UofM’s University Schools Awarded Semi-Finalist Status in Department of Education Challenge  

Aug. 29, 2023  — University Schools at the University of Memphis were recently announced as the only schools in West Tennessee to advance as semi-finalists in the Department of Education’s Career Z Challenge.  

The challenge received submissions from schools in 35 states proposing innovative solutions to expanding high school student access to high-quality work-based learning and career preparation experiences. University Schools were selected alongside two other schools in Tennessee and 80 other finalists spanning the nation.  

The Career Z Challenge supports the Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative championed by the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce. Through the Career Z Challenge, University Schools will engage collaborative ecosystems of educators, employers, industries and community stakeholders to ensure educational offerings are aligned with local and state workforce and post-secondary needs. Additionally, University Schools will serve as a training and laboratory model for engaging students across grades 9-12 in meaningful career exploration, development and preparation by providing experiential learning opportunities that are real-world, relevant, inclusive and accessible, interconnected and expansive, scalable, measurable and sustainable.  

As part of its proposal, University Schools described its plans to engage collaborative and sustainable work-based learning (WBL) ecosystems to provide students with interconnected and expansive career development opportunities across grades 9-12. Plans include work-based learning experiences in research laboratories and local businesses. During the 2023-24 school year, semi-finalists will receive a planning grant and technical assistance to support the refinement and implementation of their proposed WBL ecosystem plan. University Schools have also been invited to participate in a community of practice and have access to learning workshops, peer collaboration opportunities and other resources to support local students.  

As part of their commitment to advancing student career readiness and workforce alignment, University High School recently launched seven new dual-enrollment clusters and pathways in partnership with UofM academic leaders and workforce partners. University High School also recently launched a team of workforce advisory boards comprised of academic and industry leaders across each academic cluster who serve to advise on content, curriculum, certifications and hands-on learning opportunities to further expose and immerse students into industry and post-secondary opportunities.  

“We are up for this challenge and honored to be among the selected semi-finalists across the nation,” said Dr. Sally G. Parish, associate vice president for educational initiatives at the University of Memphis.  

“We want students to be prepared for a post-secondary pathway, while also being prepared for the workforce and a meaningful career in one of our state’s many in-demand fields. This type of reimagination in the high school space is life-changing for our students and critical for the health of our local workforce. Through this type of innovative education, we are removing long-standing barriers to higher education access, and generating opportunities for economic mobility for our local youth. It is truly life-changing work, and we are so grateful to be at the forefront of it for our community.”  

University Schools are public schools operated as training schools by the University of Memphis. Serving children in every local zip code, University Schools maintain the highest student success rate of any school system in the state. They are also each recognized as Level 5 schools for student growth. This is accomplished without an academic requirement for entry across the entire school compendium.