Why Suburbs Will Eventually Win on Schools

Posted by John Branston on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Where there's a will there's a way, and there are more ways than ever when it comes to school choice in public education.

First, there is plenty of will, as evidenced by the smashingly successful suburban referendums earlier this year. The strongest force in the universe is a parent determined to get his or her child into a good public school. The current Shelby County school system is essentially what the Memphis optional schools were a few decades ago: the public school option of choice for middle-class families and some affluent families.

The courtroom setback was a gimme for the Shelby County Commission and federal judge Samuel H. Mays. The 'burbs were sunk in the opening minutes of the trial in September when commission attorney Leo Bearman played the videotape of that legislative exchange about "Shelby County only." Attorneys for the defendants promptly objected, but the damage was done. The suburban champions were caught on tape and on Rep. G. A. Hardaway's clever hook. This was bad law, pure and simple. Mays let the defense team run on for a while about the rural county cover story, but the tape was devastating. Plain words mean what they say. His citation was the dictionary.

The pending segregation claim won't be so easy. Common sense and mathematics could doom it. There aren't enough white students in the public schools to integrate all of them. Ninety percent of Memphis public school students attend de-facto segregated schools. That won't change with unification. Most county schools have diverse student bodies. The exception is Southwind High School, with 12 white students in a student body of 1,653, and its feeder schools. That has the ingredients for an interesting segregation claim, but the federal appeals court has already overruled a Memphis federal court ruling that would have racially balanced the county schools.

The merger of Memphis and Shelby County schools is by all accounts unique in size and scale. It goes against the grain. The trend is smaller, fragmented school systems. I was surprised at just how small some big-city school systems are relative to Memphis. Nashville/Davidson County has 74,680 students. Atlanta has 59,000. Detroit has 51,674. New Orleans had 65,000 pre-Katrina and is a melting pot of charter schools and traditional schools today. St. Louis, taken over by the state five years ago and the subject of a glowing report in The Wall Street Journal this week, has just over 24,000 students.

Nashville, with the blessing of Mayor Karl Dean and Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, is pushing for charter school expansion to the middle class over the opposition of the local school board. The state-run Achievement School District for failing schools is slated to grow in Memphis. The Republican-dominated state legislature is sympathetic to charters as are private donors such as the Gates Foundation. Vouchers have support. Most important, alternative schools have support from teachers and parents who are the ultimate deciders.

Finally, the dysfunctional unified school board with its core of MCS charter surrender proponents is its own worst enemy. The board, which meets Thursday, is likely to close only a handful of schools instead of the 21 closings recommended by the Transition Planning Commission. (There are 45 Memphis schools and 10 Shelby County schools with under 65 percent utilization, according to the TPC.) This will throw the budget out of whack, condemn the half-empty schools to failure or mediocrity, reduced course offerings, and limited extracurricular activities.

My sympathies and my treasure are with Memphis, but my gut tells me suburbs will get their own autonomous school systems within a few years and that this week's federal court ruling was a temporary setback. It is as inevitable as conference realignment in college sports.

Comments (25)

Showing 1-25 of 25

Nashville/Davidson county has far less students within its public school system because there are more students attending private high schools in Davidson County than public. I've lived in Nashville for 10 years and went to college with many people from Davidson Co at MTSU, and have only met 3 whites who went to public Davidson Co schools...the rest all attended private schools. The feeling in Nashville is if you're white and can afford to do so, you either move to Williamson, Sumner or Rutherford Co...or find a private school. While Davidson Co has some fine elementary schools, by the time kids reach high school age, their parents start looking for alternatives.

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Posted by MTB on 11/29/2012 at 2:42 PM


Your next to last paragraph is one of the reasons we want our own autonomous systems.

I know there are those who think our efforts are directed toward separating ourselves from Memphis children, Memphis teachers, or just Memphis. That is not true nor has it ever been true, not that we can make any of our opponents believe that.

It has always been a single issue: Who makes the decisions about our children's education?

