listening tour

Memphis leaders are developing Shelby County Schools’ first academic plan since the merger. And they want input.

PHOTO: Shelby County Schools

Two years ago, Memphis leaders unveiled their priorities for transforming public education in Shelby County Schools by 2025.

Now, they’re honing the strategies aimed at getting them there.

PHOTO: SCS
Sharon Griffin

A comprehensive academic plan is being developed under Sharon Griffin, who was named chief of schools in January. Targeted for completion in January, the detailed academic blueprint will be the first for Tennessee’s largest district since its 2013 merger of city and county schools.

But first, Griffin and her team want to hear from educators, parents and other community stakeholders. Community meetings kick off this week as part of the district’s “Destination 2025 listening tour.”

“We are not shifting from our priorities under Destination 2025,” Griffin said last week. “We’re trying to identify the how.”

Priorities under Destination 2025 are to:

  • Strengthen early literacy;
  • Improve post-secondary readiness;
  • Develop teachers, leaders and central office staff to drive student success;
  • Expand high-quality school options;
  • Mobilize family and community partners

The community meetings also will provide a platform for talking about the district’s mostly disappointing scores released last month under the state’s new standardized test, as well as efforts to adjust to Tennessee’s new Common Core-aligned learning standards.

PHOTO: Marta W. Aldrich
Educators and parents listen during one of nine community meetings held in 2016 to explore the future of Memphis schools.

“With the standards shift, this is our first time of having true data, so we want to be very honest and transparent,” Griffin said.

The five-meeting tour comes one year after a similar community engagement push under the “Great Schools, Greater Community” campaign. Last fall, nine community meetings were convened to seek public input for the district’s eventual plan to address an infrastructure with too many schools serving too few students.

Griffin said academics will be the focus of the upcoming tour — specifically, which strategies can drive high-quality instruction in classrooms and equip students for college and career?

The new academic plan will be put into action over the next three years, and Griffin said she wants it to stick.

“Our constituents and our community want stability,” she said. “They want us to name what we’re going to do, get good at it, and keep that going versus just changing strategies. We want this playbook to stand as a constant reminder to stick with our strategies.”

The first gathering is on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Douglass High School. You can find the full list of meetings here.

#GovTest

Where Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker stand on key education issues, from charters to Chicago’s school board

PHOTO: (Rauner) Alex Wong/Staff/Getty Images; (Pritzker) Joshua Lott/Getty Images
Our conversations with Gov. Bruce Rauner (left) and challenger J.B. Pritzker will be aired on Oct. 3 on WBEZ 91.5 FM.

The race for Illinois governor is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in U.S. history, and anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock has probably seen or heard one of the barrage of ads for the candidates. There have been puppies, toilets, and plenty of barbs over wealth and taxes — and the back-and-forth has drowned out the discussion over where the candidates stand on education, arguably one of the most crucial policy areas facing the state.

To dig deeper, Chalkbeat Chicago is teaming up with the education team at WBEZ 91.5 Chicago for a WBEZ/Chalkbeat 2018 Election Special: Testing the Candidates. Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker each have agreed to join us for a conversation about where they stand on everything from boosting the state’s profile in early childhood education to stemming the exodus of undergraduates from Illinois.

The interviews will be separate, but will be broadcast back-to-back on WBEZ 91.5 FM on Oct. 3 starting at 8 a.m.  

In advance of the discussion, Chalkbeat and WBEZ asked each candidate for his position on five questions, and we’ve reprinted their answers in their entirety. We’re also soliciting interview suggestions from our readers and listeners. Use this form to submit a question to us, and follow along with the discussion on Oct. 3 using #GovTest.

#GovTest

What would you ask Gov. Bruce Rauner and J.B. Pritzker about education?

Chalkbeat Chicago is teaming up with the education team at WBEZ 91.5 Chicago for a WBEZ/Chalkbeat 2018 Election Special: Testing the Candidates. Republican incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker each have agreed to join us for a conversation about where they stand on everything from boosting the state’s profile in early childhood education to stemming the exodus of undergraduates from Illinois.

Use the form below to submit questions for the conversations, which will air back-to-back on Oct. 3 at 8 a.m.