The Changing Face of Public Education in Memphis

Posted on January 23, 2014


By Jenny Bitzer


The city of Memphis is under a spotlight as people across the United States watch the major education reforms happening in our city.  Memphis is the epicenter of education reform, and this reform has shown to change the face of public education in the city.  Prior to major education reforms, public education to many Memphis students and families meant attending a public city/county school that they were “zoned” to geographically.  With the extremely low graduation rate in Memphis and consistent low performance on standardized tests throughout the city, reformers attempt to tackle the troubles that follow the city.

Now in Memphis, if you look across the city, public education is more than just neighborhood county schools.  You see names like KIPP, Soulsville, Memphis College Prep, and Aspire among many more spread across the city.  If you look at these schools at first glance, you might think this must be a private school, but that is wrong.  Charter organizations like those listed above serve as a new type of public education for students in Memphis. Charter organizations provide students of Memphis with a tuition free, high quality, public education.  With a growing number of charter organizations located in Memphis, educational opportunities have begun to grow for many Memphis students.

Although charter schools are public and are still held accountable for student achievement as dictated by the state, charter organizations differ from traditional public schools in many ways.  First, charter schools typically offer extended school days or school years in order to maximize student learning.  Some even have college bound goals and set high standards to let students know from Kindergarten what their future has in store for them.  Academic results also show that many of these charter organizations in Memphis blow past traditional public schools.

With the ever-changing face of public education, students and families in Memphis now have a choice in their child’s public education.  This choice can offer a parent frustrated with traditional public education the opportunity to enroll in a school that pushes their child to succeed on a daily basis. Children in Memphis can receive a high quality education without parents having to pay exorbitant amounts to send their child to a private school.  This choice in and of itself provides Memphis with education that can shape lifelong learners.

Jenny Bitzer is a senior Psychology major and Education minor at Rhodes College and is starting her work with Teach for America in Memphis next year.

Posted in: Education