Stand for Children Our Voice Our Schools by jolinmilioncherie


									Stand for                              November 10
Children: Our
Voice, Our
Beginning in May 2011, Stand for Children began a survey designed to
give the community a voice in the debate about the design, priorities,
services offered, and the role of the community in a consolidated Shelby    Executive
County School District. We hope that this data will be a key resource for
the Transition Committee and help keep education at the forefront of the
public discourse.


In recent months the community has seen public education become a priority. This has brought
considerable attention to the issues of education in our community; however, this has been led by
elected and appointed officials. Stand for Children believes those appointed represent a broad and
diverse segment of the population, but we maintain that the active engagement of the community is
essential to make the work of the transition committee whole. Therefore, we believe the wishes and
dreams of the community, especially those closest to the education system, must be included in the
decision-making, leadership, and direction taken concerning the future of education in Shelby County.

To make this happen, Stand for Children has been leading a campaign to capture the community’s voice
concerning the consolidation of our school districts through online surveys, on the ground canvassing in
intentional communities (40 zip codes), and through voter registration log phone banking. Stand
Members and staff in collaboration with the University Of Memphis Department Of Urban Education
have crafted a community survey, which seeks to illicit information that will help shape the debate
about how to consolidate Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools. These questions have been
carefully selected based on best practices of districts throughout the country, innovative priorities
recognized by the U.S Department of Education, theories of family and community engagement, and
local expert knowledge.

The survey has been crafted not as a sounding board for concerns and critiques of the current systems,
but rather to look beyond to what is possible, to what’s best for all the children of Shelby County. The
information gathered offers a medium for incorporating the community voice into shaping, planning and
implementing new best practices for the unified school system. The scope of the survey gives insights
into the community’s wishes concerning the design, services offered, priorities, administration, and the
very role of the community in a consolidated district.

The idea of canvassing a large section of Shelby County both geographically (over 40 zip codes) and
numerically (663) is also to keep education at the forefront of the public discourse. We do not want to
see the current focus on the importance of a quality education for all children lost. By harnessing and
cataloging the community’s input around these seminal issues we can forge a unified school system with
profound legitimacy.

The results of the survey, which remains open, offer deep insight into the priorities and urgency of our
diverse community. The survey is also an integral part of Stand for Children’s broader campaign, Put
Education First, to ensure the community is engage and committed to a high quality education for all
children in Shelby County. This executive summary provides an overview of some of the findings as well
as suggestions about the possibility to expand its reach and content to assist the Transition Committee
throughout the consolidation process.

Findings (Complete List of survey questions are found in Appendix A):

A major focus of the survey is around what priorities the transition committee should focus on while
working towards consolidating the district. The following five priorities are the top five from ALL survey
respondents, 663 individuals. These priorities are also related to federal funding categories, so that we
can remain solutions-oriented in our discourse.

-What should the top FIVE priorities of a consolidated school district be? Memphis City Schools and
Shelby County Schools face many of the same challenges as well as their own unique issues, the
priorities listed below are from a list of 16 priorities for funding created by the Dept. of Education (75
Fed. Reg. 78486 (December 15, 2010)

1. Raising Academic Standards 58.2%

2. Improving School Buildings, School Environment, and School Safety 52.6%

3. Improving Family and Community Engagement 50.1%

4. Improving early learning opportunities 46.8%

5. Turning Around the Persistently Lowest-achieving Schools 46.2% (very close to this were two other
priorities similar in nature: Improving Achievement (closing the achievement Gap between minority and
white students and overall achievement) 45.7%, and Improving the Effectiveness and Distribution of the
Best Teachers and Principals 45.4%)

In relation to these top priorities there are several questions that resulted in interesting findings
concerning the academic offerings, operation and design, and policies of the district:

Academic Offerings

A majority of respondents thought the following about the Academic Offerings of new district:

There should be universal access to public Pre-K (a majority, although depending on how much, were
willing to see an increase in local taxes to provide for this); Students should have the opportunity to
study both academic and vocational curriculums; and there should be schools in the district that focus
on specific content (i.e. arts, music, foreign language, science, etc.)

