First 100 Days Update: The 3 Biggest Lessons Learned So Far

Now about one-third of the way through his first 100 days in Metro Schools, Dr. Shawn Joseph gave a full update to the Board on what he has accomplished and what he has learned.

In his official entry plan, Dr. Joseph laid out 56 action items in his five core focus areas. Of those action items:

  • 18 are complete
  • 30 are in progress
  • 8 are not started

In his first seven weeks, Dr. Joseph has met hundreds of people, visited several schools, spoken before dozens of community groups and heard from more than 2,000 parents at the Listen & Learn sessions. In making the rounds in the community, he has learned a lot about Nashville and the district. From this, he has three big takeaways:

  1. We need to make sure teachers are teaching to the standards.
    Principal and teacher capacity determine the quality of instruction, so Dr. Joseph and his team are putting a plan together to make professional development the top priority for the district. Metro Schools is one of just 22 large urban school districts taking part in the Learning Forward professional development redesign community that will look at best practices and professional development and how to scale them. The district’s focus will be on aligning instruction between subjects and between grades so students have consistent experiences that build on one another, as well as increasing the focus and quality of literacy instruction.
  2. We need strong formative assessments, and we need to use them.
    Teachers have said again and again that there is too much testing on their plates, and it is getting in the way of instruction. At the same time, Dr. Joseph and his team recognize the need for useful data on student achievement so teachers can track progress and tailor instruction to their students. A balance needs to be struck by eliminating the tests that aren’t useful and providing additional tests that actually help teachers teach. To do this, the team is collecting information from teachers and principals through a survey and through workgroups that were brought together to discuss the issue of assessments. The hope is that changes can be made to assessments this year with an immediate impact so that schools aren’t waiting a year to have better data on their students.
  3. We need to ensure our non-magnet schools are offering rigor to all students.
    One of the top concerns from parents at the Listen & Learn sessions was the limited space at academic magnet schools and the feeling that children in neighborhood schools are not getting the same level of instruction as those in the magnets. To explore this, Chief Academic Officer Dr. Monique Felder has been tasked with assessing the advanced learning opportunities available in zoned schools. This will go along with analyzing instruction in general education classes to make sure they are as rigorous as they need to be. The goal is to make sure students are getting what they need and parents are getting what they want out of the schools in their own neighborhoods.

For Dr. Joseph, it’s been an intensive two months on the job working 12 and 14 hours days, attending back to back meetings all over town and taking in a firehose of information about Nashville and Metro Schools. He and his team are looking ahead to the future and a new strategic plan while also managing the day-to-day business of the district. Meanwhile, the transition team is deep into its work, and they will be presenting a full report of recommendations in the winter.

One of the intended outcomes of the entry plan is to maintain an energy in the district and the community that fosters a commitment from every employee and citizen to being fully responsible for student outcomes. The energy level is still high, as is the optimism about Metro Schools’ future.

Working together, this community will help build the world-class school district that Nashville deserves.

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