Camping out for Choices but Are They Good Choices?

In Memphis, there is a window of time in January that has great significance for parents because it determines where their children will attend school. This year, that window was January 23rd through January 27th. 

It is during this time that parents must apply to the optional or as some call them, “the good schools”. These optional schools can only be attended two ways: you are either zoned to them or your child gets in via the optional school application. Now in the past, you would have to camp out just to get your hands on the application. And you only had one week to return it.

Today, the process, while a bit better, is still pretty horrible. Parents still feel the need to camp literally camp out in order to get the application and return it. But I really don’t want to just focus on the process. I want to focus on the information parents have -- and don’t have -- about the quality of the schools they are choosing. It saddens me to know that parents endure this exhausting process because they trust that the word ‘optional’ means ‘good’ here in Memphis.  

If it didn’t, parents would not camp out for days in tents and wait in long lines just to secure an application for a school of choice.  

So I started to look at how the schools are actually doing and well, my findings were very disheartening. I went to to look at the TVAAS score of every school here in Memphis.

What is a TVAAS score?

It is the score that measures growth on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best. It tells us whether or not children are showing growth from the beginning of the year to the end. There are approximately 46 optional schools here in the city and 16 of them have a score of 1 or 2. This is very disappointing.

I had to wonder, do parents realize they are choosing schools that are seeing so little growth in their students? My guess is no, they do not.

So the next question is, would they still camp out if they had this important information about school performance in hand? Would they continue to go on word of mouth instead of doing their homework?

But is it really their homework to do or should the information be more readily available. Sure, it’s not hidden but while we see school closures, mergers, and total conversions, I thought that this was very deceiving a little bit. Yes of course, the information is out there and it is not hidden, but there are other level 1 or 2 schools in the news because they are being closed, merged, or converted into a new school. And those changes needed to happen. But it should also be happening with these optional schools? We can’t protect any schools in Memphis if they are continuing to fail our children.

And parents deserve to know if their school of choice is showing level 1 or 2 growth and they shouldn’t have to go searching on the internet to find out.  

So I am taking a stand by putting this information out there. Our children deserve better and we all need to take ownership of this and make change happen. Our kids can’t wait and neither can our city.