Equal education matters because people matter equally. Class, age, ability, race, gender, religion, and other identity markers do not determine a person’s value. As Christians, we believe all humans have inherent and equal value from simply being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
While there are many systemic inequities, MTR aims to address inequities within education in Memphis. Educational outcomes are tied to markers of well-being such as health, income, and vocational choice / opportunities. Therefore, the pursuit of a more equitable educational landscape in Memphis is a choice to honor the dignity and value of the whole of each person.
The abbreviated mission of MTR is “Christian love expressed in equal education.” Doing this work within a Christian context means that we ultimately hope in God’s restoration and justice, and that we work toward those ends within Memphis education.
In our nation’s largest urban centers, and particularly in Memphis, our education sector is incredibly segregated and incredibly unequal. The average ACT score in Memphis’ lowest performing communities is between 14 and 16, while the highest performing public schools average 23-26, and the leading private school students average above 28. ACT scores range from an approximate minimum of 11 to an average of 21 and a maximum of 36, which puts many Memphis students closer to the minimum possible score than the national average.
The EdGap map currently has college-readiness data for 31 states. You can look at any city in these 31 states and see visually the average ACT or SAT score for each public or charter high school overlaid on socioeconomic data. We hope you will use this tool to explore the geography of achievement and opportunity in Memphis and in your region of the country as well.
At the end of 2019, only 19% of 3rd-8th grade students in SCS and the ASD had attained mastery or were on track to mastery of the ELA grade level standards on the Tennessee end-of-year tests. In math, the portion on track or having attained mastery was 26%.
As illustrated here, many more Memphis elementary and middle schools are below the 5th percentile rank than above the state average. The median MTR partner school is at the 9th percentile statewide.
As of 2017, only 7% of students in Shelby County Schools were fully college ready as measured by attaining college readiness standards on each of the 4 tests in the ACT college entrance exam which is administered to all 11th graders in the state of Tennessee. While more than 7% of SCS students do enroll in college, many need to take at least one remedial class because of this readiness gap.
One measure of opportunity justice in America is the rate of youth disconnection: this is the percent of 16-24 year olds who are neither employed nor in school. In Memphis, 17.5% of young adults were disconnected in 2018: they were neither in school nor in the workforce. This is the second highest rate of youth disconnection among metro areas with 100,000 or more young adults age 16-24, and this statistic is expected to have worsened in 2020 given the economic challenges currently facing our country. K-12 education is key to ensuring students have great options in young adulthood: the opportunity to continue their education or to find meaningful work with a living wage.
Of 381 metro areas in the US, Memphis has the lowest rate of “absolute upward mobility” for children born into lower-income families. Children born into lower-income families in Memphis are the least likely to be making meaningfully more as adults. This statistic is significantly related to the quality of education provided to lower-income children in each of these metro areas.
Related to this, Memphis is one of the cities where minority students are most likely to attend a concentrated-poverty school where over 50% of students come from lower-income families. A variety of research point to all students doing better if they do not have to attend a school with concentrated poverty.
There is a strong correlation between academic success and earned income. The cycle perpetuates as lower academic achievement contributes to higher unemployment rates, lower wages, and higher rates of single parenthood—each of which has the potential to lead to lower academic achievement in the next generation. The graphic shown here compares median earnings in Memphis by educational attainment to the federal poverty rate for a family of four ($24,300). For our school district where 25% of students do not graduate from high school and only 7% of students graduate fully prepared to enter and graduate from college, the likely future for 112,000 out of the 120,000 school age children in Memphis is one that does not adequately prepare them to raise families much above poverty.
We believe this to be both unfair and unacceptable. Join us as we seek to display Christian love expressed in equal education:
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