Education: K-12

Submitted by PeopleFirst Partnership and Seeding Success

Improving cradle to career education outcomes is one of the most important strategies for the overall well-being of our community and our region’s economic vitality.  This is why local leaders have supported a backbone organization, the PeopleFirst Partnership, to support game changing strategies and collaborative efforts to improve a core set of outcomes around four goals:

  • Goal A: All children enter school ready to learn
  • Goal B: All students graduate high school college and career ready
  • Goal C: Adults earn degrees and certifications that prepare them for local careers
  • Goal D: Talent is attracted to and retained in Shelby County.

The PeopleFirst Partnership, consists of two aligned efforts, PeopleFirst and Seeding Success, which lead, facilitate, and measure our community’s cradle to career agenda.

PeopleFirst enlists the participation of top business, government, education and civic leaders to advance this “cradle to career” agenda throughout the community. Through a portfolio of high-impact initiatives anchored by four goals, clearly identified strategies and key performance metrics and benchmarks, the aim is to accelerate what’s working and address what’s not.

Seeding Success is an integral part of the PeopleFirst Partnership. As a sustaining partnership of the national StriveTogether network, Seeding Success works to improve education outcomes through data-driven, collaborative action among community agencies and non-profits. Seeding Success builds the capacity of its partners to use data effectively for continuous improvement of programming. By convening Collaborative Action Networks of local organizations, Seeding Success provides opportunities for collaboration, shared data reports and facilitation to align the work of the partners around our common outcome goals and benchmarks.

The PeopleFirst Partnership/Seeding Success 2015 Annual Report can be found at the bottom of this page in the Additional Resources section. You will find results for all four of the goals listed above, including those related to K-12 education. 

Focus on College and Career Readiness 

As stated above, Goal B seeks to have all students graduate high school college and career ready. Research suggests college readiness begins early with third grade reading proficiency as the most powerful indicator of high school graduation. In 2014, 11 percent of Shelby County students met college readiness benchmarks as measured by the ACT. To meet the ambitious goal set by SCS and adopted by PeopleFirst of 80 percent college ready; 90 percent on-time graduation and 100 percent of college and career ready graduates entering a post-secondary opportunity by 2025, work is underway across the “cradle to career” road map.

Promising Practice – High Priority Schools Turnaround

With nearly fifty schools in Shelby County on the state’s list of “Priority Schools”, the bottom five percent in academic proficiency, a targeted approach to improve academic outcomes in these schools is imperative. Both the state-run Achievement School District (ASD) and the SCS I-Zone are serving these schools and implementing strategies to move them from “the bottom five percent” to the top 25 percent in achievement in five years. They are making progress with incentives to attract and retain highly effective teachers and leaders and more flexibility in curriculum, academic programs, educator hiring and professional development.


The ASD and I-Zone are making impressive gains. Compared to 2012, there are 4,500 fewer students in Memphis “Priority Schools” and student proficiency grew from 16.7 percent to 23.1 percent. In 2013-14, all fourteen I-Zone schools made academic gains and nine (64 percent) were on track to move into the top 25 percent in five years. I-Zone schools have increased student proficiency by 20 percentage points, and six schools have already moved off of the state’s priority list. In the ASD, students outperformed the state in reading and math, and 9th graders made double-digit gains in Algebra and English. Five of the twelve tested ASD schools in 2013-14 have moved out of the bottom five percent.

Promising Practice – Effective Teachers and Leaders

For students to leave schools prepared for post-secondary success, they have to be taught in schools and by teachers equipped to deliver high quality, rigorous instruction that is aligned to college and career readiness standards for all grades and subjects. Research shows that the most important factor in student academic progress inside the school is an effective teacher. Similarly, the key to high performing schools is that they are managed by effective leaders.

Shelby County Schools and the ASD have made notable progress in cultivating strong educators and increasing the number of effective teachers and leaders in the schools. In fact, one of the key practices within the ASD and IZone is identifying strong school leaders who focus on building a faculty with teachers who have proven to be highly effective as measured by their students’ TVAAS data. We can’t expect students to attain college and career readiness unless they receive effective teaching and their schools are managed by effective leaders.


Roughly half of all Shelby County Schools and teachers in tested subjects achieved positive student growth (Level 4 and 5 on TVAAS data) in 2013-14. In the ASD, incoming ASD schools had the highest ratio of high performing to low performing teachers in terms of value added data, of any types of schools, including charters, in the state of Tennessee. This progress has been accomplished through using best practices in hiring, improving staff development and exiting poor performing teachers.

All organizations, institutions, and systems, working with young children and students are encouraged to get involved in the partnership, and help us achieve our goals by moving the needle on these important outcomes. Contact Seeding Success at or the PeopleFirst Partnership at

Click the following to get more information on Education: Early Childhood and Education: Post-Secondary.

Additional Resources

PeopleFirst Partnership/Seeding Success 2015 Shelby County Annual Report

PeopleFirst Partnership/Seeding Success 2016 Legislative Priorities

PeopleFirst Partnership

Seeding Success