Memphis School Board approves new University of Memphis high school

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Shelby County Schools Board members gave the green light to a new University of Memphis high school on Tuesday evening, despite complaints from some members that the proposal ignored normal procedures.

The 6-2 vote in favor of a memorandum of understanding means the university is on the verge of having full K-12 offerings. The University of Memphis already has an elementary school, called Campus School, which was founded as a training school in 1912, and it added University Middle School in 2019. Both are laboratory schools, this which means that they offer clinical teaching and mentoring experiences for future educators, in addition to conducting research on effective educational techniques.

The university high school will also be a laboratory school and use hands-on, project-based learning, according to the school’s literature. Elementary and middle schools have 732 students. Under the new agreement, the university will be able to serve about 318 people in high school, giving it 1,050 kindergarten to grade 12. A third of the student body is said to be students whose parents are professors or full-time academic staff in K-12 schools, while another third would come from students who live within two miles of the school. university, and the last third would be open to students from across the district.

The agreement with the University of Memphis also calls for the school to take “reasonable steps” to create a diverse student body.

The student population of the schools is not representative of the city. Memphis is 64% Black, while University Middle and Campus School are 40% and 24% Black, respectively, according to state data. University Middle is 47% white, while Campus School is about 64% white, making it the most segregated elementary school in Memphis.

Students in schools are also much richer than children in Memphis. About 35% of the city’s children are considered low-income, while in the neighborhood around the University of Memphis, roughly zip code 38111, about 45% of children live in poverty, according to research from university. At University College and Campus School, only 12.5% ​​and 8% of students, respectively, are considered economically disadvantaged, according to state data.

Two board members, Stephanie Love and outgoing chair Miska Clay Bibbs, have raised concerns about the seemingly quick deadline for approval of the proposal. Love said she didn’t think it was fair to endorse the MoU as it had just been presented to the board in a working session a week ago. The approval process for charter schools or partnerships of this nature is usually lengthy, she said.

“As members of the board, we set the tone for the way we operate and conduct our business at 160 South Hollywood,” Love said, indicating the address of the education board. “I think we are doing our district a disservice and doing a disservice to everyone who has given us the task of following processes… when something so important has happened in such a short time.

“No matter how good it looks or how happy it sounds or whatever, we have an obligation to do the right thing,” she added.

Bibbs, who has focused on process and procedure during his tenure as president, joined Love in voting against the proposal on Tuesday, saying the process had been unfair.

“Let’s be very clear about the precedent we’re setting so that we can vote on something in a week’s time. This is a huge concern for me, ”she said. “I’m just saying in terms of the process, I’m very disappointed with the administration with the way it was handled.”

Superintendent Joris Ray said the compressed schedule seemed appropriate as the operating agreement was not for a new charter school but for the expansion of an existing lab or “training school”. He added that the University of Memphis has been a great partner with the district.

The University of Memphis is one of a growing number of institutions in the region where Shelby County high school students can earn college credit through a dual enrollment program, and the new high school will be included. Other dual enrollment programs include Hollis F. Price Middle College High School and Middle College High School. And the district also has a partnership with Bethel University.

Earlier this year, officials held a dedication ceremony for the new Medical District High School, which is on the Union campus of Southwest Tennessee Community College and allows students to graduate from high school. and their associate’s degree with a concentration in paramedical health, information technology, or general studies.

The district’s efforts follow a nationwide boom in dual registration programs. Although disparities in access remain, studies have shown that students who participate in dual enrollment programs often graduate at a higher rate and earlier than their similarly trained peers in traditional high school programs. . The American Institutes for Research, a non-partisan, nonprofit research organization based in Arlington, Va., Contributes in part to this success in “rigorous instruction” and “college culture.”

According to the organization’s 2019 report, “Overall, the evidence for the academic benefits associated with dual enrollment is consistent across study designs, study sites, and types of dual enrollment programs.”

This fall, the University of Memphis offered some 20 dual-registration courses. With the addition of its high school, the college plans to offer more than 60 dual enrollment courses during the school year, adding courses such as creative writing, sports history and psychology research. education.

Board member Sheleah Harris did not vote, but the majority of board members voted in favor of the new high school at Tuesday’s meeting. Board member William Orgell called the University of Memphis a “bright spot” in the city that deserves their support.

“Let’s recognize someone who has done a great job with students across our community educating them for many years,” he said.

Board member Althea Greene agrees. “I’m just excited for the district to move forward and build relationships in the community,” said Greene, who was elected vice-chair on Tuesday in a separate vote.

The board also elected Michelle McKissack as the new board chair. McKissack defeated Love and Greene defeated Board member Joyce Dorse Coleman. It was the first time the post of president had been contested since 2013, Bibbs said.

Julia Baker contributed reporting.


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