TN Education Commissioner visits school that cleared priority list

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen made a stop in Memphis Friday to celebrate a school that made it off the list of lowest performing schools in the state and is now among the top schools for progress or performance.

McQueen visited with teachers, administrators, students and community members at Springdale Elementary in North Memphis. She asked how the school made the dramatic turnaround.

"We have tests and assessments, we look at what they make on those, sometimes we work in small groups, sometimes we work one-on-one with our children," said teacher Virginia Mayes.

Springdale was classified as a  Reward School, meaning it is in the top five percent when it comes to progress or performance.

McQueen described Springdale as, "a success story that's really moving toward a trajectory that we're all hoping continues."

"We have a principal that came in and said we can do this. We don't need the state to come in and start to mandate that we do grown folks' business. We can figure it out," said Tennessee Representative G.A. Hardaway, who invited the Commissioner for the tour.

There are still 36 Shelby County Schools on the priority list, meaning they are in the bottom five percent in terms of performance.

Six of those schools are in talks for possible state takeover. An Achievement School District charter operator would step in.

The process has been met with some pushback.

"This is not an us against them. This is about all of us sticking together as Tennesseans and moving all children in all communities on the pathway to success," McQueen said.

McQueen said schools looking to improve may start by looking at data and seeing what needs work. She said there need to be intentional steps to improve, even if that means a takeover.

"Absolutely. We make decisions everyday to say, 'Is this the right model? Is it not?'" she said.

McQueen said the state is also continuing to support Shelby County Schools' iZone Schools, which are another way to turn around low-performing schools.

iZone Schools seek out high performing teachers and have extended class time.

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