As a river port and railroad center, Nashville attracted a diverse population from its inception in 1779. It has continued to flourish as a destination for citizens and immigrants of varied income levels. Nashville’s famous music, top universities, and thriving health care industry often deflect attention from an incredibly stark level of inequity, especially in the school system. In 2016, just 11 percent of students achieved an ACT score that indicated they were prepared to enter college or a career. Recognizing the inequity in education, in recent years, our city and state have unleashed transformational initiatives including Tennessee winning the federal Race to the Top competition.
When diverse, dynamic people come together, incredible things can happen – Nashville is proof of it. Teach For America began our partnership with the Nashville community in 2009 with the leadership of the mayor and a group of local philanthropists who came together to champion for bringing more high-performing teachers to Nashville. Since that year, we have recruited and trained over 670 teachers for high¬-need Nashville classrooms. Through the development and support provided by Teach For America, corps members have been found by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to be among the most effective teachers in the state for the last six years in a row. The report also notes TFA-Nashville teachers are more racially and ethnically diverse than the statewide average (85% white across the state vs. 66% in TFA-Nashville).
However, we know that there is still much work to be done. Nashville schools are not yet adequately preparing students for college. According to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce 2015 Education Report Card, only 30 percent of Nashville students graduate with a 21 or higher on the ACT, one of the benchmarks used to determine college readiness.
For long-term change to take effect, we are working to create a movement of individuals committed to collective impact on students. Students taught by Teach For America’s alumni are now becoming the next generation of corps members. Take second year corps member Andrea Kinzer for example. While attending Nashville’s White Creek High School, she was the student of TFA alumna Nikki Miller. Nikki deeply influenced Andrea as a student and offered Andrea an example of the impact she could have on her own future students. Andrea now teaches 5th grade social studies at KIPP College Prep in Nashville, where Nikki Miller now serves as the founding school principal. Student and teacher, now teacher and principal, are still working together to provide the next generation of future leaders with a high-quality education.