First Year TNReady Results More Than Double State and District Performance

Nashville Classical Charter School’s first year of state achievement data shows it’s excelling in the area that Tennessee public schools are struggling the most – teaching students to read. 

The school’s focus on reading and literature is paying off as TNReady results show Nashville Classical is far outperforming third grade reading averages for Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) and the state as a whole. 

Despite serving a student population with vastly greater needs, Nashville Classical even performed on par with Williamson County Public Schools, a nearby affluent district well known for its high-achieving schools. 

Nashville Classical’s results show it has made significant headway in closing achievement gaps for economically disadvantaged students and students of color. Not a single economically disadvantaged student at Nashville Classical performed below state standards in reading. Similarly, nearly all minority students at Nashville Classical are mastered, on-track or at least approaching state standards. 

“Since Nashville Classical opened five years ago, we have known that it was doing incredible work based on internal measures, but receiving these types of state results for the first time is real validation,” said David Mansouri, chair of the Nashville Classical Board of Directors and president of the State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE). “Nashville Classical’s results prove access to a high quality public school doesn’t have to be limited just to children of certain zip codes. Every child has the potential to thrive academically when given individualized instruction in an environment that inspires a love of learning.”

The success Nashville Classical is seeing in reading results comes from prioritizing instructional time and the quality of instruction through a variety of approaches: 

  • More Time - Nashville Classical has an extended school day, similar to the district’s other Title I schools. The longer day allows for students to receive 3.5 hours of reading instruction daily, with literacy embedded in the teaching of other subjects such as science, social studies and math, as well. 
  • Text Selection -  Students in all grade levels read from a collection of great literary works, intended to enrich their vocabulary, cultural awareness, and background knowledge. 
  • Professional Development - Teachers at Nashville Classical spend 15 days on professional development before the start of each school year and participate in weekly professional development sessions, practicing lessons, studying video, and analyzing student work. 
  • Joyful Rigor - Every classroom features its own library with more than 300 books for students to bring home each evening and teachers use songs, chants, and dramatic read-alouds to keep students on the edge of their seats. 
  • Direct Instruction - In early grades, students receive individualized phonics instruction through a centers-based, small group instruction model. Students study sounds first and then letters, building phonemic and phonetic awareness. 
  • Data Driven Instruction - Student performance and growth is closely monitored throughout the year, using a variety of rigorous monitoring tools. Students who are falling behind or transfer into the school mid-year receive immediate interventions and support. 

“What we are doing with reading and literacy is replicable in any school,” Charlie Friedman, founder and head of school for Nashville Classical, said. “We start by believing that all students can achieve. We know that they can learn to read, discuss, and write about rigorous, timeless texts. We built our school from this belief, prioritizing literacy in our professional development, selecting assessments that provide comprehensive, meaningful data, and meeting regularly to look at student work so we can reflect with purpose and adjust course with urgency. Ultimately, none of it would be possible without the incredibly hard work of our staff and our scholars. This achievement really belongs to them, but it starts with steps that any school can take. Now, as the results prove, they are steps that every school should take.” 

Although the school does not have TVAAS Scores because its students took the TNReady for the first time in 2016-2017, Nashville Classical values growth and achievement equally. When Nashville Classical’s founding class entered Kindergarten, 82 percent read below grade level, according to the University of Chicago’s STEP Assessment. Today, 67% score on track or mastered, according to TNReady. According to the 2016 NWEA/MAP Assessment, Nashville Classical’s Winter to Spring Conditional Growth Percentile was the 72nd percentile, meaning Nashville Classical students have grown more in reading than 72 percent of their peers nationwide. In MNPS, the Conditional Growth Percentile was 37 percent. “However it’s measured, Nashville Classical students are proving what’s possible,” Friedman said. “We open our doors to anyone who wants to see our work firsthand and learn from what we’re doing.” 

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