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VOL. 6 | NO. 33 | Saturday, August 10, 2013

Editorial: School Year Signals New Education Era

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For those hoping the opening of the school year would be the end of the turbulence in public education in Shelby County, we have bad news.

We also have bad news for those who fervently believed the opening of the school year would simply be the end of public education in Shelby County, at least until suburban school systems are formed one year from now.

It’s not that simple.

The changes will keep coming. They were coming with or without a merger of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools. This is the new normal and it is a plan.

It’s what interim schools superintendent Dorsey Hopson means when he talks about a goal of schools that feel the same to students as they did when the two separate school systems in Shelby County closed last May.

It means students will continue to be pushed to grow and their teachers will be pushed to help them grow. The goal for those who are behind is to bring them further in a shorter period of time with quantifiable progress by objective standards.

The merger has peeled away a couple of facades in local education even with the coming of separate suburban school systems.

One is the idea that Shelby County Schools was a barely altered version of the little red school houses that a long time ago were at the heart of what had been a set of schools in an outer county that wasn’t suburban but rural.

That hasn’t existed for quite some time. But the image has endured with some political leaders doggedly defending the fantasy of a school system adhering to long-held traditional education theories that continued to produce results.

But it was a disservice to the educators in county schools who have proven to be on the cutting edge of reforms even if their efforts stood outside the spotlight to accentuate tradition.

The other facade was the idea of an urban school system where any effort to overcome the pervasive weight of poverty must wait on the knitting of a complete fabric of social services to even begin the most basic reforms. Because some of those outside Memphis had come to view its school system as the ultimate laboratory for any reform idea, a reactionary toughness developed to show those running the lab who was really in charge.

The two facades played off each other. Meanwhile parents in both systems continued to search for the best school for their child and hope it didn’t change until their child was out.

Consider where the two school systems were at the end of the last school year of their separate existences as measured by state achievement test results released last month.

A third or less of students who are advanced or proficient in science, math and reading is not good enough. Neither is being in the 66 percent range.

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