Recommendation 1

Evaluating Postsecondary Advising Grants Impact

MNPS should evaluate the impacts and effectiveness of grants supporting K-12 postsecondary advising and create a plan for sustainability and scalability based on evaluation results.


Who was most influential in your decision to pursure postsecondary education?

When that question was posed to the committee, there was a multitude of responses, from parents, loved ones, and other caring adults in their lives.

And who do you expect to play that role within the school building?

A common response is that school counselors are responsible for that task. In Metro Nashville Public Schools, the current student-to-counselor ratio is 251 to 1, which aligns with national best practices. Providing personalized and dedicated postsecondary advising is one of a school counselor’s many responsibilities. In addition to advising, counselors are responsible for student academic planning and goal-setting, course requests and scheduling, facilitating support and/or intervention meetings for students, addressing mental health and wellness needs, etc., all of which are competing priorities. As a result, many high schools rely on other school staff, community partners, and grant partners to support their postsecondary advising efforts.

In recent years, MNPS has participated in several postsecondary advising investments. During the 2023-2024 school year alone, MNPS is involved in five grants that provide dedicated postsecondary advising supports for MNPS students.

In 2019, for every


there was


Advise TN is a state-operated and state-funded college access program with the mission of increasing the number of Tennesseans accessing higher education by partnering with high schools and providing college advising services to up to 10,000 junior and senior students across Tennessee. Currently, Advise TN provides one dedicated staff person to MNPS who supports Hunters Lane High School. 

  • Number of Schools Served & School Names: 1 | Hunter's Lane High School
  • Grantor: Tennessee Higher Education Commission
  • Advising Supports Funded: 1 College Advisor
  • Year of Grant Expiration: Subject to Tennessee State Legislature annual budget approval

GEAR UP Nashville is a $13.1 million federal partnership grant to MNPS designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP Nashville provides dedicated in-school staff in seven MNPS high schools: Antioch, Cane Ridge, Glencliff, John Overton, Maplewood, Pearl-Cohn, and Stratford. GEAR UP staff have supported the classes of 2024 and 2025 at the local feeder middle schools since they were in the 6th and 7th grades. The current grant expires at the end of the 2024-2025 school year.

  • Number of Schools Served & School Names: 7 | Antioch, Cane Ridge, Glencliff, John Overton, Maplewood, Pearl-Cohn, & Stratford high schools
  • Grantor: U.S. Department of Education
  • Advising Supports Funded: 7 Specialists, 1 Coordinator, 1 Grant Analyst, Programmatic budgets
  • Year of Grant Expiration: End of 2024-2025 school year

GEAR UP Tennessee is a federal grant to the State of Tennessee also designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. This grant provides staff and support to multiple schools across the state of Tennessee. For MNPS, GEAR UP Tennessee has a coordinator supporting students at Whites Creek High School. The current grant expires at the end of the 2023-2024 school year.

  • Number of Schools Served & School Names: 1 | Whites Creek High School
  • Grantor: U.S. Department of Education
  • Advising Supports Funded: 1 Specialist
  • Year of Grant Expiration: End of 2023-2024 school year

New Skills Ready Nashville is a $7 million grant from JP Morgan Chase focused on four key priorities, two of which are building seamless transitions to support postsecondary success and closing equity gaps. The grant currently supports at least one College and Career Readiness (CCR) coach at Overton, Glencliff, Maplewood, Pearl-Cohn, and Whites Creek high schools. The grant expires at the end of the 2024-2025 school year.

  • Number of Schools Served & School Names: 5 | John Overton, Glencliff,  Maplewood, Pearl-Cohn, & Whites Creek high schools
  • Grantor: JP Morgan Chase
  • Advising Supports Funded: 6 College & Career Readiness Coaches, 1 Ready Graduate Analyst, 1 Director of Postsecondary Partnerships, Programmatic budgets
  • Year of Grant Expiration: End of 2024-2025 school year

The Innovative School Model Grant provided an opportunity for high schools to apply for up to $1 million, and middle schools to apply for up to $500,000, to increase opportunities for career readiness and student success after graduation With the liberty to apply these funds in a variety of ways, three schools chose to add a College and Career Readiness Coach for the year: Antioch, Big Picture, and Hillsboro high schools. The grant expires at the end of the 2025-2026 school year.

  • Number of Schools Served & School Names: 3 | Antioch, Big Picture, & Whites Creek high schools
  • Grantor: Tennessee Department of Education
  • Advising Supports Funded: 3 College & Career Readiness Coaches
  • Year of Grant Expiration: End of 2025-2026 school year

With the expiration of many of these grants on the horizon, the committee took interest in how students will continue to receive needed guidance and support going forward. While there may be opportunities to reapply for grants and seek out new funding sources, there is no guarantee that the current level of support can be sustained. Furthermore, even the current patchwork of funding does not provide equal access for students at all high schools.

