The Nashville Region's top-ranked public schools give Middle Tennessee a competitive edge.
A cornerstone of the Greater Nashville Region’s economic success is its highly skilled and readily available workforce.
Thanks in large part to a number of top-ranked public school systems that prepare students for both college and in-demand, local careers, the region keeps a steady pipeline of talent flowing to relocating and expanding businesses.
Maury County Public Schools, for example, has integrated STEAMrelated programs in its schools to better prepare students for their futures. Mt. Pleasant Elementary, Mt. Pleasant Middle School, Mt. Pleasant High School and Randolph Howell Elementary have all earned the Tennessee STEM School Designation. In Robertson County, a new biotechnology lab at White House Heritage High School offers students a biotech certification when they graduate, which will allow them to immediately begin a career in the field.
On Course for Careers
The internationally acclaimed Academies of Nashville, offered through Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), provide students with one of the best college- and career-prep experiences in the country, with a hands-on approach to learning in a range of disciplines. The Academies’ program matches local industries and experts with high schools to provide one-of-a-kind learning opportunities in areas such as visual and performing arts, health care, technology, business, education and criminal justice.
“We have programs at all of our zoned high schools — which are open enrollment for students outside of those zones — to give our high schoolers the chance to explore their dreams and talents while learning useful skills to prepare them for college and career opportunities to follow,” says Sean Braisted, executive officer of communications and community engagement for MNPS. “In addition to a rich selection of advanced academics, we also offer dual enrollment and credit offerings to launch our graduates into success after high school.”
Williamson County Schools’ Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center (EIC) gives high school students valuable soft skills through hands-on experience in areas such as customer service, business and product development. EIC students have started their own in-home bakeries and retail shops and offer services such as child care, house cleaning and lawn care.
“Everything done at the EIC helps facilitate skills that are needed in the Williamson County and Middle Tennessee workforce. Creativity, ideation, communication, teamwork and flexibility are just a few that come to mind,” says Jeremy Qualls, executive director of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center and college, career and technical education for Williamson County Schools. “The level of rigor, combined with those soft skills, makes these students not only ready for college but highly recruited by schools that offer entrepreneurship programs.”
Qualls says the EIC partners with local business leaders to mentor students and helps coach them through the process of developing and pitching their business plans.
“This process not only gives the mentors and coaches exposure to the program, but it also gives them opportunities to interact with students and see the level of creativity and leadership they possess,” Qualls says. “We have actually had students get offered jobs on the spot from mentors.”
One of the fastest-growing districts in the state, Rutherford County Schools consistently ranks among the best school districts in Tennessee and has outpaced national rankings on a number of measures. In August 2020, the district launched the Rutherford County Virtual School, which has grown in enrollment from 100 students to more than 300 in grades 3-12.
Unlike many online programs, Rutherford County’s virtual courses are taught by Rutherford County Schools teachers. In addition, students enrolled in the virtual program are able to participate in in-person clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities.
Education, Careers & Opportunity
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While the program launched during the height of the pandemic, it was years in the making and was designed as an option for home-schooled students, athletes in year-round training or students who spend part of the school year outside the district.
“We’re really trying to incorporate the best of both worlds. Rutherford County is well-known throughout the state for our really strong academic program. We offer some of the best teachers and the best curriculum, and we’ve got some of the highest test scores in the state,” says Jessica Supakhan, principal of Rutherford County Virtual School. “Not only are students learning from these amazing teachers — all level five teachers, outstanding educators — but they’re also able to learn from the comfort and convenience of their home or even on the road if they’re traveling.”