08102021-1st Day of school-03.jpg

DeArris Boyd asks for students to raise their hands to answer a question on Aug. 10, the first day of school.

The Nashville Public Education Foundation released its citywide survey results in October, which revealed that Nashville residents are growing more concerned about the quality of schools and city services aimed at children.

The NPEF hopes the results, which showed both a more negative view of public schools in recent years and a desire to increase their funding, will help people and officials better understand the problems Nashville faces and the solutions people prefer, and give Nashville residents another call to action to make their voices heard.

The NPEF’s polling partner, ALG Research, said the poll included a sample size of 500 locally registered voters and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

According to Jennifer Hill, vice president of policy and programming at the foundation, the results this year reflected a great deal of concern that she believes is caused by a greater awareness of public education due to the struggles of COVID-19.

“There’s almost, in some ways, an increased awareness of what education looks like because of the pandemic,” she said, referencing increased news coverage and the fact that virtual schooling brought public education directly into the home.

The key survey findings showed that, across nearly every demographic and on every issue tested, opinions have taken a negative turn since 2020.

Hill noted that the negative views disproportionately came from Republican voters, but other groups also expressed a somewhat more negative view of schools and the city’s service to children.

Sixty-four percent of those asked said Nashville is not a city that prioritizes children and youth. For schools specifically, 62% said public school performance was “not so good” or “poor,” with 27% saying schools were “good” and just 3% calling schools “excellent.”

Still, there was good news, too: “There is a real, genuine belief of the potential of public education for Nashville students,” she said.

Most poll respondents chose better public schools as the best way to prioritize children. Hill noted that white residents tended to believe lower crime rates would improve things for children, while Black residents largely believed that better and more economic opportunities for students was the better option.

Metro Nashville Public Schools responded to the survey results, noting that the district has introduced programs this year it hopes will help address people’s concerns.

“Last year was the most challenging school year for public education throughout the country in modern history, and many of those challenges have continued due to the ongoing pandemic,” MNPS spokesperson Sean Braisted said. “We have been planning throughout this crisis for how to accelerate student progress, and this year we have been implementing or expanding the programs to do just that, which will boost public confidence and support for our schools.”

Those efforts include the Accelerating Scholars tutoring program, which aims to provide about 7,000 students with high-dosage tutoring. The program provides at least three half-hour sessions with each student per week.

While MNPS is launching initiatives like the tutoring program and its new Sown to Grow student monitoring program, Hill said people should still look for ways to become more involved with their local schools and to get their voices into the ears of community leaders.

She also said the NPEF provides many resources to facilitate discussions about education within community groups and circles, including a watch guide for the foundation’s documentary, “By Design, the Shaping of Nashville’s Public Schools,” and an “advocacy agenda” to help set goals.

Braisted said MNPS hopes to lead the effort alongside the community to improve schools, and asked that people consider volunteering their time as a tutor.

“It will take a community effort to prioritize children and youth in our society, and we look forward to leading the way to accomplish that,” he said.

Recommended for you