Operations and Design:

A majority of respondents thought the following:

Students should be allowed to apply to any school in the district (although the details of this process are
not specifically spelled out in the question); There should be one central district office, or one central
office with multiple regional offices; Schools should do more than just teach, they should provide
additional service like medical services, parent education, job trainings, and act as community centers;
Parents should play an institutional leadership role in the district (decision-making input around policies
and programs)


A majority of respondents thought the following policies should be continued or pursued:

The teacher Effectiveness Initiative begun by the Gates Foundation should be continued (overwhelming
support); public pre-k should be offered to all students; the district help schools have a more diverse
student body (ex. The district could try to make it so schools have students from different races,
economic backgrounds, achievement level, or language at each school); The district should promote
policies that help recruit and engage parents in a diverse range of activities: Parenting training,
communications, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and helping the district collaborate
with the community; Parents are also interested in receiving a weekly communication from the district;
lastly, although not a majority, more respondents , 41.5%, thought charter schools should play an
increased role in the district (although a significant group did not know 24.1%)


These results are in no way definitive, we do, however, believe they are a great first step in soliciting
vital feedback from the community. The survey remains open and is accessible at

We believe that our commitment to this work and our attempts to get ahead of any political debates
around these issues is evidence that our organization can help this committee facilitate authentic and
vital community engagement and input.

We are offering ourselves to this committee as a resource, tool and partner in the work moving forward.
The survey itself can be used by this committee adapted and expanded as necessary. We also have built
a microsite for the community to engage in this work and have their voice heard (Appendix B). The site
itself can also be used by this committee moving forward to help communicate and share its work and
questions with the broader community.

We hope to be engaged as deeply as possible in this work and remain committed to facilitating a deep
dialogue around the county to ensure that the needs and hopes for all our children are addressed by this

Our Leadership Center is also playing an important role in the community by providing education about
the consolidation process, the transition committee, and unified school board throughout the County.
We will also be hosting and doing turnout for community forums around these issues and the broader
issues of educational reform. These activities are another example of the services we can provide this

Our Proposal:

We ask to be included in the work of this Committee through the active engagement and education of
the community around the work of the transition committee. We can help facilitate this through the use
of our survey, microsite, education services, and community organizing expertise.

Appendix A

Survey Questions:

1.      Are you a parent?

2.      What should the top FIVE priorities of a consolidated school district be?

3.      What should students be learning in school?

4.      Should schools focus on specific things?

5.      Should every child be able to go to preschool for free?

6.      If you would like to see preschool for every child will you help pay for it? Would you be willing
to help pay for preschool through an increase in taxes?

7.      Should students be able to go to any school in the district?

8.      What should the new district 'look' like? (How should it be designed?)

9.      Should students spend more time in school?

10.     Should the consolidated school district continue the work that Memphis City Schools started to
ensure there is a great teacher in every classroom through the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative(TEI)?

11.    What role should Charter Schools play in the district?(Charter Schools are public schools run by
groups other than the Board of Education.)

12.     Should the district try to make schools have a diverse student body?

13.     Should schools do more than just teach students?

14.     Should parents play an important role in the district?

15.     How often should the district and schools communicate with parents?

16.     How should the district communicate with parents?

17.     Which of the following things should parents help decide for the kids' schools?

18.     What types of parental involvement should our district support?

19.     If a school is failing, should parents be able to take it over and decide how it should be fixed?

20.     Should parents have a say in how the districts are consolidated?

21.     Do you want to know how the consolidation will affect children?

22.     Would you like to stay updated on school consolidation through Stand for Children

Appendix B

The site contains video testimony from parents in both the county and city districts about priorities for
the new district and how we can work together to improve education for all students. There is also a
blog connected so that discussions can take place and pages with facts about our educational
achievement and attainment.

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