President Obama gives Nashville schools a nod

President Barack Obama, in a White House speech Thursday that highlighted communities that have collectively taken on big social challenges, applauded Nashville and its public schools, according to The Tennessean.

That kind of prestige might seem unlikely for a school district that has long struggled with benchmarks on academic achievement, but the president pointed to two areas Metro officials have showcased increasingly in recent years.

“In Nashville, they’ve redesigned high schools and boosted graduation rates by almost 20 percent over the past 12 years,” Obama said. He also singled out Harlem, Cincinnati and Milwaukee for improvements in those places.

…His Nashville remarks, delivered as he discussed community collaboration, were a nod at the Academies of Nashville, the Chamber of Commerce-backed, career-themed curriculum model in Metro’s comprehensive high schools that uses corporate sponsorships to try to make classwork relevant. After launching six years ago, the Academies initiative has grown to include 250 business partners.

“It validates the work of a lot of people,” said Jay Steele, the district’s chief academic officer and leading architect of the Academies.

“It’s been getting a lot of national attention, and you can’t get any more national than the president recognizing it.”

Steele, who regularly hosts Academies “tours,” said U.S. Department of Education officials have twice sent officials to Metro high schools, including McGavock and Hillwood, to “see firsthand” the Academies concept, most recently in the fall. Steele also credited one of the Academies’ partners, Ford Motor Company Fund, with helping foster communication with the White House