We believe, with much justification, that larger is not better, that those closest to the children should decide their education futures, and that those closest to the children are therefore the most accountable. We think that smaller systems lead to better communication between the stakeholders, and smaller systems are better managed and thus more fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.

One must concede the fact that the joining of the two systems, with its proposed budget deficit ($100 Million?) is pretty good evidence that we are right.

I wish I had power to see in the future and determine how all this will end. I suspect either the suburbs will have their own municipal systems or exist as Charter schools under a Unified System umbrella. Either solution works for me. All we want is the authority to make decisions for our own children.

I will say two more things. I am hearing some very good things about working relationships developing between the newly elected Unified Board members from Memphis and our local representatives. Sure hope that is the case and we can reach an equitable solution outside of court and before the legislature gets further involved.

But if that does not work out, please remember that people who have resources also have options and they will exercise those options if they need to.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 11/29/2012 at 6:43 PM

If you didn't want to separate yourself from Memphis you wouldn't have moved to Arlington. Saying this isn't true over and over again doesn't make it so. I see no reason to try and deny it. All I ever seem to hear from suburbanites is how horrible and scary Memphis is.

And I don't believe you have much justification that larger is not better. Since you're making that statement, you have the burden of proof to supply evidence that backs up your claim. Also, why don't you speak for yourself instead of the supposedly diverse group of people that live out east.

For what it's worth, I agree with this article that the suburbs will get what they want. It's rare that they don't.

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Posted by clegg on 11/30/2012 at 12:04 PM


Then let me be the first suburbanite to declare I find Memphis neither horrible nor scary. I love Memphis. I moved out to Arlington to be close to my work, and because i could get a lot of house for the money, not to get away from Memphis. In fact, the goods and services out here are somewhat lacking and I find myself more and more traveling into Memphis to buy them. Happy to pay Memphis sales taxes in the process.

Good point that I have the burden to make the case that smaller is better. Be kind enough to allow me a little time to get those references together and I will surely be back to you. In the meantime, there is a paragraph in John's article above which you may find interesting.

I did not know I was presuming to speak for anyone other than myself, although you might consider that 87% of Arlington, Collierville, and Germantown, Lakeland and Millington voters apparently do indeed think like I do, and give me a little slack in that regard if i get too pompous. I certainly agree with you that the 87% was composed of a diverse group of people.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 11/30/2012 at 2:02 PM


I can't speak for AP. He did a fine job himself, but I will say that yes some suburbanites choose to live in the suburbs to NOT be a part of Memphis. Those same people would probably choose to live in suburbs in Nashville, Atlanta, St. Louis, Boston, wherever.

Some people prefer urban life. Some people prefer suburban life. Some people prefer more rural living. That's a fact of EVERY major metro area in the US. In other words, it isn't because it's Memphis. It's because it's the big city, and that won't appeal to everyone.

I enjoy my little suburban bubble. I do come to Memphis on occasion for certain things, but my commute to work is less than 10 minutes. I shop in Germantown. I generally eat my meals in Germantown. Anything I can't get at the local Target, grocery store, or other clothing store, I can order online, so I rarely leave. I do venture into Collierville a decent amount, but that's about as far as I go regularly.

Point being, I have nothing against Memphis or its people. I just enjoy where I live, and since I spend all my time out here I would prefer if my neighbors are handling the majority of the important issues dealing with my city, not people that have no idea what we have going on in our city. No offense to AP, but honestly I don't want him or anyone from Arlington, Millington, Bartlett or wherever else making those decisions either. I'd prefer as much be handled locally by my neighbors as possible.

For the record, my decision to live where I do is solely predicated on the lifestyle I choose. If I had wanted to be closer to the action, I would live in Midtown or Downtown, but I prefer suburban life. My neighbors are almost all retirees or young families. There are virtually no college kids or young singles out here, and I like it that way. If that's the lifestyle you want, you will choose to live here too.

