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MSCS showing 'grit and grind' as their academic performance trends upward

According to TDOE, 2022 accountability results show that the district has quickly moved from the bottom 5% to the top 25% of districts in the state of Tennessee.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) announced Memphis-Shelby County Schools has now been classified as an advancing district, as academic performance trends upward across the district.

According to TDOE, 2022 accountability results show that the district has quickly moved from the bottom 5% to the top 25% of districts in the state of Tennessee in a few short months.

The state’s accountability model consists of specific indicators that define districts and schools as more or less successful. TDOE said those indicators include state test scores, graduation rates, student growth data, English and Language Arts (ELA) performance, college and career readiness, and attendance.

“Memphis-Shelby County Schools students are making gains. I see it. We know it, and now, again, the state is recognizing it,” said Interim Superintendent and CFO Tutonial “Toni” Williams. “Our hard work is paying off in a major way. We’re encouraged, but not satisfied! And the best part is we’re not done yet.”

MSCS growth was distinct, showing improvement in nearly every metric, TDOE said.

In fact, TDOE reported that Hickory Ridge Elementary, John P. Freeman, Springdale Elementary and City University School Girls Prep were the four schools that received perfect accountability scoring.

In addition to the improvement shown, 61 MSCS, 13 of those being charter schools, were designated as Reward schools.

TDOE said the naming of a school as a “Reward” school is the “highest honor” schools can receive when measured against the state’s accountability model.

Reward schools are considered as schools that show growth and improvement and overall student academic achievement for all student groups.

These newly named successes follow achievements made by the district in mid-August, where the state name MSCS district as a Level 5 district for the fist time since the 2014-15 school year, which is considered the highest distinction that measures student growth year over year based on the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System’s (TVVAS) composite scores.

Only 36 schools in the district, seven of them being charter schools, have been named as priority schools, requiring the most support and improvement. 

TDOE said students who attend those schools will receive incentives for attendance. Leaders at priority schools will also receive extra coaching, and academic data will be regularly reviewed. 

Challenges that MSCS is actively overcoming

Low academic scoring

The district’s celebrated success comes after 2022 TCAP scores that were released in July revealed that only 22% of all students scored at grade level in English and Language Arts (ELA) and on 13% of all MSCS students met grade level requirements for math.

In June, there was also a concern that several second graders were at risk of repeating the grade, with many of them not reading at grade level.

RELATED: District TCAP scores released | Here's MSCS full report

Changes in leadership

In addition to low scoring, the district has continued to face challenges in its highest level of leadership.  

MSCS former Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray resigned in late August before investigation into alleged personal misconduct was complete.

RELATED: Dr. Joris Ray resigns as MSCS superintendent, ending misconduct investigation | Here's what led to the decision, and what's next for the district

Now, not even a month since Dr. Ray’s resignation, MSCS informed on Monday, Sept. 12 that  John Barker, deputy superintendent for strategic operations and finance was placed on paid administrative leave.

According to MSCS district’s statement, Barker was placed on leave after a “personnel complaint” was made against him.

RELATED: MSCS Deputy Superintendent John Barker placed on leave after 'personnel complaint,' school board says

Despite several obstacles and changes in leadership that would often work against growth and success, MSCS students continue to work hard, showing all of Memphis what they’re made of.

True grit and grind.

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