State report card shows both small gains, lingering achievement challenges for Shelby County Schools

Education

State report card shows both small gains, lingering achievement challenges for Shelby County Schools

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The state report card is out for districts across Tennessee – and Shelby County Schools are still struggling to make the grade.

While SCS students improved slightly in achievement in most subjects, the district still lags significantly behind the state average pretty much across the board.

Longtime education advocates said this is the latest wakeup call after years of similar achievement struggles in the state’s largest public school district.

In the latest report card, state education leaders designated SCS as one of just seven districts statewide ‘in need of improvement’.

“I’m tired of losing, I’m tired of our children losing,” Dr. Kenneth Whalum, a former Memphis City Schools board member, said.

Dr. Whalum feels that frustration, when he sees Shelby County Schools again lagging significantly in the latest state report card.

“I’m tired of school officials claiming progress where there is none,” Dr. Whalum said.

While SCS students made small achievement gains in English, math, and social studies proficiency compared to the district’s TNReady testing in 2017, those scores are still 12% to 17% behind the Tennessee average.

“For us to be making these incremental gains, if you want to call them gains, and then have to turn around and look at our ranking, statewide and nationwide, it’s depressing,” Dr. Whalum said.

Dr. Whalum argued that SCS’ ongoing academic and achievement struggles continue to start and end in the home.

“If the parents are not well educated and don’t understand the value of literacy, they’re not going to prioritize it for their kids, so we are going to continue to go down a downward spiral,” Dr. Whalum said.

On the latest TNReady results, SCS superintendent Dr. Joris Ray said: “it’s clear we have a lot of work to do to reach our high expectations for student success, but we’re ready to do that work.”

“I think we are in a crisis man, I think we are in an educational crisis,” Dr. Whalum said.

In the 2020-2021 school year, SCS leaders plan to more stringently test second grade students on their reading levels to determine if they get promoted to the third grade.

The number of SCS schools on the state’s priority list dropped from 69 in 2012 to 14 currently.

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