Eighty percent of this year's second-graders will walk across the stage at their high school graduations in 2025 prepared to pursue higher education or a meaningful career if a new Shelby County Schools (SCS) strategic plan is effective.
"Destination 2025" seeks to ensure 80 percent of graduating seniors will be college- or career-ready; 90 percent of students will graduate on time; and 100 percent of college- or career-ready graduates will enroll in a post-secondary education.
"The current state of the school system is solid but needs lots of sustained improvement," said SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson. "If we're able to reach the goals we set forth, it'll change not only schools in the district but the economic outlook for Memphis and Shelby County. We did an analysis: If we have 90 percent of students graduate and going to post-secondary opportunities, it'll generate about $5 billion in the next 10 years."
Hopson revealed the five key priorities that will be implemented to help achieve Destination 2025's goals during a kickoff event at Cummings School last week.
Those include strengthening early literacy; improving post-secondary readiness; developing teachers, leaders, and central office support to drive student success; expanding high-quality school options; and mobilizing family and community partners.
The dozens of elementary students who sat in pews in the Cummings School auditorium erupted in cheers after hearing the rewards that would be provided to the schools that boasted the highest increase in literacy rates.
Each student in both the elementary and middle school that has the greatest growth in literacy performance on this year's TCAP compared to last year will win a pair of tickets to a Grizzlies game next season.
The high school with the greatest improvement in literacy performance on its End-of-Course assessment compared to last year will receive a school-wide celebration hosted by K-97 FM, along with a yet-unnamed "A-list recording artist."
Presently, only about a third of SCS students read at grade level by the time they finish the third grade. SCS is implementing a new comprehensive literacy plan, improving pre-K classes, and seeking out more teachers who specialize in early education literacy.
"If you don't know how to read, you're going to be significantly hampered in life," Hopson said. "No matter what you want to be, you have to know how to read."
The Destination 2025 plan will provide students with more access to rigorous courses and expand the career pathways of youths who don't attend college.
The plan also seeks to strengthen SCS's development of teachers, principals, and central office supporters.
"The most important thing is not [a student's] socio-economic background or their race, but the person who stands at the front of the class, so we want to make sure that we have great teachers throughout the district," Hopson said. "We [also] want to make sure that we have great school leaders. There's no such thing as a great school without a great leader."
Destination 2025 will also target and improve identified "struggle schools" as well as provide continued expansion to the ones that presently boast higher scores.
During the celebration last week, the SCS elementary students, who sported red shirts emblazoned with the words "Destination 2025," marveled at performances from the Overton High School show choir and Whitehaven High School marching band, along with Grizz, the Memphis Grizzlies mascot.