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6 Minutes With Ms. McDonald's 5th Grade Social Studies Class

by Susan Ohanian: I don't spend much time looking at charter schools. I just don't have the time. But once I stumbled onto this film clip from a 5th grade classroom, I had to find out more. This has to be one the most chilling classroom scenes I've every witnessed. Children experience this sort of thing in a school day that lasts from 7:30 to 5, with some Saturdays thrown in. You can see more videos on the Nashville Prep website.

This is how "at-risk" students are treated in Nashville.

In December 2012, Ms. McDonald was named one of two Nashvillians of the Year. NOTE: Nashville Scene says she is a "sterling examples of what can be accomplished by creative thinking, supportive administrators, and sheer determination."

I find her approach bizarre, demeaning, and chilling. I insisted that my husband watch. His reaction: "This must be what Nazi classrooms looked like."

Ravi Gupta school founder and director served as Worked in Obama for America as assistant to Chief Strategist David Axelrod during the general election. He says, "We recruit champion teachers to train champion students." Note that the article below indicates that Gupta was trained with Race to the Top funds, our tax dollars--partnering with Walton Foundation monies.

Jenny Tabor is the Literacy Coordinator at Nashville Prep. She previously taught 8th grade math at Chickasaw Middle School and 9th grade math at The Soulsville Charter School in Memphis for 3 years. She was a 2008 Teach For America Memphis corps member and also worked at Teach For America as the Development Associate. Mrs. Tabor graduated from Louisiana State University in 2008 with her B.A. in Mass Communication and received her M.A. in Teaching in 2010 from Christian Brothers University.

Christina Lea McDonald, Assistant Principal for Culture and Arts

Christina Lea McDonald, featured in the film, is the Assistant Principal for Culture and Arts. Ms. McDonald recently worked as Executive Assistant for the co-founder of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools network and a chorus teacher at KIPP Infinity Charter School in New York City. Ms. McDonald taught in the Metropolitan Nashville Public School system after graduating with her B.A. in Music Education from Belmont University. Ms. McDonald recently completed her first album and performs as a singer/songwriter in NYC and Nashville.

Nashville's enthusiasm for charter schools attracts visionaries: Schools' founders take risks to assist struggling students

By Julie Hubbard
November 29, 2010
Ravi Gupta earned a Yale Law School degree, ran some of President Barack Obama's campaign offices and spent a year as a top aide to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. At 27, he was easily qualified for a career in politics.

But what did he want to do? Start a charter school.

He applied for and won an $80,000 fellowship launched by Mayor Karl Dean to open one in Nashville. "I was open to anywhere, as long as the need was there," Gupta said. "There is tremendous momentum, support and enthusiasm for charter schools in Nashville."

Like many others, he's stepping up to the front line of public education reform. Risk-takers armed with a strong vision, these founders hope to build experimental classrooms from the ground up to give parents another option to get
their children to college.

Some are from the community, while others compete for fellowships offered by a growing number of charter management organizations.
Gupta was trained through a million-dollar incubator, which draws funding from Race to the Top winnings, the Walton Foundation and the mayor's education fund. It aims to recruit a couple of charter school leaders each year from
inside the state and nationally.

After spending a year touring some of the best charter schools in the country, Gupta relocated to Nashville and is the first of two fellows spawned from the Center for Charter School Excellence. He will open Nashville Prep next fall to reach at-risk North Nashville middle school students.


— Susan Ohanian





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