University of Memphis and Shelby County Schools Partner to Strengthen Teacher Talent Pipeline

January 25, 2018 - The University of Memphis and Shelby County Schools (SCS) today announced a new River City Partnership to help address the school district's most critical challenges, including the lack of a pipeline of highly-skilled new teachers, poor teacher retention rates, and the need to equip teachers with greater cultural awareness.

"The University of Memphis recognizes the challenges facing the Shelby County region can be addressed through a stronger education system – and that must be cultivated from the ground up," said UofM President M. David Rudd. "By collaborating with the Shelby County public school system, we can work together to better train and prepare future educators who are eager to continue to invest in the Memphis community and teach the next generation of students. We're excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to setting an example for other urban school districts across the country that are facing similar challenges."

Supported in part by funding from the US Prep consortium, the River City Partnership will place unique emphasis on recruiting and training local teacher candidates, with a special focus on identifying educators from underrepresented groups, including African-American males and Latinos.

"We want to increase the number of students who graduate from area high schools, attend the UofM and then return to Shelby County Schools to put their training to work in the classroom," said Dr. Kandi Hill-Clarke, dean of the College of Education. "Our mission is to graduate more teachers who are culturally competent, confident in their content knowledge and effective teaching strategies, and who understand and know their students.

"Successful educators should build strong and healthy relationships with their students and say 'I reach and teach all of my students.' They should be engaged early and often, and have structured, community-based and school-based experiences that are intentional and guided."

The River City Partnership also will encourage teacher candidates to intentionally select the urban education pathway, creating deep partnership with local schools and implementing high school teacher cadet programs to build an early interest in teaching as a career.

"Classrooms in America are becoming progressively diverse," said SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson. "The impact of having educators with the ability to stimulate and challenge various student populations can intensely improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps."

Memphis and Shelby County are nationally recognized as ground zero in urban education reform.

"This partnership is key to transforming the way classroom teachers recognize their own cultural individualities and build on the various cultural norms of our urban students," said SCS Chief of Schools Sharon Griffin. "Cultural competency and awareness inform teaching practices and result in an educational system designed to serve all students well."

"We are excited about the River City Partnership and the opportunity that lies ahead for local recruitment and preparing culturally-competent educators who are ready to teach in SCS schools," said Superintendent Hopson.

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Chuck Gallina | 901.678.1756 l cgallina@memphis.edu