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Mayor Barry Launches Five Year Roadmap to Steer Metro’s Efforts to Ensure That Every 4-Year-Old in Nashville Gets a Fair Start


Plan Defines High-Quality Pre-K and Outlines Activation Strategies to Meet New Quality Standards and Increase the Number of Pre-K Seats

Today, Mayor Megan Barry, Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph, and Nashville’s Early Childhood Education Working Group (Working Group) unveiled, “High-quality Start for All,” a comprehensive five-year roadmap to help improve the quality of Pre-Kindergarten and increase access for all of Nashville’s youth. For the first time, Nashville educators have developed a shared, research-based definition of quality standards for Pre-Kindergarten and outlined strategies, metrics for success, timelines, resources, and partnerships needed to implement the agreed upon standards citywide to ensure that the more than 9,300 4-year-olds in Davidson County receive an equal and high-quality early education.

“This roadmap will make a difference for years to come for thousands of Nashville and Davidson County’s children, who need and deserve the best start possible so they can succeed in school and thrive as adults,” Mayor Barry said. “Thank you to all of the Pre-K providers and partners who came together in an unprecedented way to agree on standards and strategies that will benefit so many students.”

“High-quality Start for All” is the result of a review of the latest research, child care regulations, peer-validated accreditation standards, city case studies, and best practices, and is aligned with a framework developed by the Tennessee Department of Education to increase quality of Pre-K throughout the state. The Working Group agreed that the quality definition will apply to all Nashville Pre-K programs, whether run by Metro Nashville Public Schools, Head Start, or community providers. It includes a set of 10 program standards and 10 instructional standards that when implemented with fidelity prepare 4-year-olds for Kindergarten and later success.

“High-quality Pre-K matters,” Joseph said. “I commend Mayor Barry for bringing together this impressive coalition and for her support of increasing the number of seats available for Nashville’s 4-year-olds. It will take the entire city working together to ensure that we set up our youngest learners for a future that will exceed great expectations.”

Research shows that the program quality standards, which include actively recruiting families through coordinated outreach efforts, prioritizing daily attendance, and supporting teachers’ focus on listening to children and being more responsive to their needs, puts children on firm footing for school success.

The instructional quality standards, which are based on local research conducted by the Tennessee Department of Education with Vanderbilt University’s Peabody Research Institute, include an intentional focus on oral language and literacy development and maximizing instructional time, and reflect instruction and classroom management practices that ensure accelerated cognitive and academic gains for children.

The final standard focuses on alignment between Pre-K and the early elementary grades to ensure that educators better understand student strengths and needs when they enter kindergarten and provide them with the tailored supports they need to do well in the early grades.

“The quality standards reflect what research says are essential classroom practices to improve outcomes for young children that are sustained over time,” said Dr. Dale Farran, Vanderbilt professor, director of the Peabody Research Institute, and member of the Working Group. “Nashville has taken a significant step by articulating not only a set of shared expectations for how we best support young children, but also the role that all of us must play moving forward to meet those expectations.”

Integrating these practices into all Pre-K classrooms and programs will ensure that children have access to an education that prepares them for success in school and life, beginning with laying the foundation for them to be strong readers by the end of 3rd grade. Success will be measured using 10 indicators to track performance across all Pre-K settings on language/vocabulary, literacy, math, as well as interpersonal interactions, self-regulation, and attendance. Pre-K providers will also have an increased focus on evaluating and reducing disciplinary actions and referrals to special education, and to reducing racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes.

In addition to the commitment to work toward the same goals and under the same quality standards, “High-quality Start for All” reinforces Pre-K providers and partners’ commitment to share and use data to enable a city-wide assessment of needs and demands for all 4-year-olds.

Finally, the roadmap sets the stage for the creation of additional Pre-K seats and meet the demand for early childhood education in Nashville within the next 5 years.

The following are photos of Mayor Barry visiting the Casa Azafrán Early Learning Center and the release of the roadmap.

Mayor Barry at table with preschoolers Pre-K sign welcoming Mayor Barry Dr. Shawn Joseph speaks about Pre-K efforts Mayor Barry speaks about Pre-K efforts Mayor Barry participates in preschoolers' activity