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Posted by GroveReb84 on 11/30/2012 at 2:24 PM

Grove, I appreciate and understand what and why you are saying what you say. The only problem I have with that is when it comes to schools, they will never be yours to run. The schools( system) belong to the state and all of its people. Thaey are spastic. They will change whith the whims of the public, at large, the legislators and Governor. One day it may be msds, the next day, county, and maybebe, state. So, you and the others that think like that are in error. One can never control that which is and never can be theirs to control.

That is why there are private schools and religous schools. Even there, you really don't have the type of control that you are talking about. That would only come from home schooling.

Again, you seem to be making plausible reasons for something that will always be, " A Bridge Too Far".

I don't blame your for trying though.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 11/30/2012 at 2:48 PM

That's true of anything OTP.

The federal government allows the states to do certain things. The states allow counties and cities to do certain things. That's the structure, and yes, at any time, that can change.

The federal government could take education responsibility away from the states if it chose, and they could take it away from the counties and cities if they wanted to. They could create an Education Czar and let him run the US school district for all public schools in the US.

However, that doesn't change the fact that I would PREFER my public schools be run by those closest to me with the same interests and same lifestyle choices as me.

That has nothing to do with laws. They can always change, as you stated, but if public education goes to hell in a handbasket, then anyone with means will find other outlets. Ideally, it won't go that route nationwide, but if it did, people would quit using it. That's why it's in the government's best interest (federal, state, and local) to find the best avenue for public education and delegate the control of that to whatever level it deems best.

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Posted by GroveReb84 on 11/30/2012 at 3:25 PM


You're not paying attention. If you were, you'd know that Memphis recently declared Memphis a "blighted menace".

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Posted by Honey Nuts on 11/30/2012 at 3:41 PM


Sorry to take a while to get back to you on the "smaller is better" issue. I racked my office looking for that file, but could not find it.

I did find some notes I had made, this one about some work done on the financial issues associated with large systems, issues we are seeing for real here in the deficits projected as a result of merging into one mammoth system:


This one deals a little bit with the financial issues, but mostly about other benefits of smaller systems versus larger ones.


Hope this enough to keep the conversation going, at least.

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 11/30/2012 at 9:14 PM

One of the more telling characteristics of super large scale systems is that they tend to encounter failure as the norm rather than the exception and it is extremely unlikely that all components will function at any one time.

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Posted by Honey Nuts on 11/30/2012 at 9:49 PM


Some more stuff with references you can check out:

Education and Urban Society, Feb 1989, "A District of a Certain Size, An Exploration of the Debate on School District Size" by Florence R. Webb, University of California, Berkeley.

The following is a compilation of quotes by researchers on the subject of school district size in relation to their mission. All quotes are from various articles taken from Education and Urban Society, Feb 1989.

From "District Size and Student Learning," by Herbert J. Walberg University of Illinois at Chicago.

"But it appears that smaller districts on average may be more effective and efficient: Their students appear to score higher on standardized tests (other things being equal) and they may be more satisfying to parents and citizens."

"...large schools are concentrated in large districts." Coleman and Laroque (1986)

"Similarly, Strang (1987) documented the rising power of state bureaucracy and the decline of local autonomy even as districts grew larger. He saw the transformation of U.S. education from informal community control into large-scale bureaucratic organization stemming in part from the expansionary role of the states."

"Smaller districts (and privately financed schools) can ill afford such specialization but may actually have advantages in maintaining a cohesive general curriculum; adapting to local preferences and conditions; and strengthening ties among school, home, and community. Such districts may do fewer things better and avoid spurious categorization of students and needless administrative complexity."

"If larger districts do worse, then the largest might be expected to do worst. Many citizens and educators, indeed, believe that such cities as Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York are education catastrophes. Some policy analysts have proposed radical schemes that would have received little serious consideration a decade ago. These include...breaking up large-city districts into free-standing smaller units;...." (emphasis added.)

