Recommendation 2

Building a Postsecondary Advising Strategy with Community Stakeholders in Mind

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


K-12 postsecondary advising is not the responsibility of a single person.

Rather, it requires an ecosystem of support that includes multiple stakeholders with varying roles. Internal to MNPS, school counselors, GEAR UP specialists, college and career readiness coaches, teachers, principals, and academy coaches all play a part in supporting a student along their journey to postsecondary pursuits. Externally, community-based organizations, employers, and higher education institutions also support MNPS students in collaboration with schools to prepare and connect them to opportunities. With the creation of the College and Career Readiness Division, MNPS has been making an effort to implement a comprehensive CCR strategy that better serves Nashville’s youth.

Internal Shifts
Beginning in 2022, MNPS joined the Education Strategy Group’s Momentum Metrics Network, “a cohort experience that provides dedicated coaching and support to help districts identify data-driven strategies to improve students’ postsecondary attainment.” As a result of this project thus far, MNPS has taken the following steps:
Step 1
Assessed the current state of advising within the district through an examination of existing college and career strategies and assets, as well as feedback on their effectiveness from internal and external stakeholders.
Step 2
Analyzed existing job descriptions for all the roles that touch postsecondary advising and synthesized a common set of functional responsibilities and accountabilities for specific student outcomes.
Step 3
Identified gaps and redundancies in current job descriptions for all roles involved in postsecondary advising.
Step 4
Created a new district-wide framework for postsecondary advising roles and used it to distribute critical responsibilities and accountabilities across those roles.
Step 5
Launched a new CCR Executive Committee at the outset of the 2023–2024 school year, including all members of the Director of Schools’ cabinet as well as other key district leaders.
The Ecosystem & Current Partnership Landscape
Community-based organizations, employers, and postsecondary institutions are all valuable partners to MNPS. They are each supported by different structures and approach supporting students in different ways. Definitions are below:

In this context, CBOs are nonprofit organizations that provide two distinct types of services: (1) after-school programming and (2) college access and technical assistance. CBOs collaborate with the Office of Community and Family Partnerships and maintain collaboration with certain schools based on their need and interest. After-school programs can offer opportunities for career exposure outside of school hours, while college access programs often collaborate with MNPS’ Counseling and College and Career Readiness divisions to support students during school hours.

Employers can support MNPS by becoming Academy Partners, providing insight into curriculum that aligns with industry standards, and offering programming aligned with the work-based learning continuum. The work-based learning continuum includes career fairs, site visits, job shadows, internships, and career-based learning opportunities. Employers partner with high schools through PENCIL, collaborate in the form of school-based advisory boards organized by MNPS, and serve on the Academies of Nashville Partnership Council convened by the Chamber.

Postsecondary Institutions: Postsecondary institutions support MNPS in several capacities, including hosting college visits, participating in college and career fairs, providing insight into dual credit curricula, and offering dual enrollment opportunities. For years, both Belmont University and Lipscomb University have offered scholarships reserved strictly for a select group of MNPS students. MNPS is now organizing and recruiting additional institutions to take a similar approach under the umbrella of an initiative called University MNPS.

Key Learnings & Perspectives
To develop an understanding of K-12 postsecondary advising, the committee first examined an aspirational framework created by the Scarlett Family Foundation in support of the New Skills Ready Nashville grant. The Pathways Advising Framework includes a set of goals for students, from middle school through postsecondary, to find their way into successful careers. The framework incorporated feedback from multiple stakeholders, including MNPS advising staff, CBOs, postsecondary institutions, and students, to create a community-wide approach to pathway advising. The advising framework was shared with New Skills Ready partners to be used as a resource for school-based staff and community partners serving in advising roles.

“It needs to be a coordinated effort; if one advisor is contradicting the other, the work becomes challenging, and the student and their family gets confused. It’s really on us to ensure we are on the same page with the adults in the building and do our best to be kind, caring, and consistent adults for each student.”

– Kent Miller, Chief Operating Officer for the Martha O’Bryan Center

The committee also had the opportunity to hear from two community-based organizations: Martha O’Bryan Center and Oasis Center. These organizations take distinct approaches to support MNPS with postsecondary advising. Martha O’Bryan has advisors with dedicated space at Stratford STEM Magnet, Maplewood, and Hunters Lane high schools as a part of its Postsecondary Success Initiative, while the Oasis College Connection program has a team of mentors that supports students across 11 of MNPS’ schools. When asked how they work together with MNPS and other partners engaged in this space, Lee Gray, Senior Director of School-Based Programs at Oasis Center, said, “It needs to be a coordinated effort; if one advisor is contradicting the other, the work becomes challenging, and the student and their family gets confused. It is really on us to ensure we are on the same page with the adults in the building and do our best to be kind, caring, and consistent adults for each student.” Kent Miller, Chief Operating Officer for the Martha O’Bryan Center, added, “Ideally, we are sharing space, and the students don’t even notice the difference between the types of staff.”

Both organizations took time to acknowledge other partners in this space, including Conexión Américas, YMCA’s Black & Latino Achievers, Persist, and grant-funded initiatives such as GEAR UP and New Skills Ready that create capacity for MNPS. What did they think that Nashville could do better? Both organizations mentioned that many students are feeling the need to work to supplement their families’ income. By providing students with opportunities to balance work and education, the Nashville community can help them achieve their long-term career goals.


The Education Report Committee includes community stakeholders engaged with MNPS in different capacities, from dedicated Academy business partners and postsecondary partners to nonprofit partners and after-school care providers. When shown the Pathways Advising Framework, committee members considered ways their organizations could support students along the continuum, as early as middle school. Although the framework has not been adopted by MNPS in an official capacity, it does give insight into the needs and possibilities of a community supporting its youth with a consistent set of experiences that build on each other. As MNPS makes shifts internally to grow and evolve its postsecondary advising strategy, it is important to consider the strengths and interests that would be leveraged from the community.

MNPS has the most comprehensive knowledge of who its partners are and the structures in place to support their efforts. What would it be like to reimagine these structures through an advising lens to ensure each pathway, experiential learning opportunity, and advising conversation is aligned and easily communicated to students and families to facilitate smooth postsecondary and career transitions? MNPS has worked hard to ensure the ingredients for such alignment exist. To fully benefit from resources available through community-based organizations and the broader Nashville community, an inclusive community approach, comprehensive coordination and conversation are needed.

With that community-wide approach in mind, an opportunity also exists for added support across the K-12 postsecondary advising continuum. Community-based organizations and employers alike, who are not currently partners with MNPS, can engage in this work to provide meaningful programming and experiences for Nashville’s youth.

These efforts must also extend beyond the walls of our schools in a way that reinforces a shared vision of success, and the committee’s hope is that the city is truly invested in being a part of that conversation.

Recommendation 1:

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.

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.