Three years after breaking off from Memphis schools, most of Shelby County’s six suburban school systems showed modest improvements on state test scores for high schools — and one outpaced all districts across Tennessee.
Germantown Municipal School District had the highest gains of high schoolers passing the state’s new TNReady test in 2017, besting all 129 Tennessee school systems with high schools.
And nearby Arlington Community Schools, with one high school, scored the second highest in the state in English and history.
Collierville High School also posted in the state’s top performers in all subjects: third in science, fourth in math, fifth in English and sixth in history.
All three of those districts also reduced the percent of students performing below grade level in every subject. Arlington, Collierville and Germantown were among 10 school systems statewide to achieve that status, showing that its students are still improving, even if they haven’t reached proficiency.
Only Millington and Bartlett saw noticeable drops in end-of-course tests — both in U.S. history. Bartlett also dipped slightly in math scores to just under 25 percent proficiency.
The latest high school scores provide a significant snapshot of the suburbs’ academic performance in their third year of existence and in the second year under a new, harder state test.
The school systems were created in 2014 after a failed merger a year earlier of mostly black Memphis City Schools with the mostly white suburban county district known as Legacy Shelby County Schools.
The developments were part of a sea change in the educational landscape of Greater Memphis that is significantly fractured along racial and socioeconomic lines. The suburban districts now have far fewer poor students compared to inner-city schools in the new Shelby County Schools. Impoverished students generally come to school already behind academically, and the Memphis district must pour more resources into catching them up.
Shelby County’s suburban districts were spotlighted this summer in a national report on school district pullouts. The report from EdBuild, a nonprofit research group focusing on education funding and inequality, called the 2014 breakaways one of the nation’s most “egregious examples” of public education splintering into a system of haves and have-nots over race and class.