Memphis Teacher Residency Launches Literacy Institute


Memphis Teacher Residency (MTR) today announced the creation of the Memphis Literacy Institute, founded with a vision to further efforts to build literacy across the MidSouth by developing, understanding, and sharing methods for effectively teaching literacy skills. The Institute will provide robust strategy and deep and intentional resources committed to teacher training in the science of reading.

The Memphis Literacy Institute is a response to a literacy crisis in Memphis. Only 23% of all Shelby County Schools third grade students are on grade level in ELA, and at some schools this number is as low as 8%. MTR will draw on 12 years of experience in teacher training to offer resources and improve teacher effectiveness in literacy instruction. MTR envisions the Institute as a resource uniquely positioned to fill a need in teacher training that will work as a complement to Memphis’s existing literacy efforts. One key to success will be MTR’s deep and trusted relationships with Shelby County Schools and Achievement School District leadership, as well as entrenched and respected partnerships with 36 partner schools. 

Because of these existing relationships with schools and teachers, and an established track record, MTR is uniquely positioned to serve educators through the Memphis Literacy Institute. Out of 39 teacher preparation programs in the state, MTR has been among the top two programs on the Tennessee Teacher Preparation Report Cards for each of the last three years. MTR has a history of consistently and effectively training early-career teachers, as evaluated by Shelby County Schools and the Tennessee Teacher Preparation Report Card.

The immediate goals of the Memphis Literacy Institute are to establish a reading specialist certification, provide the Memphis Literacy Conference on July 31st of this year, and create rigorous and accessible literacy-based professional development opportunities for K-12 Memphis educators. MTR Camp, built to prevent summer learning loss, will also be housed within the Institute. 

MTR Executive Director David Montague shared his enthusiasm for the organization’s growth, “We’re excited to get started immediately with the reading specialist certification, and follow with the Memphis Literacy Conference on July 31st. Because of the diligent work of our instructors, mentors, and teachers, we have proven experience in teacher training. This new emphasis on providing professional development at scale across the city—and specifically in the science of reading—is our next step in doing our part to address the needs of Memphis students.” 

SCS Superintendent Joris Ray shared his support for the Institute, “Today, one of our city’s most significant needs is the immediate improvement of literacy rates beginning at the earliest of grades. SCS supports the work of the Memphis Literacy Institute, MTR’s new reading initiative. The complexity of reading instruction and the scope of our city’s literacy need demands that there be broad, community-based efforts working together. At the forefront of that effort must be high-quality and research-based literacy training experiences for both early-career and veteran teachers.”

The Memphis Literacy Institute will operate from the Memphis Teacher Residency offices and training site at the Crosstown Concourse. 

Shelby County Commissioner, former TFA teacher and charter school founder Michael Whaley shared his support for the new Conference: “Education is clearly the number one priority for Shelby County government and its largest area of funding. One of our greatest challenges in education is to significantly improve reading proficiency outcomes of our city’s students. Therefore, I’m supportive of and encouraged to see the Memphis Literacy Conference become a high-quality community resource to promote research based, best practices in literacy instruction for our city’s K-12 leaders and teachers.” 

The Memphis Literacy Conference will take place Saturday, July 31st, from 8am to 2pm at the Concourse. Registration opens today, April 6th, and information can be found at

About Memphis Teacher Residency 

Memphis Teacher Residency is consistently rated by the Tennessee State Board of Education to be among the top teacher preparation programs in Tennessee. Since its founding in 2009, MTR has trained 475 teachers for under-resourced Memphis schools toward its vision of restored communities living with dignity and in peace. Learn more at