Families moving to Nashville will be well catered for in terms of schooling as the city boasts an array of education options.
New Nashville residents will need to factor in a few important considerations when choosing a school for the child, among them the proximity of schools to both the family home and the parents' place of work. Nashville is a big city and with a lot of cars on the road, traffic can be a major issue.
Next, it's wise to research different types of schools, the standard of teaching and the type of curriculum followed to find a pathway that is well-suited to an individual child. Then, of course, there is the important matter of school fees and other associated costs to consider as well.
Like the rest of the US, schools in Nashville are divided into three levels: elementary school (pre-school to grade 5), middle school (grade 6 to 8) and high school (grade 9 to 12).
Public schools in Nashville
Anyone legally resident in Nashville will be able to send their child to a public school at little to no cost. As is the case throughout most US cities, the standard of public schools in Nashville varies quite dramatically. Some schools are exemplary, while others are under-funded.
Public school admission in Nashville is based on residential zones, so it is important that parents consider the proximity of suitable schooling when deciding where to find a family home. Students who attend a school in their zone and live more than 1.5 miles of that school are eligible for free school bus transportation, which is a great bonus as parents won’t have to worry about navigating the school run through rush-hour traffic.
Magnet schools are a type of public school that offer bespoke courses in certain subject areas such as the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), performing arts and languages.
Admission to magnet schools is less restricted by catchment areas than is the case with regular public schools. These schools typically draw students from further afield provided that they have an aptitude for the school’s subject focus. There are a handful of magnet schools in Nashville that require all prospective students to have an academic average of 85 or above and pass an entrance exam.
While magnet schools are primarily state funded, they often receive additional financial support from external sources and aren’t as strictly bound by the US curricula, but have some autonomy over developing their own unique syllabus.
Charter schools are another element of the public schooling system in Nashville. These schools are semi-autonomous institutions that operate under a contract with the Metro Nashville Public Schools District. This charter determines how the school is managed, its goals, curricula and methods of teaching. While charter schools do follow the national curricula to a great extent there is more flexibility in terms of design. Similarly to magnet schools, admission to charter schools isn’t based on residential zoning.
Private schools in Nashville
Some parents may opt to enrol their child in a private school. These schools are privately funded through tuition fees and generally offer a higher standard of teaching, state-of-the-art facilities and a wider range of extra-curricular activities in comparison to the average public school. Students can also expect to receive more personal attention from teachers as class sizes are smaller at private schools.
The downside of private education is the cost. Tuition fees easily add up to thousands of dollars a year and parents who choose this option need to budget accordingly. They’ll also need to factor in the additional expenses associated with private schooling such as textbooks, uniforms, extra-curricular activities and field trips.
There are over 100 private schools in Nashville with average tuition costing around USD 10,000 per year.
International schools in Nashville
Foreign nationals relocating to Nashville from outside the US may wish to have their children continue studying the curriculum of their home country. While there is actually limited opportunity for this in Nashville, there are two schools, Hillsboro Comprehensive and Hunters Lane High, that offer students the chance to follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.
The benefit at studying at one of these institutions, especially if you are an expat, is that it gives the students the chance to mix with other children that have recently relocated and may share similar experiences. For Nashville residents in general, the advantage of completing the IB as opposed to a local curriculum is that the qualification is globally recognised.
Special-needs education in Nashville
Tennessee’s Law for Children with Special Needs states that if a child has any learning difficulty or physical disability, he or she is entitled to receive additional support through the public school system. This is further backed up by federal law which stipulates that all children are entitled to free and appropriate education, including anyone with a disability.
Students with special needs are well catered for in Nashville. Not only are there a fair few dedicated special-needs schools, but both public and private schools are also expected to have support structures in place to support children with various developmental, behavioural and physical disabilities.
The priority is always to have a child integrated into the regular schooling system and only once it has been established that their issues are too severe will they be referred to a specialist facility.
Tutors in Nashville
Parents choose to hire private tutors to assist their children in a number of ways. Sometimes it's perhaps a case that relocation and starting at a new school has put the student on the back foot so they need extra help to find their feet again. In another instance, students may need coaching prior to university admissions exams. Private tutors can be a great source of support, and there are plenty of options to choose from in Nashville.
Often the first reference point for a private tutor would be to arrange one through the child’s school, or on their recommendation. Failing that, there are a number of tutoring companies in Nashville that offer a range of packages from one-to-one sessions and small group classes to video sessions. Some of the established companies in Nashville include Learning Lab, Learning Matters Inc and Mathnasium. Online portals can also help parents find tutors but be sure to check that the tutors hired have been fully vetted before signing any agreements.
►Learn more about the best neighbourhoods for families on our Areas and Suburbs in Nashville page
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