Metro Nashville Public Schools building

The Nashville Public Education Foundation on Tuesday released the results of an annual poll on Nashvillians’ perceptions of public schools. The poll, which has been running since 2018 and was conducted by Impact Research, includes responses from 500 Nashvillians who identify as “likely voters.” 

According to the poll results, Nashvillians’ perceptions of public schools are improving — though they’re still not very high. Fifty-one percent of respondents have a negative view Nashville’s public schools, which is an 11-point improvement from last year’s poll results. Fifty percent of respondents who are public school parents approve of the district’s work in educating students — a 16-point improvement from last year. 

“We were excited to see ... movement in the right direction about public perception of our public schools,” NPEF president and CEO Katie Cour tells the Scene. “There's no urban district in the country that has positive approval ratings that I'm aware of. And so we're not expecting to see 100 percent approval of everything that the district is doing across the board. What we are looking for year after year is the trending of changes of opinion.”

Thirty-nine percent of respondents believe Nashville’s public schools have gotten worse (last year it was 45 percent), and 13 percent believe schools have improved (last year it was 10 percent). Additionally, 65 percent of respondents said they would prefer that their children attend public schools — including magnet and charter schools — rather than private schools. 

“We are excited that MNPS families are seeing and experiencing the work being done across the district to accelerate the learning progress of our students and move the district forward to ensure every student is known,” says Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Adrienne Battle. Battle also nodded to the district’s Level 5 Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System score and the district’s 48 rewards schools.

The poll also asked residents about state and local governance. One question considered the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act — a new funding formula set to replace the Basic Education Program in 2023. Though 69 percent of people had never heard of it, 41 percent of the folks who are familiar with TISA approve, and 46 percent oppose it. Approval ratings fall along party lines, with the majority of Republicans in favor of TISA and the majority of Democrats in opposition. Sixty percent of respondents do not believe that the city of Nashville prioritizes youth, and 38 percent believe the city is moving in the wrong direction. 

Cour says the NPEF pays attention to trends to identify district progress and gauge what families want from their schools, which can inform the organization’s advocacy. 

“There's a lot of things to point to right now that show that we're moving in the right direction,” says Cour. “The only thing that I want to make sure is that we can sustain that momentum and that we don't see a kind of falling back towards negative progress or towards no progress, that we can keep the foot on the peddle and move forward as a city, as a community, and certainly as a school district to ensure that these changes in progress continue.”

Visit the NPEF website to see more details and demographic breakdowns of the poll. 

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