"...the consolidation of districts into larger units that has been taking place for the past half century may have been a move in the wrong direction. Generally, it appears that the smaller the district, the higher the achievement when the socioeconomic status and per-student expenditures are taken into account. Why? Superintendent and central staff awareness of citizen and parent preferences, the absence of bureaucratic layers and administrative complexity, teacher involvement in decision making, and close home-school relations--these may account for the apparent relative efficiency of small districts in North America."

From "Size, The Ultimate Educational Issue?" by Barney M. Berlin, Robert C. Cienkus, Loyola University of Chicago.

"Why does smaller seem to work better? In their own ways, all of the authors have answered this question. The literature on educational change repeats the answer. That is, people seem to learn, to change, and to grow in situations in which they feel that they have some control, some personal influence, some efficacy. Those situations in which parents, teachers, and students are bonded together in the pursuit of learning are likely to be the most productive."

From "School and School District Size Relationships: Costs, Results, Minorities, and Private School Enrollments" by Robert W. Jewell, University of Chicago.

"...a significant number of families may choose to send their children to private schools because they wish to avoid educational associations for their children with large public school districts and/or large public schools."

"Students in states with smaller districts and smaller schools have higher SAT and ACT scores."

"Minority public schools in the United States are concentrated in states that have large school districts and school districts that have large schools."(Could this be one reason why minorities are struggling to improve?)

"Per-pupil expenditure averages ... have no significant statistical relationship ...(to) average school district sizes, proportions of students in large districts, or average school sizes." (Large district size does not appear to be less expensive.)

!!! "...private school enrollment ... has strong positive relationships with district size and school size -- the larger the districts and schools, the higher the proportion of non-Catholic private school enrollments among the states."

From "School Size, The Continuing Controversy" by Kent McGuire, Education Commission of the States.

"Generally, there is agreement that unit costs are higher in the smallest and largest schools. Various studies characterize per-pupil costs as having a U-shaped average cost curve, where costs are high in both the smallest and largest schools."

"The number of school districts was then reduced from approximately 128,000 in 1930 to 36,000 in 1960. There are fewer than 16,000 today."

From "A District of a Certain Size, An Exploration of the Debate on School District Size" by Florence R. Webb University of California, Berkeley.

"...Webb & Ohm (1984) found smaller districts more efficient than larger ones in both dollars per student and numbers of administrators per student...."

"Real spending on K-12 education in the U.S. increased more than fourfold -- after inflation (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1973, in Guthrie, 1979) -- during the period when district consolidations were increasing district size one hundred and fifty fold."

"...achievement drops as enrollment levels rise."

"I believe splitting districts to optimum size would solve the accountability problem on a local rather than state level and provide happier citizens and teachers."

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Posted by ArlingtonPop on 11/30/2012 at 10:37 PM


There are all sorts of studies, pro and con for smaller school districts, but, by and large, they miss the one caveat that is prevalent in large school districts. That is who makes up the student population of large districts.

If a large district is composed mostly of below poverty minority students, then the scores of that district will be lower. That has nothing to do with the size of the district, but the disadvantaged students that make up that district.

When correlations have been done, leaving size out, it is an established fact that suburban schools, with a student population made up of two family homes, better educated parents, more economic resources, you get higher schores, and that is regardless of size. If you do just the opposite, a student population mostly of single parent homes, less educated parents and parents below the poverty line, you get lower scores and that is also regardless of school size. So, it is not merely the size of the school district, but, more importantly, the makeup of the students and families that comprise that district. Without taking these facts into considerations, one could easily assume that a smaller suburban district is better because it is smaller, but, alas, that is just not the case.

If you have a large school district and the attendance zones are neighborhood sourced, within that large district, you will find the more prosperous and beetter educated parents kids score better than kids in different neighborhoods with less two family homes, less educated parents and more poverty. That, Clegg, has nothing to do with the size of the district.

A great example of this: family A is a two parent home, the parents income is middle class or above, the parents have a college education. In their every day life, better grammar is used, everyday math is used in the budgeting of the famiy resources, their children are abe to see georgraphy, travel, able to actually participate in what is considered normal activities unencumbered by finances, you will have better students.

