UPDATE: This piece was updated on Oct. 18, 2021, at 10:35 a.m. CDT to include information from Dean Camilla Benbow.
On Sept. 28, Vanderbilt announced a partnership between Peabody College and Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) with the goals of researching and providing support to administrators as a vessel to address the racial and social inequities ingrained in the MNPS system.
“The roots of educational inequities in our city are complex and multi-faceted,” Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said in the press release. “Enduring challenges have only been compounded by COVID-19 and our city’s recent growth.”
In order to combat the inequities, Peabody College will offer resources and research opportunities that will help the administrators refocus their solutions.
“This partnership will make sure that research is directly derived from the questions that district leaders have about running the district: what do district leaders need to know to do their jobs better? What do teachers need to know to meet MNPS students’ needs better?” President and CEO of the Nashville Public Education Foundation Katie Cour said.
The Nashville Public Education Foundation supports MNPS by leading initiatives and facilitating conversations that help provide a high-quality public education.
“[The goal is to] create teacher- or district-focused tools and resources that accompany the research findings themselves and help educators embed findings into their practice,” Cour said.
The research will help MNPS hone in on its four tenets in combating educational inequities: re-envisioning the central office as a support hub, empowering and equipping leaders at all levels, creating and supporting engaging, rigorous and personalized learning experiences for all students and identifying and eliminating inequities.
“Vanderbilt and MNPS share values that we hope to combine with the assets and expertise resident in each organization,” Dean of Education and Human Development Camilla Benbow said. “Together, we want to leverage these to inform local policy and educational practice to enable all of Nashville’s students to thrive in school, work and civic life. Beyond that, we want to use what we learn together to share scalable education solutions nationally and globally.”
Per Cour, the partnership also involves multiple Vanderbilt faculty members, including Bendow, who will serve on the Nashville Partnership for Educational and Equity Research Committee (PEER), along with Marcy Singer-Garbella, Maury Nation and Jason Grissom, all of whom are professors at Peabody College.
“Faculty members like Maury Nation have worked for years on issues of youth safety and well-being,” Benbow said in an email to The Hustler. “Rich Milner’s scholarship focuses on urban education and the opportunity gaps that affect so many students [whereas] other faculty members, like Jason Grissom, look at systemic challenges in school and district leadership.”
The expertise of these faculty members will be used to enhance the research opportunities that will ultimately serve as a way of making MNPS more equitable, per Cour.
“[The main goal is to set] the overall tone for the partnership, outlining the research priority areas, navigating roadblocks and leveraging resources to ensure a successful partnership,” Cour said.
First-year education major Karolina Bisiak expressed her support of this partnership, citing the additional opportunities it creates to work with MNPS and in greater Nashville.
“Vanderbilt partnering with Metro Nashville Public Schools is a positive opportunity for students interested in not only education like myself, but community involvement and service,” Bisiak said. “Vanderbilt’s teacher preparation programs at Peabody are focused on racial and socioeconomic inequities within the public school system, so teachers will enter communities like the Metro Nashville area after graduation prepared to deal with the inequities that they see in their classrooms.”
Vanderbilt also offers tutoring services to students in MNPS and provides educational resources, such as Tutor Nashville and the School for Science and Math at Vanderbilt (SSMV) to close socioeconomic gaps.
“The research-working groups will be consistently hearing from educators throughout the research process and students could also be included in that feedback cycle,” Cour said. “There is going to be a Community Advisory Panel (launching later next year) that will provide feedback to the Steering Committee on the work of the partnership and students could also be a part of that council.”