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Frayser Exchange Club asks Teresa Jones about school improvement at community forum

Shelby County school board member Teresa Jones speaks to the Frayser Exchange Club in June 2014.
Shelby County school board member Teresa Jones speaks to the Frayser Exchange Club in June 2014.
J. Zubrzycki

Shelby County Schools board member Teresa Jones discussed teacher evaluations, the board’s decision to renew superintendent Dorsey Hopson II’s contract, the district’s shift to having two start times for schools and more at a meeting of the Frayser Exchange Club on Thursday.

Frayser, a community of more than 50,000 in north Memphis, is at the center of one Tennessee’s major efforts to improve schools. The state-run Achievement School District took control of six schools in the area in 2012 after they were identified as some of the worst-performing schools in the state. Frayser High School will also be run as a charter school as part of the ASD next year. The district still runs several schools in Frayser.

A group of two dozen gathered at Sarah Lee’s, a restaurant in Frayser, for the conversation. Representatives from the ASD regularly attend weekly Exchange Club meetings in Frayser to update participants on goings-on in the ASD schools. School board candidate Stephanie Love also attended the meeting. State Rep. Barabara Cooper will speak at the club next week, and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell will speak at the club in two weeks.

Jones is the chief prosecutor for the City of Memphis. Her seat representing District 2, which includes the schools in Frayser, is not up for election in the upcoming school board race.

At the meeting Thursday, one teacher told Jones she was concerned that evaluations being used by the district could penalize middle school or high school teachers for working with students who were already coming in behind grade level.

Jones replied that while the district’s evaluation system relies heavily on student growth, rather than student achievement, “it’s not perfect, I agree with you,” Jones said.

“We’ve invested money in an electronic system that allows teachers to observe best practices and access that for training, so that when they’re observed, they’ll at least have professional development and training on what should be done,” Jones said. “But the problem is, there are low-performing schools, and if you are at a low-performing school, much of the teacher’s score will be the school’s score. Hopefully, eventually, you bring that school’s score up.”

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