Family B is a single parent home. The single parent makes less than the poverty line. The parent either has less than a high school education or just high school. Poor grammar is used as the norm in their daily life, there is no concept of georgraphy, they can't afford to travel and experience very little difference in coulture. Math is not used in every day family life, because the resources are not there in the first place. In this situation, student A will always out perform student B. This has nothing to do with the quality of the teachers, the school district or the administration.

So, what you and others are really saying when you say smaller is class grouping. Kids of similar classess will score relatively equal, with the higher social classes of students scoring consistently higher than the students of lower classes. This is what you are really saying when you crow about smaller is better.

We, the african americans and hispanics have done our own studies and we understajnd what is happening. That is why we fight so hard to keep from having segregated school districts.

All of this talk about smaller is better is nothing but the new code language used by you people..

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/01/2012 at 9:19 AM

@ Clegg

One last thing. Why do you think that smaller is better never used to butress an argument in a court of law?

It is not used because it is simply not true and is easily debunked. Why do you think that the perceived quality of the BOE and the administration, teachers, etc was never brought up in this court case? It wasn't brought up because it is simply not true and there is plenty of proof showing that it is not true.

Take Malia and Sasha Obama as a great example. Just being in the position that they are in, the environment and the extensive travel that they do automatically make them smarter than your kids in the county. All learning does not just take place in the classroom. Other than being the president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama are highly educated. There day to day activities, whether he was president or not has a great influence on what his daughters will learn.

Now, someone out there will say, bullshit. Just don't say it, but, please refute it with some facts and/or proven theories?

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/01/2012 at 9:28 AM

Once again we are really talking about the haves and have nots.
Memphis has managed it's school system based on politcal favoritism
and racism. Now they want the county to bail them out of the fire
and pay off thier debt and still keep control of the school system.

If you have run this system into the ground (which obviously you have) then if you want a combined system, step back and let the governments who have profitable school districts run this program.

Or will the city fathers admin failure on more levels that I have time to write about. I have heard city fathers state the rich white folk, well this has been a "chocolate city" (in the words of another failed politician/city) for more than 20 years and I do not see the city father bringing in significant new jobs other than low paying distribution companies.

Oh by the way I live in Memphis and have done so for over 55 years.

Vote for change and betterment next time instead of political or racist lines
as New Orleans has done and then look for improvement

Posted by I Love Memphis on 12/29/2012 at 10:55 PM

Up to this date, I have still not seen a respected study that shows smaller is better. Oh, there are plenty of studies that, on the surface, appears that smaller is better. On these studies, when you get down into the weeds of them, you find that the only, smaller is better approach, is really class grouping of students from the same socio-economic and environmental group. If you have smaller districts, then it is more likely that you will find neighborhood attendance. This means that the affluent and more educated parents will likely be grouped together, result, higher test scores and less disciplinary problems. It will also be true on the opposite end, more parents that come from one family , more poverty, less educated households. Result, lower test scores, more disciplinary problems. This is not limited to race, but to any group with similar circumstances.

This has been known for years. That is why colleges and universities recruit on an individual basis. They realize that if a district has the facilities, the proper administration, qualified teachers, education then boils down to the individual student. So, rather than, so much, look at the district, the onus is on the achievement of the individual student.

The false analogy that neighborhood schools are better because they are closer to the parents is pure bullshit. It only seems that they are better because in the neighborhoods, municipals, the socio-economic and parents education are higher, thus making for so-called smarter

If one only goes to areas that are overwhelmingly white, but has less two family, more poverty based and less parental education homes, you will find that the scores of those students are just as low as the scores from larger and/or smaller districts of minority students with the same circumstances. All one has to do is look at the TDOE, scores, etc, and one can easily pick out the poor ones, race aside.

