Metro schools hope changes lead to higher grades - WSMV Channel 4

Metro schools hope changes lead to higher grades

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Metro Nashville Public Schools shelled out $6 million for a classroom overhaul, and leaders are now revealing more about the changes made in hopes of boosting achievement at some of the district's lowest performing schools.

The changes include everything from using fewer lectures and having elementary students set their own goals to doing away with textbooks altogether.

Teacher Jacqueline Gallimore reviewed test data Wednesday with a fourth-grader at Napier Elementary School.

"Awesome. That's something you have to celebrate," Gallimore said.

It may sound strange to some, but apparently it's working.

"They can go through each section of their test and see, 'Well, if I scored yellow the first time - and the second time I scored green - well, did I make any improvements? Yeah.' And they get really excited about the points they achieved the second time around," Gallimore said.

It's just one of several changes made at Napier after the district contracted with the consultants at Tribal Group last year, hoping to boost student achievement in some of the lowest performing Metro schools.

"They surveyed the entire school. Every teacher had to participate. They were able to give exactly how they felt," said Principal Dr. Ronald Powe.

At Napier, they are now using less paper, and more technology and conversation.

"'Do away with textbooks.' Even Tribal went as far as to say, 'Don't even use textbooks,'" Powe said.

Each student now has individualized goals, such as complete sentences or addition.

Plus, they now participate in group and project-based learning as part of the daily routine.

"Because when you have that, the retention is much greater," Powe said.

Now, the question is whether the changes will work. The goal is to increase student performance by 10 percent, and in turn earn an extra $40 million in the federal Race to the Top program.

Powe said he is confident they will make the grades.

"Yes, it is working. In fact, I just celebrated where we went from 7 percent growth with our first test to 16 percent. So you don't get that kind of growth unless you're doing something very, very special," he said.

Still, district leaders say the true test comes this spring with the state TCAP test.

Powe said they don't want to make all of these changes and then keep their fingers crossed, hoping students perform better on the TCAPs. Instead, they are doing preliminary tests several times throughout the school year, and already they have shown significant improvements.

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