For over a year, Stand for Children, MICAH, and 9-0-One have been working both separately and together to define occasions for improving educational opportunities for students in Shelby County. We have talked with Shelby County Schools (SCS) administrators, SCS Board Members, County Commissioners, the County Mayor, parents, students, and other community stakeholders and have outlined a list of requests and recommendations that are in alignment with the goals, priorities, and plans of both the district and our county officials, as well as many of the hopes and dreams for young people that we have heard across the community. Where research exists, we have focused on proven, evidence-based approaches to develop opportunities for increasing support and success for all students.
When we found that our organizations had set similar focus areas, we decided to join as a collaborative to share our research, experience, knowledge, skills, and solutions. We knew that the power of a unified community voice for our young people was a model that needed to be seen and heard.
As SCS enters its budget process and considers the investments that the district wants to make in 2019-2020, we recently presented SCS Board Members with our proposals for setting priorities and making investments for SCS students. While some of these requests may not require more funding, we must be bold in what we want for our young people and cannot shy away from asking for what is needed. Even if these requests mean that the SCS budget must increase, we look forward to pushing with SCS leaders and board members for the funding from Shelby County to ensure that SCS and its partners are able to deliver these impactful investments with fidelity.
Supporting Schools to Help Students Succeed
The requests included in this section have some of the strongest backing based on the clear researched evidence and best practices that have been gathered on these topics.
Graduation Success for College and Career
Every student should be given the support necessary to graduate from high school and, upon graduation, students should be prepared for success in either college or their chosen career path.
In order to meet SCS’ Destination 2025 goal of a 90% graduation rate, we must ensure that every high school is focused on making sure 9th graders are on track by 2021.
- Commit to all high schools having an intentional, evidence-based 9th grade-on-track program by 2021. Research indicates this should include at least bi-weekly 9th grade team meetings, focused student data monitoring, targeted academic interventions, one-on-one coaching support, freshman seminar/advisory class, participation in peer improvement network, and summer bridge program for 8th graders.
- For 2019-2020, support expansion of the Freshman Success Network with 5 additional SCS traditional high schools (9 current schools) for a total of 14 traditional high schools in 2019-2020.
$65,000 per school with current allocation and summer bridge pilot (6 schools, 50 students each).
Estimated Cost: $1.3 million
- Programs should include rigorous curriculum and instruction towards industry certification, structured learning communities, work-based learning, an industry advisory board to ensure industry connection to all components, and school-based staff to ensure high-quality programs and assist students in post-graduation planning.
- Funding to support expansion of NAF Academies with at least 6 more Academies.
Estimated Cost: $125,000 plus staffing costs (1 person for Academies oversight per school)
We can significantly impact literacy in grades K-2 by using research-based best practices to provide the supports needed to ensure that as few 2nd grade students as possible are retained under the new policy.
- Create a more comprehensive early literacy pilot program with expansion of EL Foundations to 16 additional schools (from current 8); provide literacy coaches for each of the 24 elementary schools in the pilot; increase access to high-quality, culturally relevant books in pilot classrooms.
Est. $2.8 million (curriculum & materials, PD, coaches, and books)
- Additional benefit could come from commitment to 18 students per class for K-2.
Facilities & Funding Our Students Deserve
All students need facilities and classrooms that meet 21st century standards.
- By August 2019, SCS should develop a comprehensive footprint analysis for Shelby County Schools (including charter schools and ASD) that emphasizes access to academic opportunities and social-emotional learning. SCS can allocate the funding needed to create this analysis in the 2019-20 SCS Budget.
- By December 2019, SCS should develop a 7- to 10-year comprehensive facilities investment plan that is equitable for students and neighborhoods, focused on 21st century learning needs, and aligns resources to serve students and families well. SCS can allocate the funding needed to create the facilities investment plan in the 2019-20 SCS Budget.
Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline
Students who are suspended from school lose valuable learning time, and can be set on a path that impacts the rest of their lives.
SCS has recently committed to become a trauma-informed and responsive district that understands that we must begin to better address the social and emotional needs of all students and do our best to prevent and address Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
- Trauma responsive schools – SCS should create a 10-school pilot that includes additional staff and both proactive (SEL curriculum) and reactive (restorative practices) programs, training, and support.
Estimated Cost: $2 million
SCS has recognized the use of exclusionary practices (out-of-school suspensions and expulsions) as a serious challenge and should continue to make progress in reducing these.
- Ensure that all elementary schools have designated staff for supportive, trauma-responsive in-school suspension or similar alternatives to out-of-school suspensions (e.g., reset rooms).
- All schools should have a trauma-responsive trained Family Engagement Specialist who supports students and families with connections to interventions and supports in-school and outside of school. Adding 30 each year, this could be accomplished within 3 years. Clear metrics should be set around decreasing chronic absenteeism, suspensions, and expulsions.
- 30 additional Family Engagement Specialists for 2019-2020 school year.
Estimated Cost: $1.8 million
There is a great need for additional counselors, social workers, and/or behavioral specialists in schools, but there may be a lack of certified candidates available for the scale needed by SCS.
- Support staff that schools fund through their SBB, Title I, or other school-based funding source should come from a pool of candidates and fall under the oversight (with appropriate training and support) of the primary SCS office for that role.
- This will help to maintain consistency in abilities and expectations for all schools with the same role in that school.
- For example, all Family Engagement Specialists should be overseen by FACE and all Behavioral Specialists should be overseen by Student Support Services.
Community Investment for All Youth
In the schools, we see community investment through making our schools more equitable and ensuring that we are meeting the needs of all of our students and families.
Memphis has a growing population of non-English speaking community members. We should work as a community to welcome our neighbors and ensure they have equitable access to needed information.
- Ensure an option for students to have their report cards and all official documents (prioritizing IEPs and 504s) translated and printed in Spanish with plans to expand to all students’ families’ preferred language. Provide resources in the budget to ensure the implementation for the 2019-2020 school year.
SCS can help to stem the tide of Opportunity Youth by providing supports and programs that recognize and address the challenges faced by justice-involved youth.
- SCS should commit to continue funding for Project STAND at Carver High School to replace expiring federal funding and to explore expanding the program to more schools with high concentrations of justice-involved youth.
Estimated Cost: $450,000
City of Memphis
- Increase MPLOY summer job opportunities from current 1,750 to 5,000 by 2022.
City of Memphis & Shelby County
- Ensure that funding for pre-K expansion is included in city and county budgets.