Building on 'Multiple Achievement Paths'

By Prescott, Barbara | The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), March 23, 2012 | Go to article overview

Building on 'Multiple Achievement Paths'


Prescott, Barbara, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)


On March 8, the Transition Planning Commission voted to recommend an administrative structure for the merged Shelby County Schools district. The "Multiple Achievement Paths" model was the clear choice after commissioners considered two other options - and for good reason. This structure offers the most flexibility and opportunity for all students.

Two weeks earlier, the TPC adopted a framework identifying the educational priorities of the merged district that will serve families in Memphis and Shelby County. This framework calls for strong leaders and exceptional teachers who hold themselves and our students to rigorous standards in a culture of high expectations. Add to that, the commitment to provide targeted interventions to students who need more support, quality choices for students, and the recognition of the importance of parents, families and the community investing in the education of our children. We believe these priorities will enable our students to graduate from high school ready for success in college and career, and we are convinced that the Multiple Achievement Paths approach is the structure that can best support the delivery of those priorities.

To get to this decision, members of the Administrative Structure and Governance committee spent more than two months conducting deep research to determine the best fit for the needs of our students. We took a close look at successful and high-performing districts across the country and examined their structures. Through our listening tour sessions and speaking engagements we listened to the input of close to 3,000 participants across the entire county. And we looked at the current strategies of Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools and captured the best qualities from each to apply to the new structure.

In the end, what led us to this recommendation is that the Multiple Achievement Paths approach embodies the principle that high academic achievement for all students is the primary focus rather than any particular way to get there.

Since this is a model designed especially for Shelby County, many are wondering what it will look like. Although some details will need to be ironed out, this structure promises fresh qualities that will lead to an accountable path to achievement for students of different needs in different types of schools. Ultimately, the performance of a school and the quality of opportunity it provides children is more important than its structure. The Multiple Achievement Paths model not only recognizes but also embraces a variety of ways to address student needs rather than a "one size fits all" strategy.

Some advantages of the structure are that all schools are held to common high performance standards and there are multiple paths to school-level autonomy, where more decisions are made closer to the students. The structure encourages and provides opportunity for collaboration, learning and sharing of best practices across school types. …

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