Data shows negative trends for completion for students working more than 15 hours a week, students of color, undocumented students, and commuters.

Key Learnings & Perspectives
Bob Obrohta, Executive Director of the Tennessee College Access & Success Network (TCASN), shared with the committee that college enrollment and persistence are already more difficult for low-income students. Nationally, low-income students have about a 1-in-4 chance of completing a postsecondary degree. In addition, data shows negative trends for completion for students working more than 15 hours a week, students of color, undocumented students, and commuters. For context, previous studies have shown that a little over 80% of MNPS students who file a FAFSA were considered partially Pell-eligible (household where the income is less than $55,000) and 65% were fully Pell-eligible (household with income lower than $26,000). MNPS continues to be a minority-majority school district, with over 75% of students considered to be students of color and 142 different languages spoken. Additionally, the majority of Nashville students enrolled in college work more than 25 hours per week and commute. As Obrohta summarized, “the odds are stacked against Nashville’s young people before they start.”  
Households making an income of $55,000 or less are Pell-eligible,
households making an income of $26,000 or less are full Pell-eligible.

For five years, TCASN produced a report titled Bridge to Completion, in partnership with the Nashville Public Education Foundation. These reports analyzed and provided insights into college-going and persistence data for MNPS and called out best practices. is a predictive pipeline from the 2022 Report to give a sense of what currently happens to students as they pursue postsecondary opportunities:

Class of 2021 College Degree Pipeline

The committee also heard from Matt Nelson, executive director for the recently established College and Career Readiness (CCR) division at MNPS, who shared several key priorities for his team. First, the CCR division has worked to support how the district continues to grow its vision and strategy around college and career advising through internal collaboration. This year, MNPS launched cross-departmental and executive leadership teams dedicated to increasing regular communication about college and career readiness initiatives. Externally, the CCR division partnered with Alignment Nashville to establish an A-Team dedicated to CCR advising to facilitate a more strategic discussion among community partners. Additionally, Alignment Nashville partnered with MNPS’ Office of Family and Community Partnerships to implement CCR as part of Family University, an initiative that offers free classes to families and caregivers to help them support their students. The committee learned about the CCR division’s partnership with Education Strategy Group’s Momentum Metrics Network and their efforts to align key metrics related to college and career advising to specific internal positions at each high school
A number of the staff positions providing direct services to students to carry this work are grant-funded positions, demonstrating their role in the district’s strategy and the importance of sustaining this capacity moving forward.

MNPS also has partnered with Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development to create the Nashville Partnership for Educational Equity Research (Nashville PEER) to study inequities and work toward solutions.


MNPS will have hard choices to make as it approaches a fiscal cliff due to expiring grants and ESSER funds intended to support COVID relief and recovery for school districts. Simply suggesting that they absorb the cost and expand key advising roles would mean having to reduce key personnel in other areas, which is not the intent of this recommendation. However, the committee does hold two firm beliefs.

First, dedicated and consistent postsecondary advising is necessary to support student success. While community partners have played a crucial role in supporting this work, not every school receives equal access from external partners. The committee believes every student should be heard and guided by a caring and knowledgeable professional in a way that helps them best prepare for their next steps after graduation. This would be difficult in the absence of trained staff with the capacity and bandwidth to provide direct support, especially given the diversity of needs of MNPS’ students.

Second, advising roles should be consistent in how they support schools and must align with the district’s overall strategy. The committee is encouraged by the CCR division’s efforts thus far, recognizing that grant-funded positions have different approaches given the context of their schools and the various collaborations and priorities attached to each. As the work continues to evolve, MNPS must use data to drive the analysis of the existing advising efforts that are most effective and where internal positions and community partners can best support student postsecondary success.

This committee is also aware of and commends Dr. Battle’s effort to include a $2.25 million College and Career Readiness investment as a part of the district’s aspirational budget proposal to the school board last year. 

Our hope is that the Nashville community will recognize the value in funding and supporting postsecondary advising for MNPS students, enabling them to more easily pursue opportunities that lead to fulfilling careers.

Recommendation 2:

MNPS should ensure their advising strategy clearly identifies how external community partners can best augment and reinforce the district's advising efforts to ensure all students have a pathway to a successful career.

Recommendation 3:

MNPS should meaningfully encourage the full adoption of a postsecondary advising data collection and analysis mechanism available to appropriate staff and community-based partners engaged in postsecondary advising with support from state and other partners.

Recommendation 4:

The Nashville Metro Council, Tennessee state legislature, and postsecondary institutions should provide flexibility and tailor postsecondary enrollment and completion supports to better address barriers to student access and success.
The Education Report 2023 Commendations
Of course, our committee doesn’t work alone on this project. Without the help of our community and network, the 2023 Education Report would’ve never come together. If you’ve finished reading over our recommendations, please take a minute to appreciate our thanks for those who made this whole thing possible.