The only difference in the smaller vs larger is not the district, but, the smaller class sizes. If you only had 10 to 15 students in a class in the Memphis Schools, you would see remarkable and immediate progress in the scores of the students. That has been proven to be the difference maker, however, it would be too expensive for most urban school districts or for any state system to sustain. Yes, give me only ten students, regardless of race, socio-economic and environmental status, and those students will perform better. That is also a proven fact.

Since you know and I know that the learning by students is more based on the family's circumstances and that the child from better homes will attain irrespective of what the opposite students do, in this situation, race does play a part, a larger part than any of you will admit. I am not saying that this is with all of the suburban parents, but they have been duped by people into thinking that race has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Being unified with the MCS will not make any smart kid dumber. That is a fact and a wrap. If anyone can, please prove to me that it does. Yes, it will make the overall stats of the unified district lower, but, it will not affect the achievement of the individual students.

Thank you!

Btw, the federal constitution has no guarantee of providing education for it's kids. Those are covered under the various state constitutions.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/30/2012 at 4:45 AM

"The false analogy that neighborhood schools are better because they are closer to the parents is pure bullshit. It only seems that they are better because in the neighborhoods, municipals, the socio-economic and parents education are higher, thus making for so-called smarter students."

So you are saying that a neighborhood school in a higher socio-economic area is not better because it is only the parents and higher income circumstances that make them better?

Therefore the neighborhood schools in the lower socio-economic realm are worse because...

of the less educated parents, siingle parents, higher number of children - higher birth rates, etc.?

Are you saying neighborhood schools don't work for African-American students in most of the former MCS? Because...

And that is why you don't support neighborhood schools?

"Being unified with the MCS will not make any smart kid dumber. That is a fact and a wrap. If anyone can, please prove to me that it does. Yes, it will make the overall stats of the unified district lower, but, it will not affect the achievement of the individual students."

Doesn't that depend on if all the students that are in the county schools are not moved or reassigned at all?

Or are you saying that even if they are reassigned to other schools with larger african-American populations that there test scores will not be any less?

If that is what you are saying, then suppose all students were reassigned where you have one white students surrounded by 6 black students. That is about the ratio in the county. Then that will not affect the test scores of those white students???

Or if Collierville and Southwind are forced to integrate 50-50 by the changing of the schools to junior and high schools or another mixture of somekind to have these schools forcibly integrated, are you saying test scores in that situation will not change. Perhaps the white students scores will increase because of an exposure to greater cultural diversity?

Really, it is the policies of the board of education that must change to help the masses of black students in the high poverty areas and other areas. You can put everybody in the same pot, but that will not help the students of Binghamton or Orange Mound, etc.

You have to change the culture of education in these areas and get the students to WANT to learn. Many, many students in the MCS care too little for learning.

If everyone wanted to learn with the same intensity in Shelby County, going from point A to point B individually, there would be much less of a problem.

Sadly, the culture of learning in many homes in high poverty areas is anathema to suburban parents and students, regardless if they are white or black or Hispanic.

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Posted by TruthBeTold on 12/30/2012 at 1:07 PM

If you want to put this whole discussion in perspective there are some analysis pieces in the CA you might want to read. Last Sunday Chris Peck told the sad story of Princess and Travis, and this Sunday there are two pieces describing Poverty Inc. Everyone in Memphis and Shelby County should read these articles. The thing that amazes me is that the CA printed them. To paraphrase Bill Cosby, in anticipation of the demise of their paper maybe they are trying to get into newspaper heaven.

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Posted by Drift Boat on 12/30/2012 at 1:48 PM

The story of Princess and Travis says it all.

Posted by TruthBeTold on 12/30/2012 at 2:51 PM


You are trying to play with my words.

If you integrate Southwind and make it 50-50. the school is the only thing that will go up from what it is now. The kids that want to will and the kids that don't won't. Now if you cut class size down to 15 or less students at Southwind, get qualified teachers with knowledge of poverty stricken children, individual scores will improve and immediately.

Truth, if you would look at the individual scores of the unincorporated students and students from one parent, less educated, poverty stricken homes in the county schools, you will see a wide disparity of the scores when compared to just the opposite home circumstances.

