity to develop adaptive leadership capacity, build knowledge, and enhance skills to create and enact transformative ideas that empower their community.

As Pittman stated, “Being part of the NCAC Collaborative provides an opportunity to shine a light on the meaningful work not only in MNPS, but across the country. Ultimately, I hope to see greater access to high quality programs that prepare our students for college, career, and life.” The fellowship is built on in-person and virtual collaborative experiences in order to build expertise in design thinking, consensus building, strategic planning, change management, coaching, and facilitation.

As Phil Poekert, assistant director of the Lastinger Center, summarizes, “This program assists leaders in creating safe spaces in which to think about and design better teaching practices, to look closely at educator and student work, and to identify school-wide issues that affect student achievement.” The CALC is expected to select a new group of 30 fellows each year, adding to the knowledge network for career academies.

Metro Nashville Public Schools Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Highlights

Student Based Budgeting

The district is in its third year of full implementation of student-based budgeting (SBB). This budgeting method moves much of the decision-making power to principals. Each school receives a base funding amount of $4,425 per student and a higher rate of funding for students who need additional support. Principals use this budget flexibility to make decisions about staff, supplies and school programs. Department budgets at the district cover the cost of essential services like food, transportation, utilities, building maintenance, district support such as IT services, and more. These services are provided to the schools centrally and are not part of individual school budgets.

Changes for fiscal year 2018

A focus group of principals and district leaders are consulted each year to make changes to the SBB model. The decisions are based on principal feedback and the strategic direction of the district. Changes this year include:

  • More funding to address the needs of economically-disadvantaged students: added a 5% poverty weight for all grade levels, in addition to the prior academic performance weight previously in place.
  • Continuing incremental movement toward true equitable resource distribution.
  • Principals must provide evidence of parent involvement in the budget development process when submitting their budget.

Staff requirements

Schools must budget for one full-time Literacy Teacher Development Specialist.

  • Elementary and middle schools must budget for at least a part-time Advanced Academic Resource Teacher.
  • All schools must budget for one School Finance and Payroll Records Administrator, which is an upgraded replacement for bookkeeper positions.
  • All schools must budget for at least one art, music and P.E. teacher.

Additional programs and initiatives for fiscal year 2018 are:

Raising the Bar for All Students

Resources for Literacy Instruction, Instructional Coaches:

All schools will have a full-time Literacy Teacher Development Specialist (LTDS) to model and coach effective literacy instruction and help teachers analyze student data related to literacy achievement.

Expansion of Reading Recovery Program:

The district will add 11 Reading Recovery Teachers to help struggling readers quickly gain the skills they need to be successful through one-to-one and small group instruction.

Curriculum Redesign:

MNPS will create new scope and sequence documents that align to state standards to give more guidance to principals and teachers on what needs to be taught and at what level of understanding. The partnership will also give teachers greater support in developing effective lesson plans by providing them access to complex texts and model teaching units. This investment is based on a recommendation from the Transition Team.

Assessment Tools, Assessment Item Bank:

MNPS will purchase a new item bank to provide educators access to a larger selection of high-quality and validated test questions aligned to new Tennessee academic standards. Teachers will be able to use these items to construct classroom and common formative assessments. This item bank will also be used to develop district benchmark assessments aligned to the district’s scope and sequence.


Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessments will allow educators to track academic progress over the course of the school year in Reading and Math in grades 2-8. This is an adaptive assessment tool that helps educators identify specific skills and concepts that each student is ready to learn and will indicate if a student is on track for success on end-of-year state assessments.

Performance Matters:

Performance Matters provides a state-of-the-art assessment and reporting platform educators can use to create, administer and score student assessments. District benchmark assessments, as well as classroom formative assessments, will be administered through this platform.

Advanced Academics and Choice Programs, Advanced Academics Resource Teachers (AART):

Each elementary and middle school must budget for at least a half-time position for instruction of gifted and talented students. These positions were formerly known as Encore Teachers. AARTs will provide direct instruction to students, coach and plan with classroom teachers on teaching high-ability students, nurture talent, and work to identify and screen gifted and talented students.

Executive Director of Magnet and Choice Programs:

This new position will coordinate magnet school programs and the district’s choice process, and is based on a recommendation from the Transition Team.

Creating Opportunity for After School

Free Access to College Credit-Bearing Tests:

All high school students who are eligible to take Advanced Placement (AP), Cambridge and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams will be able to do so at no cost to them, ensuring financial limitations do not prevent students from receiving college credits from these courses.

Free Access to Industry Certification Tests and Dual Credit Courses:

High school students in the Academies of Nashville, who are eligible to take industry certifications or dual credit exams, will be able to do so at no cost, and there will be no cost to the students for dual enrollment courses. The district will also hire a specialist to coordinate the industry certification testing.

ACT Aspire:

With the state no longer providing ACT predictive assessments, the district will invest in ACT Aspire to help 9TH and 10TH grade students anticipate whether they are on track to score at least a 21 on the ACT in the 11TH grade.

Serving the Diverse Needs of Students

English Learners:

Continued growth in the district’s EL population brings the need to further expand EL services. The district will add 31 EL teacher positions to address state-required student-teacher ratios.

Special Education:

Paraprofessionals will receive a pay upgrade and improved training with the goal of increasing the pipeline for special education teachers.

Student-Counselor Ratio:

Funding within the student-based budget allocation to reduce student-counselor ratios.

Investing in Excellent People

Pay Increase for All Employees:

All salary schedules will be increased by 3% as a cost of living adjustment and all eligible employees will receive a step pay increase. The total cost is offset by $9.9 million in anticipated savings from normal staff vacancy and turnover for a net investment in employee compensation of $14.5 million.

Substitute Pay Increase:

Pay rates for substitute teachers are being increased to be competitive with school districts in surrounding counties as well as other regional employment opportunities. The change is budget neutral due to current and projected substitute fill rates.

Upgrading Bookkeeper Positions:

The role of school bookkeepers will be upgraded and renamed School Finance and Payroll Records Administrator. Bookkeepers will be required to reapply for their positions. The role of bookkeepers vary from school to school. The goal is to create district-wide consistency and greater support for budget accountability within schools.

Leadership Development:

The district will invest in the ongoing development of school supervisors and future school leaders, including professional development for the new community superintendents and executive officers.

HR Operational Effectiveness and Leadership Development:

HR will add tools for operational effectiveness and leadership development.

Reinventing Middle Schools

STEAM Curriculum and Materials:

The redesign of all middle schools with enhanced STEAM instruction will begin with the schools that already have a STEM component. This will involve intensive professional development for teachers and administrators to implement STEAM, which requires inquiry-based, hands-on instruction.

Learning Technology Specialists:

The district is adding Learning Technology Specialists to support increased technology for students and staff as part of the middle school transformation. These specialists will support the deployment of more technology for student instruction, such as laptop carts, as the district moves toward a 1:2 device-student ratio in middle schools. The middle school redesign will also include robust computer science curriculum on topics such as coding and web design.

Honors English:

Curriculum to create Honors English courses in middle schools.


Funding to support the creation of makerspaces in middle schools as an initial STEAM implementation step.

Visual Arts Coordinator:

Dedicated support for visual arts instruction within Music Makes Us, support for performing arts and music instruction district-wide, and the implementation of the arts component of STEAM.