On a recent Tuesday morning at Dexter Elementary School, kindergarten teacher Ashley DeBerry and Tyler Salyer sat down to talk. Salyer used to be a teacher, then he joined the Shelby County Schools Performance Improvement Team, or PIT Crew.
“You ready to get down to business?” he asked DeBerry.
This is DeBerry’s first year teaching and she’s getting a lot of help. A more senior teacher at Dexter Elementary mentors her, she collaborates with the other kindergarten teachers, and she checks in with Salyer regularly.
Students across the state will sit down and take a set of state tests called the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), starting this week, and for the first time their scores on those tests will factor into their teachers’ evaluations and their own second semester grades.
Come August, the state will be calling the shots at Frayser Elementary, Corning Elementary, and Westside Middle. The schools are the first to be announced in Tennessee’s Achievement School District. The achievement district was created as a part of the state’s application to get federal “Race to the Top” money and it is a state-run district for low performing schools.
The Knowledge Is Power Program, or KIPP, is a national network of charter schools that have extended school days and a relentless focus on college. Currently, there are about 500 KIPP students in Memphis, but when the expansion is all done, in 2016, KIPP will have 4,500 students in every grade, kindergarten through 12. And 10 separate schools—five in North Memphis and five in South Memphis.