Gates Foundation leaders meet with SCS to go over district achievements, higher curriculum standards

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Representatives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation were in Memphis on Thursday to learn more about the impact of a grant they gave to Shelby County Schools.

The Gates Foundation gave the school district the grant seven years ago that’s totaled to $90 million over the years.

On Thursday, they met at the Craigmont Middle School Optional School for International Students.

“Craigmont Middle is a school that’s in my district, but also I’m a parent. My daughter goes to this school also," said State Rep. Antonio Parkinson.

He says he wanted to be there when Gates Foundation members met with district leadership. They went over the progress that’s been made since giving Shelby County Schools the grant.

“First, we were focused on teacher effectiveness and also some of our hiring practices," said SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson.

Hopson says this last year, they’ve been using the funds for the new state curriculum and making sure students have the supplies they need.

Curriculum standards have been raised, which has led to a drop in test results across the state.

“The material’s very difficult, it’s very rigorous, but we feel like kids can’t achieve to the levels they’re going to be asked to achieve if we don’t put the right instructional materials in their hands," said the superintendent.

Gates Foundation members also toured some classrooms to see the new teaching and learning methods in person.

“They’re very excited they would take time out of their schedules to come and actually look and see the great things that are going on," said school principal Latrenda Hicks.

Parkinson says he’s noticed the curriculum changes at home as well with his seventh-grade daughter.

“It really causes them to engage more in what they’re learning, and I’m okay with that," he said.

He wants to make sure state leadership gives districts enough time to transition to the higher standards, making students more competitive for a global market.

The grant wraps up at the end of this October.

Representatives with the Gates Foundation will visit Memphis again and plan to keep up a partnership with the district.