In 1855 Nashville became the first southern city to establish a public school system. A program started in Nashville in 1963 became the prototype for Head Start. That same year the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, the 42nd largest urban school district in the country as of fall 2004, was formed when the city and Davidson County governments were consolidated. The schools offer diverse educational opportunities recognized statewide for their innovation. There are programs in Nashville for the gifted, the handicapped, and the foreign student who wants to catch up. Sixty-four percent of the city's high-school students continue their education after graduation. A nine-member elected board and its appointed director of schools are responsible for the running of the public schools.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Metro Nashville-Davidson County public schools as of the 2002-2003 school year.
Total enrollment: 67,954
Number of facilities elementary schools: 72
junior high/middle schools: 38
senior high schools: 23
Student/teacher ratio: 14.7:1
Teacher salaries average: $40,440
Funding per pupil: $6,648 (2001)
Numerous school-age children in Davidson County attend private schools. There are 66 preparatory academies, church-affiliated, and alternative schools operating in the area, focusing on specific academic and religious needs. A number of widely renowned preparatory schools are found on this list.
Public Schools Information: Nashville Metropolitan Schools, 2601 Bransford Avenue, Nashville, TN 37204; telephone (615)259-8400
Perhaps the most famous school in Nashville is Vanderbilt University, alma mater of Vice President Al Gore and recording artist Amy Grant. The private, independent institution is highly competitive, maintains impeccable standards, and prides itself on what it calls a "quality liberal arts" undergraduate program. In addition, the school is widely known for its advanced academic offerings in medicine, law, business, nursing, divinity, and education. U.S. News and World Report, in a recent study of U.S. universities, named Vanderbilt's Peabody College 4th (among graduate schools of education); ranked Vanderbilt's law school 17th; and ranked Vanderbilt 18th overall.
The first predominantly African American institution in the country to be awarded university status—Fisk University—is also located in Nashville. Fisk, alma mater of social critic and NAACP co-founder W. E. B. DuBois, is a four-year, private school designed to meet the special needs of minority students. Fisk offers three bachelors degrees along with a master of arts. Nashville's Meharry Medical College, established to train African American physicians, provides specialized instruction in medical science, public health, and dental surgery.
Nashville's largest state-operated university, Tennessee State University (TSU), maintains two campuses in the city. TSU offers undergraduate and graduate programs in arts and sciences, agriculture, health professions, business, education, engineering and technology, nursing, and public administration.
Belmont University, a private, four-year Baptist school located near downtown's Music Row, offers 50 undergraduate degree programs as well as graduate programs in accountancy, business administration, education, English, music, nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and sport administration. Belmont's notable Mike Curb College offers majors in Audio Engineering Technology and Music Business, and a specialization in Entertainment and Music Business is offered within the University's M.B.A. program. Students from all over the country who want a career in the record industry have enrolled in specialized courses ranging from record promotion to studio engineering.
The Public Library of Nashville and Davidson County boasts more than 1.4 million volumes and more than 3,100 periodical subscriptions in a system that includes 20 branches and a bookmobile. Annual circulation is approximately four million. The main library also holds recordings, audio- and videotapes, compact discs, and maps. Its special collections include government documents, business, ornithology, genealogy, and oral and regional history. A new Main Library of approximately 300,000 square feet, quadruple the size of the library it replaced, was completed in 2001; it faces the Tennessee State Capitol building.
Special libraries in the Nashville area include two at Cheek-wood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art. The Botanical Gardens Library specializes in works on environmental studies, garden design, horticulture, landscape architecture, plant science, wildflowers, arranging, and botanical illustration. The art museum library collects works on art, art history, decorative arts, contemporary U.S. artists, and photography.
Many research facilities in the city are linked to the academic community. Fisk University supports research on computing and molecular spectroscopy. Meharry Medical College's research activities focus on health sciences and the college has a research center devoted to the study and treatment of sickle cell disease. Research centers affiliated with Tennessee State University conduct studies in such areas as agriculture and the environment, information systems, business and economics, health, and education. Vanderbilt University is quite active in the research sector, promoting research through more than 120 centers and institutes devoted to a wide variety of subjects in such fields as sociology and culture, medicine, and science.
Public Library Information: Nashville Public Library, 615 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37219; telephone (615)862-5800