Sandra Boyer, a teacher at Central High School, has watched her midtown Memphis students benefit from curriculum designed to break down stereotypes and prejudice. Now, thanks to a new initiative from the nonprofit organization that produces the curriculum, she and her students will have more opportunities to demonstrate those practices with their counterparts in another part of the city.
Facing History and Ourselves, the group behind the curriculum, launched its Memphis Neighborhood Schools Network on Tuesday at the University of Memphis, where it brought together educators from 11 participating schools. The schools — five from midtown and six in Frayser — will collaborate more in the future for faculty training and student programs. The Facing History curriculum also will be introduced to the Frayser schools, which have a high concentration of economically disadvantaged students.
“Our kids tend to stay with our kids, Frayser kids tend to stay with Frayser kids, etc.,” Boyer said. “Memphis has a history of our neighborhoods not getting along. Maybe that’s because we never meet each other. We can change that.”
Schools participating in the network in Frayser are:
- Grandview Heights Middle
- Memphis Business Academy High
- Memphis Business Academy Middle
- Trezevant High
- MLK College Preparatory High
- Westside Achievement Middle
Midtown schools in the network are:
- Bellevue Middle
- Central High
- Crosstown High (beginning in 2018)
- Maxine Smith STEAM Academy
Facing History leaders hope the network will strengthen the organization’s presence in more schools serving low-income communities.
“Too often, children in low-socioeconomic neighborhoods don’t get access to something like Facing History and Ourselves at their school,” said Steve Becton, associate program director for urban education for the Memphis chapter of Facing History and Ourselves. “Equitable allocation of resources is one of the big challenges for Memphis. We know all students deserve the choice of great, rigorous programs like ours.”
As part of the network, midtown schools will help Frayser schools introduce the new curriculum.
“Part of education equity for us is breaking schools out of their isolation,” Becton said. “Kids in Frayser should be talking to kids in Midtown. They have lots to teach each other. And it’s not just kids. You have a Frayser charter principal talking to a principal from Maxine Smith Academy. That would usually never happen.”
The organization already has a student leadership program that brings together teens from 22 high schools, and Facing History staff want to build on that approach.
Historically, the Massachusetts-based organization has been perceived as focusing mainly on social science and language arts curriculums, but the Memphis network will highlight a “whole school” philosophy that includes training faculty in culturally responsive teaching and an emphasis on parent engagement, Becton said.
The Memphis chapter serves more than 500 schools in Tennessee and Kentucky.