When I first came to Memphis as a TFA corps member over four years ago the executive director of TFA told the incoming corps, “This is the time, Memphis is the Place.” After being back for about two months I could not agree with that statement more, especially informally known as Memphis City Schools. This palpable feeling pervades the city but is especially potent at the office here I work, which is affectionately known as TeacherTown. In an open concept office around 10 school based organizations have chosen to locate their offices in one place. Charter Schools, the Achievement School District (a charter authorizer) and Education Pioneers are all working in the offices sharing ideas and just loving education reform.
Last Thursday Chris Barbic the God, the Man, the Legend was in the office and I nearly lost it. Just being in the presence of someone who has achieved so much and changed the lives of so many children was amazing! Although I simply spied on him in a conference room he definitely inspired me to work just a little bit harder. For those not giant education reform nerds, Chris Barbic started the YesPrep charter school network, the one that I work for, in Houston. He now is the head of the Achievement School District, a charter authorizer here in Memphis which is helping to take over and turn around schools in the bottom 5% of achievement. So far the ASD has had dramatic results and managed to maintain, mostly, strong community support.
TeacherTown, My desk
I feel very lucky to be able to work in this hub of education reform and can’t wait for the rest of the YesPrep team to get here next week! My work is very lone wolf style, but it will be great to have the rest of the team here to bounce ideas off of. My project is going well! I have finished writing the unit module on Biology AND 6th grade Social Studies. The students are going to LOVE digging into their role in government and how to enact change in their communities J
In other news, a bunch of people from my Education Pioneers cohort (Ed Pioneers placed me with YesPrep and there are 21 other fellows working in education throughout the city) went to the Shelby County School Board meeting. The superintendent, Dorsey Hopson, just had his contract renewed and the school board was in celebration mode. They celebrated by talking about data! I was very happy to put my MPP skills to use and listen to presentations discussing data and hearing just how it was used in a real world setting. What was frustrating, however, was the fact that for one of the proposals, to fund professional development for teachers, the board was interested in having data to make their decisions around BUT the data wouldn’t be ready until after the decision had to be made. Having the data is great, but it also needs to be ready to be used! Now the board will just make a decision to spend a LOT of money based on anecdotal evidence.
Lastly check out Ed Pionners Tennessee getting some media coverage! http://tn.chalkbeat.org/2014/06/19/education-pioneers-recruits-talent-to-work-behind-the-scenes-in-memphis-schools/