Shelby County Schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson and Achievement School District superintendent Chris Barbic issued a joint statement Monday pledging their support toward recruiting and retaining the nation’s best teachers to work in Tennessee’s lowest-performing schools.
The two leaders are asking business leaders, philanthropists and politicians to work together to make Memphis an attractive city for young, energetic and qualified teachers.
They referred to the effort as “Teacher Town USA.”
Sara Solar, a spokeswoman for the initiative, gave few details about what that effort will look like.
A website, “Teacher Town USA” is under construction.
Read the entire press release below:
Building on national results that show Tennessee as the best in the nation in terms of student achievement gains during the last two years, the superintendents of Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District today joined community and philanthropic supporters in an effort to establish Memphis as Teacher Town USA.
The idea of Teacher Town USA is simple: promote Memphis as the place where many of the best teachers in America are working to improve student achievement at an unparalleled pace.
“Memphis stands at the center of some of the most ambitious education reform in the nation,’’ said Dorsey Hopson, superintendent of Shelby County Schools. “We are working hard to make sure all teachers in Shelby County are among the best in the United States. The idea of establishing Memphis as Teacher Town USA will help us immensely as we build a pipeline to hire and keep the great teachers our students need to succeed.’’
Chris Barbic, superintendent of the Achievement School District, which has been granted statewide authority to operate some of the lowest-ranked schools in Tennessee, echoed Hopson’s support for the Teacher Town USA idea. “At the ASD our top priority is to help the more than 25,000 kids in Memphis who have been stuck in low-performing schools, ‘’ Barbic said. “In order to create a system of great schools where all Memphis kids are on the path to college and career success we need a great teacher in every classroom.’’
Hopson and Barbic said they both fully support the over-arching goal of Teacher Town USA: To strengthen the talent pipeline of teachers and school leaders in Shelby County who can achieve dramatic improvements in student achievement year after year.
Teacher Town USA will focus particular attention on retaining, developing, and recruiting talented teachers to serve “priority schools,’’ meaning those that rank in the bottom five percent in Tennessee in terms of student achievement. Currently, 68 schools in Memphis are in the priority school category.
Both the Achievement School District and the Shelby County School’s I-Zone program operate priority schools. Both districts have the goal of moving these low-performing schools into the top 25 percent in the state within five years.
“We know we already have so many great teachers working in Memphis,’’ said Superintendent Hopson. “As we move ahead in the next few years, not only do we need to keep as many of our homegrown highly effective teachers as we can, we also need to train up and recruit a new generation of great teachers.’’
Hopson and Barbic project the need for great teachers will only grow in coming years. They note that Baby Boomer-era teachers in Memphis will be retiring just as the demand for more high-achieving teachers to work in the priority schools will increase.
The superintendents said they will work with Teacher Town USA to build a broad base of public and private support in coming months among philanthropic, business, community and political leadership. In addition the Teacher Town USA effort will seek significant national funding to retain, recruit and train top teachers for Memphis.
Both superintendents noted an extraordinary set of circumstances that has created a once-in-a- generation opportunity to address the educational needs of our children:
Tennessee state law has cleared the way for major education reform. The Achievement School District and the SCS I-Zone schools are now authorized to turn around public schools that have student achievement scores in the bottom five percent, and to devise plans to move those schools into the top 25 percent.
Memphis community leaders have aligned around an education reform strategy. This uncommon civic commitment to improve student achievement and increase the number of high-performing teachers and school leaders has accelerated the rate of change.
Philanthropic support from Memphis and around the country has contributed significant assistance to the reform efforts.“It’s inspiring that Memphis has come together on the issue of improving education for the children most in need,’’ Superintendent Hopson said.