Lifetime of Learning: Educational Opportunities in Rutherford County

by Christy Howard Womack

One of the keys to the growth of Rutherford County has been the commitment of its citizens to providing an outstanding education to its youth. There are programs across the county for exceptional students of all kinds. This is a small sampling of those programs as a service to parents who are seeking the best ways to challenge their children.

Within Rutherford County, there are several Montessori schools. Montessori Weaver School is one of those that employs the Montessori method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, to educate young children in preparation for school. Dr. Montessori, Italy’s first female doctor, understood the inner nature of the child and developed a philosophy of education based on her observations of children and her training in psychology and medicine.

Montessori Weaver School is physically organized based upon Dr. Montessori’s findings. Teachers carefully observe students, always respecting their concentration and focus to make available the next work that the child needs to successfully continue. Montessori encourages the child to develop in their own natural progression with careful quiet guidance from supportive encouraging teachers. The curriculum gives children a chance to manipulate, discover, create, make mistakes and correct those mistakes independently. The atmosphere at the school is one of respect, joy, peace and order. Children ages 3 and up can benefit from Montessori. Joye Weaver has a current Tennessee Teacher’s Certificate and the Weaver School is approved by the State of Tennessee to offer preschool, kindergarten and first grade. Applications are available online, and are followed by interviews with both parent and student to determine if there is a good fit.  More information can be found at their website:

Magnet schools are part of the local public school system, however, these schools are not zoned like traditional public schools. The unique quality of a magnet school is that they usually have a special curricular focus such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or the arts to attract students by choice, not by where they live. While the schools have a general theme, students still study a complete range of subjects. Magnet schools involve hands on learning that is inquiry and performance based aligned to local, state and national standings of learning (i.e. Common Core). Magnet schools also have additional monies available to them through special grants to magnet schools from the US Department of Education. This funding is intended to attract a more diverse study body to magnet schools.

The Discovery School students at Bellwood is a part of Murfreesboro city schools and was created to serve high achieving students with iPads and laptops in every classroom. In addition, students are also offered unique opportunities for learning through partnership with MTSU, as part of the Renzulli model, through guest speakers, and by being provided opportunities to enrich their learning through events such as the BEST Robotics Competition and the Partner School Science Program. Discovery School has been recognized as a Tennessee Reward School for each of the last four years.

McFadden School of Excellence is a Rutherford County magnet school of choice that focuses on technology serving students from Kindergarten through fifth grade. McFadden has also been recognized as a Tennessee Reward School for each of the last four years.

Thurman Francis Arts Academy, located in Smyrna, is a magnet focusing on academic excellence enriched by the arts. They serve students from kindergarten to eighth grade.

Central Magnet School serves students in 6th through 12th grade with a rigorous educational program in a collaborative setting, with emphasis on mastery of academics, critical thinking, effective communication skills and character development.

Applications are taken each January for the school year starting in the fall from any resident of Rutherford County. Applicants are then screened and a lottery is implemented to allocate the available slots for admission. Siblings are given priority. More information is available on their websites.

Murfreesboro City Schools offer three Choice Schools as options for students and parents. Bradley Academy is an arts integrated school and is recognized for excellence in the arts - creative writing, drama, instrumental music, theater, visual arts and vocal music. Hobgood Elementary is a STEM school that shows students the value of learning skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Mitchell-Neilson is a Leadership Academy, an innovative, school-wide model that increases teacher effectiveness, student engagement and academic achievement while preparing students to be leaders in the 21st century. The development of good habits, grounded in the values of citizenship and leadership, is a fundamental part of this philosophy. Choice schools have a limited number of openings. Applications are accepted every April at

Oakland High School offers the International Baccalaureate program, which is an advanced degree earned in high school. The International Baccalaureate program aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

An IB education is a learner-center model that holds students to rigorous academic and personal standards. Students zoned for any of the Rutherford County high schools with a GPA of 3.0 or greater in their core subjects who score at or above the 80th percentile in two reporting areas of the most recent TCAP or EXPLORE exam can apply for the IB program. Currently there are 50 juniors and seniors that are candidates for their IB diplomas. There are also 125 freshman and 125 sophomores who have currently been accepted into the IB Preparatory program. There is a registration fee of $164, but the cost of the full diploma program will only cost candidates a total of $842.

