Tennessee

Memphis Teacher Residency to share national platform under Gates grant

PHOTO: Oliver Morrison
New teachers undergo training in 2014 through the Memphis Teacher Residency.

A Memphis teacher preparation program will receive national exposure under a $35 million initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve teacher education across the nation.

The Memphis Teacher Residency, known as MTR, will pilot new preparation techniques and serve as a model for other residencies and university programs as a demonstration site for the National Center for Teacher Residencies.

The Gates Foundation announced Wednesday its investment over three years to five newly formed “Teacher Preparation Transformation Centers.” The centers will bring together higher education institutions, teacher-preparation providers and K-12 school systems to share data, knowledge and best practices for preparing new teachers.

Among those five centers is the National Center for Teacher Residencies, which has operations in Memphis, New York City, Boston, Seattle and Denver.

“This just allows our work and our impact on students in Memphis to become greater, and for us to share our lessons on a larger platform,” MTR director Robin Scott said Thursday.

The investment is the foundation’s first as part of its teacher preparation initiative, launched in April.

The Gates Foundation already has had a significant impact on teacher development in Memphis, where the recruitment, retention and training of high-quality teachers has been a longstanding challenge. In 2009, Memphis City Schools received a $90 million Gates grant to improve teacher effectiveness — initially through the city school system and later through the consolidated Shelby County Schools. The money has been used to reshape the district’s teacher strategies.

Under the new Gates initiative, the National Center for Teacher Residencies is the only “transformational center” that isn’t based in universities or state education departments.

MTR, a Christian-based nonprofit organization, differs from other non-university teacher training programs because residents spend their first year paired four days a week with an experienced Shelby County Schools teacher while attending classes Fridays and Saturdays at Union University. In their second year, they apply to jobs with the district on their own.

Residents commit to teaching for three years in Memphis after the initial residency year. Ninety-three percent of its 200 participants have continued in education after their commitment is up.

MTR has been lauded for its work preparing teachers for Shelby County classrooms. In its most recent report card for teacher preparation programs, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission complimented MTR for preparing teachers who “outperform other teachers in the state or are on an upward trend in effectiveness scores.”

MTR also operates a summer program to recruit college students from across the nation to experience urban education in Memphis, as well as to stem summer learning loss among the city’s low-income students.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.