Yes, you have to make students want to learn, but, first you have to be able to get pass the circumstances of these poor students lives at home and in their community. That takes a certain type of teacher. The brand new ASD teachers that are still seeking certification and your well qualified county school teachers will not and can not cut it. No reflection on their qualifications or their wanting to do a good job, the whole atmosphere that they would be teaching in would be foreign to them. Good teachers are not just measured by the certificants that they hold or what is in their hearts, but a diverse set of experiences that help them to understand the circumstances of the students that they are trying to teach.

I have never said that I was not for neighborhood schools, however, with modern modes of transportation, any school in this district won't require that much travel. I have never said that schools should be forcefully intergrated either.

I was merely debunking your theory that smaller districts, in itself, were better.

I still haven't gotten anyone to prove that I am wrong. I got patience.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/30/2012 at 3:59 PM


I just finished looking at the TDOE Report Card fo Shelby County Schools. You would be surprised at what I found. It was exactly what I suspected, but, even worse.

I looked at all of the county schools, but, I zeroed in on Collierville Middle School, years 2012, 1011 and 2010. I looked at the demographic version, a breakdow of scores from all subgroups, African American, White, Asian, Hispanic, etc. It shows that african americans trail their white peers in Collierville Middle School by 13 to over 20 points. It is the same for Germantown, Houston, etc. The disparity between african americans is about the same, or worse ratio as the Memphis City Schools compared to the county schools.

If the shelby county schools are so superior to Memphis Schools, explain why this is happening? Same Schools, same administrators, same teachers. Like you said smaller is better.

According to the TDOE Report Card, african americans are currently faring no better than they are in the Memphis Schools.

You can llok it up yourself. Will some one tell me why this is happening, being as though the county, with their smaller district, extraordinary administrators, teachers, etc. These are figures that the state of Tennessee supplied, so, I assume that they are correct.

So much for the smaller, better ran county schools.

I rest my case.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/30/2012 at 4:51 PM

Olden splay is just flat lying again. All anyone has to do is go look. I urge you to do so. Go to the TDOE WEB site and look at Shelby County, select the "accountability" tab, and scroll to the bottom of the page. Then look at Memphis and do the same thing.

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Posted by Honey Nuts on 12/30/2012 at 5:18 PM


I have to confess to not being totally up to speed with this arguement, as I have taken a couple of steps back from making comments here and at the CA.

Naively, I wasn't referring to the arguement of small districts versus large districts in the first part of that post. I didn't mean to defend or to imply that county schools are superior schools. That has never been something that I have tried to debate about. I have lamented plenty about the problems of MCS and the lack of change or vision to fix them.

I think there are many fine schools in MCS, but the policies that are enforced do little to help the problems and Cash and the Board have done little to change the culture of the schools and especially the students. Their answer is to get better teachers through Bill gates, et. al.

I think that a good MCS school could teach the kids in Collierville or vice-versa (If theoretically possible). But it would take a year to get used to the change. Sad to say, but based on test scores, the black school would have to beef up its academics, while the white school would have to water down (dummy down - but I was wanting to avoid variations of that term.) some of its academics. Some MCS schools are a mess - faculty and administration, of course.

I'm sorry, just putting my opinion with no facts to back anything up, as usual, I think that smaller districts are better than large ones. I think MCS should be divided into 6 or 7 districts to let each community become real stakeholders where they feel they have some actual control with policy for that particular area and can fire the Board members more easily, as well as the principals and change policy on teachers and students which ever way they want.

"I looked at all of the county schools, but, I zeroed in on Collierville Middle School, years 2012, 1011 and 2010. I looked at the demographic version, a breakdow of scores from all subgroups, African American, White, Asian, Hispanic, etc. It shows that african americans trail their white peers in Collierville Middle School by 13 to over 20 points. It is the same for Germantown, Houston, etc. The disparity between african americans is about the same, or worse ratio as the Memphis City Schools compared to the county schools."