At Oakland High School, the IB program is more than academics. Their students and teachers learn together, laugh together and grow together, like a family would.

Carissa Clark is the IB coordinator at Oakland. For more information about the program, contact her at Tours are available for interested students. The application deadline is March 1 each year.

Oakland and Siegel high schools offer their own mechatronics labs and full-time mechatronics teachers. Mechatronics is a blend of mechanical, electrical and computerized technologies that together form a system used in manufacturing, health care and financial environments. In partnership with local industry, Rutherford County has placed a priority on developing career and technical education courses. Students at these high schools can even earn college level credits through TCAT schools or Motlow Community College to complete their Level 1 mechatronics certification while still in high school. Students can then build on their knowledge at a local technology school or Motlow before completing a bachelor’s program at MTSU. Combined with the Tennessee Promise program which funds the first two years of college at a technology school or community college for high school seniors, and you have a powerful cost effective way to earn an advanced education. Students apply to the program and have their math and science scores reviewed and are given aptitude tests. For more information contact the guidance counselors at Oakland or Siegel high schools.

Spectrum is the intellectually gifted program for Rutherford County schools. Research shows that 3-5% of all children possess exceptional learning traits. Intellectual giftedness crosses all economic and cultural boundaries. Rutherford County students who meet Tennessee criteria as intellectually gifted are served by Spectrum according to Individual Educational Programs (IEPs). Teachers, parents, guidance counselors or others may refer individual students for screening. Rutherford County screens all second graders for intellectual giftedness. If your child has a history of outstanding achievement by grades and test scores, an advanced vocabulary, creative thinking often with a keen interest in a particular area, and a high level of curiosity and persistence in questioning, you may consider having him or her screened. Susan Lewis is the Spectrum Administrator. For more information contact her at

In 2014 the Academy Vision and Development Committees at Blackman High School were created by Dr. Leisa Justus to determine the feasibility of creating a competitive option at Blackman High Schools for students who are interested in pursuing a rigorous course of study. The vision of The Collegiate Academy at Blackman High School is to create a challenging learning environment with a rigorous course of study where students can become well-rounded scholars who fulfill their potential in academic, artistic, athletic, and social settings. The Collegiate Academy provides an environment of excellence, responsibility, and diversity to foster the total development of each student and prepare our graduates to succeed both in their higher educational pursuits as well as become leaders in their communities. Current 8th grade students with at least a 3.0 GPA and above the 80th percentile in at least two areas of the TCAP can fill out an application which includes a creative writing sample and statement of intent. Students are then interviewed and selections are made. Application is made in December. Students must be zoned within the Blackman boundaries. For more information, contact

The Virtual Enterprise competition is offered within several of the Rutherford County high schools. Both Oakland High School and Riverdale High School have Virtual Enterprise teams that have been recognized in regional and statewide competition. With an emphasis on college and career readiness, Virtual Entrprise is an in-school, live, global business simulation that offers students a competitive edge though project-based, collaborative learning and the development of 21st century skills in entrepreneurship, global business, problem solving, communication, personal finance and technology. To find out more information about the program, contact the guidance counselor at your high school.

The Rutherford Works High School Internship Program is a partnership with employers who can offer students productive and meaningful work assignments with a learning component ideally related to their area of interest. The Internship Program will provide up to 40 rising seniors enrolled in Rutherford County Schools with the opportunity to gain paid work experience with a Rutherford County employer. Students will gain exposure to a career field in which they are interested and/or have experience. They will learn about and begin to develop 21st Century skills and competencies needed for success in the workplace. This internship will last a total of 4 weeks (64 work hours). In addition to gaining work experience students will also receive 4 hours of pre-employment training and 16 hours of work based learning. The field of study include Agriculture, Audio/Video, Business/Finance, Engineering, Government and Public Administration, Health/Science, Information Technology, Manufacturing, Marketing and STEM. To find out more about the program, go to