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City Study 2019: Memphis - Summary of Findings

This summary highlights major findings about the academic performance of students in Memphis public K-12 schools. Performance is measured by students’ academic growth. For the period ending in Spring 2015, we use student test scores from the 2013-14 school year as starting scores to calculate student growth. Tennessee student test data for the 2015-16 school year are incomplete. Therefore, growth for the 2015-16 school year could not be computed and are not included in this analysis. For the period ending in Spring 2017, we use student test scores from the 2014-15 school year as starting scores to compute student growth. We benchmark the growth of Memphis students against the state average growth and then compare the progress of charter school students with that of similar TPS students within Memphis, accounting for student characteristics.1

Overall: In both reading and math, students in Memphis schools made learnings gains similar to the state average in the 2014-15 and 2016-17 school years.  

Sector: In reading, Memphis students attending charter schools or magnet schools experienced similar growth compared to the state average in 2014-15 and 2016-17. Students in Innovation schools posted weaker reading gains compared to the state average in 2014-15 and reading gains similar to the state average in 2016-17. Students attending other TPS experienced weaker growth compared to the state average in both growth periods. In math, all Memphis students, regardless of the sector in which they enrolled, performed similarly to the state average in 2014-15 and 2016-17. Cross-sector comparisons reveal students in magnet schools and students in charter schools outperformed students in non-innovation, non-magnet TPS in reading in 2016-17. Students attending Memphis charter schools in 2014-15 posted significantly weaker math gains compared to students attending Memphis non-innovation, non-magnet TPS.

A deeper dive into Memphis student growth from the 2014-15 school year to the 2016-17 school year reveals the following findings:

Charter School Type: Students enrolled in Memphis charters affiliated with a Charter Management Organization (CMO) perform similarly to the state average in reading while underperforming the state average in math. Students attending independent charter schools in Memphis exhibit gains stronger than the state average in reading while posting gains similar to the state average in math. Within the Memphis charter school sector, students in CMO charter schools lag behind students in independent charter schools in reading.

Race/Ethnicity: Black students in Memphis, particularly those enrolled in TPS, post similar growth in reading and weaker growth in math compared to the state average Black student. Black charter school students in Memphis make similar gains in both reading and math compared to the state average Black student. Within the city, Black students in charter schools exhibit stronger reading gains compared to Black TPS students. Memphis Hispanic students, regardless of the sector in which they enroll, exhibit growth similar to the state average in both subjects. Comparisons within Memphis indicate that Hispanic charter students make stronger reading gains than their Hispanic TPS students.

Poverty, ELL, and Special Education: Overall, Memphis students living in poverty exhibit similar growth in reading and weaker growth in math compared to the state average student in poverty. This pattern is also found in Memphis TPS students in poverty. Students in poverty attending Memphis charter schools perform similarly to the state average in both subjects. Within the city, charter school students in poverty outperform TPS students in poverty in reading.

English Language Learners (ELLs) in Memphis, regardless of whether they attend a charter school or TPS, post gains similar to the state average ELL student in both reading and math. Within the city, ELL students in charter schools do not differ from ELL students in TPS in either subject.

Students receiving special education services, overall and particularly those in TPS, post growth similar to the state average special education student in both subjects. Special education students in Memphis charter schools exhibit stronger gains in reading and similar gains in math compared to the state average special education student. Within-city comparisons show that special education students in charter schools experience significantly stronger reading gains compared to special education students in TPS.

Gender: Female students in Memphis regardless of the sector in which they enroll, make gains similar to those of the state average female student in both subjects. Cross-sector comparisons within Memphis reveal no difference in the performance of female charter and female TPS students. Male students in Memphis post similar gains in reading and weaker gains in math compared to the state average male student. When breaking these results out into sector of enrollment, Memphis male students in charter schools and male students in TPS do not differ from the state average male student. Within Memphis, male students in charter schools exhibit stronger growth in reading compared to male students in TPS.

1 The Shelby County School District has asked to include the information that Tennessee changed the state standardized tests between the two growth periods under this study.