Metro Nashville schools must make racial equity in advanced academics a priority | Opinion

Metro Nashville schools must make racial equity in advanced academics a priority | Opinion

by | Jul 21, 2021 | Press | 0 comments

MNPS has committed to a framework for equity, including working to fix injustices, not kids. However, there is much work to do. Here’s what NOAH’s asking for and what citizens can do.

Opinion piece by the Academics Committee as seen in the Tennessean:

(Nashville Organized for Action and Hope) is advocating for fair and just treatment, addressing large disparities that continue to negatively affect historically underserved communities.

NOAH’s Education Task Force is guided by our mission statement: to eliminate systemic racism throughout MNPS wherever it is found.

We believe MNPS must make good on their core tenet to identify and eliminate inequities in our schools here and now.

Let’s start with the whole truth about advanced academics. Every child has a right to a rigorous, high-quality education; an education that prepares all learners, regardless of race or ethnicity, for successful graduation and college, career, and life pathways.

Furthermore, in order for students to grow academically, they need to be challenged.

Encore is advanced academics programming for elementary and middle-school students, which supports gifted students through extra, rigorous programming during the school day.

At the high school level, advanced academics includes Advanced Placement (AP) courses, in which students take rigorous, college-level courses. AP courses equip students for college-bound futures.

Equitable participation in and completion of AP courses furnishes students from all areas of Nashville with leadership skills for the good of their communities and ensures high-quality education is being made available to all our youth equitably.

Special series: Re-read the award-winning “Dismissed” series about MNPS

These are examples of the inequities

Senior Crista Engel continues the discussion about one of the books the class read over the summer during Glenda Stephens English 12 AP class at Hendersonville High School in Hendersonville Wednesday, August 16, 2006.

MNPS has committed to a framework for equity, including working to fix injustices, not kids, which we applaud.

However, systemic racism and the tendrils of white supremacy are still alive in our schools.

There are large disparities along racial lines in advanced academics in MNPS. For example, in 2020:

  • 61% of Encore students were white, even though only 26% of the MNPS student population were white.
  • At the high school level, the schools with the fewest advanced academic offerings are also the schools that are overwhelmingly Black. These schools offer one to six AP courses, while in some schools in the district, such as Hillwood High School in Belle Meade, there are over 20 AP courses offered.
  • This inequity in AP course offerings helps explain why only 25% of students in AP courses were Black students.
  • Making matters worse, in 2019, only 25% of AP exams taken by Black students received a passing score, compared to 51% of AP exams taken by white students. These low pass rates indicate that adequate supports are not in place to promote student success in AP courses at some schools, robbing students of opportunities to earn college credit.

This is our call to action to MNPS

While MNPS has spoken about identifying and eliminating inequities in advanced academics, they have not presented a concrete plan for doing so. A powerful and meaningful action plan should include the following steps:

  1. Develop clear goals for remedying racial inequities in advanced academics, accompanied by specific policies, practices and procedures to reach these goals.
  2. Communicate this plan to schools, parents and the public at-large.
  3. To shape this planning and action, the NOAH Education Task Force should have a seat at the table, so that we may contribute to the on-going discussion and planning as representatives of our community.

The support of the Metro Nashville community will ensure a robust and equitable education for all of our children during the most crucial years of their academic development. Together, in solidarity with concerned parents and citizens of this community, we can foster real change.

Here is what citizens can do to make a difference

For the sake of our children, we urge you to contact your school board members and demand:

  1. Requiring at least nine AP courses be offered at every high school, reducing the large opportunity gap for students attending schools that primarily serve Black students.
  2. A more equitable approach to identifying students for advanced academics, replacing the current racially biased systems, with the goal of eliminating racial disparities in enrollment in advanced academic offerings.
  3. A requirement for MNPS to communicate regularly with parents regarding all advanced academic offerings, their benefits, qualifications for the programs, who to contact about enrollment into advanced academic programs, and actions parents and caregivers can take to help their children meet criteria for enrollment.

You can find your school board member at this link:

The NOAH Academics Committee has begun honest conversations with the MNPS School Board about this painful data, and we are finding common concern.

Through these powerful relationships, we are advocating for MNPS to prioritize racial equity in advanced academics, at the school level, in practice, in policy, and in funding.

This direct action highlights our shared responsibilities to ensure every student, in every neighborhood, has access to a high-quality education. MNPS must make good on their promise to identify and eliminate racial inequities in our schools here and now.  Let’s tell the whole, but nonetheless, painful truth.

Linda D. Robinson and  Dr. Bethany Rittle-Johnson – NOAH Education Task Force leaders; Academics Committee Co-Chairs: Rachel Privett and Dr. Kita Williams, NOAH Education Task Force Members, Academics Committee leaders