Shelby County Schools excels at attracting and developing talent but lacks many of the other ingredients for a successful modern school system, according to a new independent review by the Center on Reinventing Public Education that was commissioned by the district.
“SCS has a number of promising elements already in place including new, respected leadership backed by a strong board, sustained efforts to attract high-quality teachers and principals, a promising pilot effort to turn around struggling schools (the Innovation Zone), a growing charter sector that includes some excellent schools and is interested in working with the district, and a philanthropic community committed to working on education.”
- Make sure every neighborhood has a viable school option and identify schools with overcrowding.
- Give principals more freedom around hiring, budget, curriculum and their school calendars.
- Start evaluating the central office as if it were another school contractor based on how well it supports schools;
- Reevaluate the district’s finances, including shifting money to schools, closing under-enrolled schools and clarifying charter school funding;
- Create a framework for evaluating all schools and then use that framework to make decisions about growing, closing or intervening in schools;
- Get more feedback from families and explain how the district plan relates to families’ needs.
The report warned that, though SCS survived the largest school merger in American history, it can’t let bureaucratic issues continue to dominate its attention:
“SCS must deal with myriad procedural items resulting from the two-district merger, and the de-merger of six municipalities. It would be easy to become distracted from the core work of teaching and learning.”