52% Hispanic/ Latino
30% Black/ African American
.08% Native American
When we asked our graduating seniors about their high school experiences, a common theme emerged: family. These seniors have had the most unusual high school experience in living memory, but when asked to choose a word or phrase to describe their time at LEAD, they didn’t say “pandemic” or “online learning,” they said “LEAD was like a family.”
As you read this report, you will see that LEAD has not been immune to the pandemic’s impact on students and families. Much of the academic progress we made in the years leading up to the pandemic was stalled, while our students were dealing with added stresses of remote learning and uncertainty at home.
But in 2021, we brought our students back to the classroom and have seen our students rebound tremendously. Our students, families, teachers, and staff continue to adapt, innovate, and make the most of unpredictable times.
Our founder, Jeremy Kane, started LEAD Academy in 2007 as a single fifth-and sixth-grade school of 92 students in North Nashville. Dissatisfied with the current school offerings available to families in the neighborhood, LEAD was founded on the belief that all students deserve access to a great education that prepares them for the future— regardless of their zip code.
LEAD Academy eventually grew into our flagship high school, with the first graduating class in 2014. Each year culminates in our pinnacle event, Senior Signing Day, where seniors declare publicly that they are ready for the next step in their journey. To this day, our mission continues to prepare EVERY student in our care with the skills and knowledge they need to be ready for college and ready for life. President Bill Clinton spoke at our first Senior Signing Day.
TRANSFORMINGOne Student at a Time
Based on strong academic performance at LEAD Academy, Metro Nashville Public Schools proposed the first ever district partnership with Cameron Middle School in 2011.
Unlike opening a fresh-start charter school, we worked with MNPS from the inside out, serving students already zoned to attend Cameron. Once a school in the bottom 5% statewide, Cameron became the first-ever successful turnaround partnership in the state of Tennessee. Cameron continues to serve students zoned to the MNPS Glencliff cluster and has been named a Reward School for student growth for two consecutive years (2017, 2018).
The Cameron model became foundational to LEAD’s work in Nashville and led us to partner with the state-run Achievement School District (ASD) at two more zone-enrolled schools— LEAD Brick Church and LEAD Neely’s Bend. In 2018, we were proud to see Neely’s Bend become the fastest improving school in the ASD.
SERVINGA Diverse City
After working with the district and families, LEAD identified a need to serve the growing population of Southeast Nashville where there were more students than seats. Opening Southeast Middle School in Antioch in 2013, LEAD Southeast is home to a diverse student population where over 20 languages are spoken on campus. Today, LEAD Southeast has grown to serve high school students as well, with our first graduating class in 2020.
Most of our students at LEAD Southeast are bilingual learners, creating a uniquely rich environment for both students and staff. Since its founding, Southeast middle and high school students have consistently grown academically at above average rates, according to state tests.
INVESTING IN TEACHERSFor Great Student Outcomes
In 2019, LEAD announced a bold new initiative to transition to a performance-based compensation plan and increase what effective teachers can earn. Knowing that teachers are the most important in-school factor for student success, LEAD pairs this compensation plan with high quality coaching and development for all teachers and school leaders. We also announced 16 weeks of paid maternity leave for primary caretakers.
As we look ahead to the next decade of LEAD Public Schools, we are committed to attracting, growing and retaining the best teachers and leaders because we know that will mean great student outcomes. Our families and students deserve nothing less.