When Educational Matters Causes You to Sing the Correlation of One of Xscape’s Greatest Hits

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Who can I run to?

This might seem like quite the unorthodox beginning to a blog post relative to educational matters in the city-but given the title, and the smash hit by the all-girl group who is making headlines with their sold-out tour; “The Great Xscape;” and soon to make their way to Memphis (December 30th), I saw the title quite relevant and timely as parents hash through a series of disturbing discoveries and news surrounding our school district-Shelby County Schools.

The beginning lyrics of the song are as follows:

As I stand here contemplating,

On the right thing to decide.

Will I take the wrong direction,

All my life, where will I go,

What lies ahead of me?

Why and how could I relate a song about choosing the right direction on how and where to find love to the ever so depressing dark clouds looming over our school system right now. In the midst of grading scandals, testing inconsistencies, teacher cuts and in some cases, shortages; dishonest board members, and a system lacking at its height; integrity, anyone is left with some heavy contemplating, trying to figure out what’s next for themselves as parents and/or adults and most significantly; children.

In the most recent weeks, our school system has made headline news just about daily and its rambles through United States investigations surrounding alleged grading disputes at some of our most popular high schools. First these allegations seemingly loomed over the heads of student-athletes, but is now spilling into a large number of students that were not athletes as well. Back in June of this year, the Commercial Appeal reported that the state Department of Education says a grading scandal at Trezevant High School in Memphis had triggered an audit of grade transcripts at all Shelby County Schools high schools. An independent firm is handling the audit, and the timeline “will depend on the scope of the work required,” according to an email from the department. The district-wide audit was a “mutual” decision between SCS and the state, the email said.

Months later-that audit has begin to reveal snippets of its investigation. Below is a one-statement takeaway from the findings.

Educators changed failing grades to passing grades for students, even leading to some students receiving unearned high school diplomas.

A new audit shows rampant issues across Shelby County when it comes to changing grades in high schools.

Investigation reveals 'significant transcript changes' at Trezevant

A 200-page report identified eight schools that are under investigation. Trezevant High School was one of the first schools to be identified as a grade-changing offender. Details of the grade changing came forward when the school's principal resigned and wrote a six-page letter of complaints against Shelby County Schools.

Dixon Hughes Goodman Law Firm audited the school system and found grade changing was happening in at least eight schools.

"The evidence suggests this was done with the intent to increase the graduation rate," the law firm's report read.

Kirby High School had 582 failing grades changed to passing grades between 2012 and 2016, according to the audit.

The audit found multiple Shelby County Schools high schools, that had grade change rates as high as 10 times the state average.

This has now caused an intentional effort around building back trust of students and parents but again it just leaves me wondering and standing here channeling my inner songstress as I stand here contemplating….

I know, corny right? But all truth.

The ending of the chorus goes like this:

Who can I run to?

When I need love?

But might I add my own remixed additions:

Who can I run to?

When I need Love? Support? A Proper Education? And an honest system?

Ahhhh…. Now we are getting somewhere.

Who can we run too to ensure our students are being prepared for their futures in a system that encompasses a loving environment and love for our students and families-enough to do right by them as we as parents entrusts them with the lives of our babies; daily.

Where are we to go for support when matters like these arise? The days of advocacy groups in Memphis are growing few and the efforts of such groups are flanked with irrelevant media ops and conversations not leading to real change. Our parents need help. They need help in just understanding what is happening. As a parent, what can you do? What should you do? Who can parents run to? Where can they go? When the traditional district to fail our children daily, show practices of dishonesty and lacking integrity regarding the educational attainment of students, what is next?

I don’t remember the members of the all-girl group ever being able to answer their questions-at least not in the song. Let’s hope the answers to these very real and pertinent questions find answers to such questions. In the meantime, we’re left intense contemplation. As a parent, you can only wonder? What’s next for your child and who (if anyone) can you run to?

But for students-those that have received unearned grades and diplomas-these words I believe are quite befitting and for any of our children that's just being passed along-are we thinking about the greater impact and the long-run outcome this has on students.

As I stand here contemplating,

On the right thing to decide.

Will I take the wrong direction,

All my life, where will I go,

What lies ahead of me?

I think its time that we think long and hard at how we are setting students up to fail, despite what a grade report may show.