“One Grade Doesn't Tell All”: MSCS Lauds Top Schools, Advocates for More Holistic Accountability Rating

Nine schools in the Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS) district received an A under the Tennessee Department of Education’s (TDOE) new letter grade system. Additionally, 31 schools in the District received a B. Overall, 57% of MSCS schools earned an A, B, or C under the state’s new accountability model. The revised state model, shared with Districts in November, is narrower than the federal accountability model.

“MSCS has amazing teachers, dedicated staff, and supportive families who are all working to improve the lives of children,” said MSCS Interim Superintendent Toni Williams. “I celebrate our top performers while recognizing that one grade doesn’t tell all. A grade largely based on one week of standardized testing overlooks critical aspects of our progress and the complex needs of our students.”

For elementary and middle schools, a school’s rating is based on three key indicators from the TCAP test: academic achievement, student growth, and the academic improvement of students in the school’s bottom 25%. For high schools, the grade also includes college and career readiness. Based on this model,  4.5% of schools received an A, 15.6% received a B, 36.7% received a C, 22.1% received a D, and 21.1% received an F. 

Earlier this year, under the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) accountability model that measures student growth, MSCS outperformed expectations. The District achieved a Level 5, the highest distinction available. This Level 5 recognition reflects student academic growth exceeding state benchmarks. Additionally, MSCS has proudly raised its graduation rate and average ACT score.

Some strategies we are using to achieve those gains include: 

  • Helping students Stay Ready and Read by providing enrichment work over the break that students can access at https://bit.ly/mscsholidaypacket
  • Providing new teacher coaching to improve instructional practices 
  • Utilizing small-group instruction to support students with learning gaps
  • Leveraging Specialized Educational Assistants and Senior Reading Advisors to support teachers and students in classrooms
  • Implementing the Social and Emotional Learning curriculum and Community Schools.

MSCS is meeting students where they are and addressing the challenges students face beyond the classroom.

MSCS acknowledges the real-world struggles affecting students' learning. Approximately 60% of students in the District come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and approximately 50% of 5-year-olds are not kindergarten-ready when they enter MSCS classrooms. The city is also facing a 17-year high in violent crime and such communitywide trauma has a devastating effect on academic achievement. These challenges, including hunger, housing insecurity, and inadequate healthcare, significantly impact learning.

"How children live is connected to how they learn," said Supt. Williams. "MSCS has dedicated educators and counselors who work tirelessly to promote a holistic approach to wellness and achievement. This dedication deserves recognition beyond a single letter grade."

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