"If the shelby county schools are so superior to Memphis Schools, explain why this is happening? Same Schools, same administrators, same teachers."

"According to the TDOE Report Card, african americans are currently faring no better than they are in the Memphis Schools."

"Will some one tell me why this is happening, being as though the county, with their smaller district, extraordinary administrators, teachers, etc. These are figures that the state of Tennessee supplied, so, I assume that they are correct."

OTP, being a very experienced teacher I can give you the answer as you already know it. It is the culture of the students that account for the differences - most of the differences. The culture of bad habbits, how parents teach their kids when they are young, the culture of learning - do students want or like to learn, how much time is devoted to homework before the ipods are pulled out and the ear buds are put in, results oriented parents, etc., etc.

I know it sounds bad for me to say these things, but my opinion is based on my experience. When you say even in County Schools the African-Americans don't do as well with test scores. To me, there are still cultural differences, but not as big a difference as in MCS. Black families have different habbits, or their kids do. There remain differences between middle class white and black families. These differences account for the differences in the test scores, for the most part. Just my personal opinion with no facts to back it up. All you have to do is open your eyes. The more you dilute high concentrations of blacks students, the better off they are. However, equal mixes of the races will not help the test scores of white students. Just my opinion.

As a black female student told me many, many years ago. She had just transferred from Craigmont to the school I taught at. She said Craigmont was about 50-50, while now she was at a 99% school. She wasn't very happy with the change. She said something like, "when you have a lot of black and white students together, it is not as bad." "But when you have all black students, they all act a fool." I believe there is something to that. It just had astonished me when she said it to me, and I never forgot it.

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Posted by TruthBeTold on 12/30/2012 at 6:29 PM

Race isn't the issue.

Shelby County English II Grades 9-12

AA below basic = 10.50%
W below basic = 2.2%
AA advance = 5.9
W advanced = 23.9%

Shelby County Algebra I Grades 9-12

AA below basic = 18.4%
W below basic = 6.2%
AA advance = 16.9%
W advanced = 40.1%

About 50% White students and 50% Black students.

Memphis City Schools English II Grades 9-12

AA below basic = 24.00%
W below basic = 5.1%
AA advance = 3.3
W advanced = 28.9

Memphis City Schools Algebra I Grades 9-12

AA below basic = 30.00%
W below basic = 16.3%
AA advance = 11.1%
W advanced = 33.7%

About 17% White students and 83% Black Students

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Posted by Honey Nuts on 12/30/2012 at 7:06 PM

At my workplace, I am privileged to have some students that have a "love for learning," but not nearly enough show that drive and good habits that are necessary to be competitive and highly successful in the real world. Many have great potential, but few will become extremely accomplished. Improving students habits would help them become more of what they can be.

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Posted by TruthBeTold on 12/30/2012 at 7:09 PM


You hit the nail right on the head. When there is a mixture of students in a school, district, etc., the school is a better environment for the school, especially black students.

But, you do see what I am saying about the differences in the scores between the races and especially with the different coultures and economics.

Most of the suburban people think that the Memphis schools are just totally bad. Well, they are doing about the same job with poverty stricken black kids as the county schools are. Yet, the suburbanites praise their schools to high heaven.

I have constantly said that the problem with education in Memphis and Shelby County is not the schools, but the differences in the economics and social stability of the different families. I have been laughed at because I say that the state gives no guarantee to every child that they will succeed. The state only mandates that the schools are prepared to give every child the opportunity to succeed. That opportunity is available at the city schools or the county schools equally. That, Truth is all that a parent and/or taxpayer can expect from any school system or district or school.

Smaller is not better unless the smaller district has parents with better education, two parents in the home and better economics. If that small district does not have those things, I will show you a small district that is scoring low.

The only thing that will work to some extent is smaller class sizes. That, throughout the years has proven to work.

My son went to tutoring a few times. He doesn't go anymore because the classes are so large that it is virtually useless.

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Posted by oldtimeplayer on 12/30/2012 at 10:06 PM
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