The MCS Foundation is managed by a professional staff with the guidance of an active, involved Board of Directors. We work with donors who wish to enhance educational opportunities for all students by making one-time gifts, annual pledges, lifetime gifts or legacy gifts. The Foundation’s current focus is supporting the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative. We support TEI by:
1. Investing in teaching and learning. We raise funds and awareness to enhance teacher effectiveness and accelerate academic achievement.
2. Mobilizing the community. We encourage and engage the community to give their time and treasure to support Memphis City School’s quest to be a best-in class public school system.
3. Acting as good stewards. We take seriously the trust the public has bestowed upon us as the fiscal agent for their donations and we continuously analyze, evaluate and report on our investments in students and teachers.
When you start talking about the Teacher Effectiveness Initiative, you have to be ready to make friends with acronyms like MET, TEM and TVAAS. And now that the TEI (acronym!) is moving firmly into implementation, the task is making sense of the mountains of data, statistics and survey results being generated.
Luckily for Memphis City Schools leaders, there are plenty of folks on staff who understand all that stuff—and one in particular who’s good at turning all that data into a story—with pictures.
“I like to call it ‘sense-making,’” says Jessica Lotz, describing her job as project coordinator for the Department of Teacher Talent and Effectiveness. “It’s somebody who can take a lot of data and make a story out of it—take complex information and make it understandable.”
A 2004 graduate of Bartlett High School, Jessica studied sociology at Rhodes College and earned a master’s degree public policy from Duke University. While at Rhodes, she was active in community organizing in North Memphis.
The value set she developed as an undergraduate strengthened her long-held desire to work in public service. And she did an internship in Washington, DC for about three months after graduating from Duke.
“I always thought I would end up in DC,” she said. “But as soon as I was there for a few months, I realized how much I really loved Memphis. All these things started happening while I was away, the Greenline, the grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Memphis Farmer’s market—so many things we didn’t have whey I was a kid.”
It didn’t take her long to decide that Memphis was still home.
“Everyone in DC is a lot more transient,” Jessica said. “They’re headed somewhere else. In Memphis you meet so many people who are from here, people who are committed to the community because they are here and they’re staying.”
Her commitment to the community led her to apply for a position at MCS.
“I did everything they say you’re not supposed to do to get a job—I cold applied online to be part of the Measures of Effective Teaching project,” she said. “I didn’t get it.”
But she made enough of an impression on her contact that she was encouraged to apply for her current position. And the rest is history—and number crunching.
“A big part of my job is surveying teachers on a semi-annual basis, on in-service training days,” Jessica says. “I try to make observations, produce graphs and figure out how to tell the story.”
The results of a February survey of about 4,000 teachers show a big shift in attitudes toward the observation process at the heart of TEI. In October (before the assessment process had really begun) 60 percent of teachers surveyed reported concerns about observers’ ability to assess lessons accurately and 40 percent reported concerns about the fairness and objectivity of observers. In February, roughly 70 percent of teachers agreed that most observers can accurately assess classroom activity and 74 percent agreed that observers have been fair and objective.
“This definitely surprised me. I’d like to see more “strongly agree” comments, Jessica said. “But we’re at a tipping point shift. It’s a completely different day in the life of teachers and principals that it was last year. And it doesn’t come overnight.”
The work of reform is absolutely critical in a city where the college attainment rate is about 24 percent, Jessica says.
“We have to make education relevant to a community that's on the cusp of economic change,” she said. “We have to expect students to excel above and beyond anywhere they've ever been before. At the end of the day, if you're 18 and you choose not to go to college, I hope that at least you got the chance to decide. Because it's really about choice.”
Education reform, and TEI in particular, is not about firing teachers, she says.
“It’s about supporting people and getting them what they need. We know that there are teachers out there in the toughest schools, in the toughest neighborhoods, that are advancing their students three or four years in one year,” she said. “We have to learn what it is they’re doing so we can spread that around. If you can cross-pollinate that across all our schools, then you really do start to make a difference.”
Board of Directors
William Mitchell, Chairman of the Board
Crye Leike Realtors
Ken Foster, Treasurer
Memphis Education Association
Lisa Wheeler, Secretary
Evans/Petree Law Firm
Vincent J. McCaskill
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