How to eliminate stumbling blocks in Memphis’ education system

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Memphis is a city on a mission for greatness.

It’s a city on the edge, a city divided. But it’s ours, and this is our chance for a better tomorrow.

It’s time to heal old wounds, and create new stories of success, by educating our children and by making sure there are enough jobs and everyone feels safe in their own home.

In this chapter of Memphis: On a Mission, WREG’s Adam Hammond reports on the stumbling blocks in Memphis’ education system that set children up for a lifetime of struggles.

More than 110,000 children attend public schools in Shelby County. About two-thirds of children in Memphis aren’t ready for kindergarten, with one-third far below where they should be.

As children get older, the numbers get worse. The Urban Child Institute's standardized test results show only one out of ten Shelby County students is college-ready at graduation.

The problem starts with poverty, which contributes to children being unprepared for school and to the ongoing battle against truancy.

Another issue is the county’s teen pregnancy rate. In 2012, the teen birthrate in Memphis was 35.4 percent. The state’s birthrate was 28.9 percent.

A program called Teen+ provides childcare so Shelby County student mothers can finish. The young mothers also learn parenting skills, and are paired with mentors who help them stabilize and resolve challenges along the way.

All of the education experts WREG spoke with say the biggest factor in helping eliminate these stumbling blocks is for parents to be involved in their child’s life before they even learn to read.

Doing so helps children succeed and climb out of poverty. Neglecting to do so, however, can follow a child for the rest of his or her life.