Two Memphis schools won the Blue Ribbon designation this year, one of the highest honors from the U.S. Department of Education given to just 362 schools nationwide.
The schools — Campus School and Maxine Smith STEAM Academy — were recognized for their high scores on state and national tests. They were among six schools in Tennessee to earn the award this year.
The designation does not come with financial awards, but is a coveted label.
“We are extremely grateful to the U. S. Department of Education for this coveted honor in recognition of two Shelby County Schools with high achievement,” said Superintendent Joris Ray in a statement. “The principals, teachers and students at Maxine Smith STEAM Academy and Campus School have worked hard and their commitment is a testament to the exemplary teaching and learning happening in our district.”
Campus School is a contract school run by the University of Memphis. Compared with charter schools, contract schools have more say in how they choose students. That allows the University of Memphis to give priority to children of faculty and staff.
The elementary school is known for its high test scores and frequently tops district ratings. This spring, 74% of students scored proficient in reading and writing, compared with 21% of students in the district and 34% statewide. It also serves the lowest percentage of students from low-income families and the highest percentage of white students in the district.
Maxine Smith STEAM Academy is a middle school that Shelby County Schools opened in 2014 to serve high-performing students that pass admission tests. The school’s academic programs emphasize science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. About 80% of students were proficient in math on state tests this spring, compared with 27% of elementary and middle school students across the district and 41% statewide.
The last time the federal agency awarded Memphis schools was in 2016, when Jackson Elementary School and John P. Freeman Optional School were recognized for bringing test scores for students from low-income families and students of color closer to their white and/or more affluent peers. The year before, Middle College High was recognized for its academic achievement.
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Other Tennessee schools to receive this year’s prestigious designation were Lockeland Design Center Elementary, a Nashville magnet school emphasizing literature and language; McFadden School of Excellence, a magnet school in Murfreesboro that emphasizes technology; Sequoyah Elementary in Knoxville; and Crockett Elementary in Brentwood in Williamson County, south of Nashville.