In this episode you will hear Alison McArthur and Hank Clay discuss the community schools model and how their organizations are transforming schools here in Nashville.  Alison is the Coordinator for Community Achieves and Hank is the CEO of Communities in Schools of Tennessee.

Communities in Schools of Tennessee (CISTN) is part of the national Communities in Schools Network, and they serve over 2,000 students in six schools within the Metro Nashville Public School District. I first became aware of CISTN’s work at a site visit. One of their main goals is to decrease chronic absenteeism, and they are actually making it happen. On my visit, I saw how the site coordinator greets students when they arrive every morning and how he immediately notices who is absent. He calls their homes and checks in to see how he can help. Does the student need a ride? Do they need help finding standard school attire? Is there some type of illness or family emergency? He forms real relationships with students and families and the results are amazing. Statewide, schools affiliated with Communities in Schools last year saw 96% of students stay in school, 90% improve their behavior, and 93% make academic gains. Click here to view the full 2016-2017 Impact Report

I was similarly moved at a Community Achieves site visit to Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School. The Community Achieves initiative places special focus on fostering partnerships between Metro Nashville Public Schools and non-profit organizations. Pearl-Cohn is one of 17 Community Achieves schools within the MNPS.

On my visit, I witnessed how students at Pearl-Cohn have access to social workers, trained mental health professionals, and trauma specialists. Dr. Sonia Stewart, the principal at Pearl-Cohn, has also clearly made restorative practices and social and emotional learning an integral part of the school’s culture. Pearl-Cohn is showing amazing growth as a result of these initiatives. Attendance is up, achievement test scores are up, more students are graduating and more are going to college. They have also received numerous awards and have been featured on Edutopia’s Schools That Work series. If you’d like to read more about the work Community Achieves is doing, I recommend reading this Evidence-Based Strategy Brief.

Here is a list of ways that you can get involved:

 

I prepared this episode before the horrific mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. I hope you’ll consider joining me at March For Our Lives Nashville on March 24. I believe that we owe it to our children and our teachers to show that we won’t stand idly by and do nothing. In the words of survivor Emma Gonzales, “The thing that caused me grief, the thing that had no right to cause me grief, the thing that had no right to happen in the first place, I have to do something actively to prevent it from happening to somebody else.”

 

 


I had a lovely chat with Leticia Skae-Jackson, the Literacy Teacher Development Specialist at Martin Luther King Jr. Magnet School here in Nashville. I reached out to Letitia after reading her Edweek blog post, 4 Steps to Becoming a Culturally Responsive Teacher. Leticia’s enthusiasm for teaching and learning is contagious and she shares many gems of wisdom in this episode.

We begin by talking about Leticia’s childhood experience of immigrating to Nashville from Malawi, Africa. Next, Leticia describes her journey towards becoming a more culturally responsive educator as well as insights and suggestions for educators who wish to become more culturally responsive. We also talk about how brain research should support teaching and learning, and finally Leticia gives advice to teachers on how to maintain their sanity when new initiatives are continuously being introduced.

Here are some great resources if you’d like to learn more about culturally responsive teaching.

Culturally Responsive Teaching: 4 Misconceptions