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Memphis Media Roundtable on School Reform

Posted: May 11, 2012


At the Memphis forum, attendee Marcus Matthews, University of Memphis Coordinator of “Teen Appeal,” a newspaper written by and distributed to the city’s high school students, concurred that media’s role in helping parents understand data and context is crucial. As an example, he noted that some parents may not know that the ACT exam, a test that measures college readiness, is not scored on a scale of one to a hundred. He recalled a student who scored a 26 on the ACT but, when Matthews asked him about attending college, said, “I haven’t applied.” Matthews said it was plausible “that the parents may be thinking, ‘26 out of a 100, that’s an F.’” On the ACT scale of 36, a score of 22 in math and 21 in reading indicate college readiness.

Matthews said the media can help assist in finding and documenting the lives of young adults who have the academic capacity to pursue higher education but who never did: “We don’t know where they are; we don’t know what they’re doing,” but media also should tell their audiences about the individual success stories of Memphis city school graduates.

Similarly, Paris Byrd, a high school student in Memphis said it is important that media seek out the opinions of students who are “experts on their own education; that’s not being paid attention to.”

The City of Memphis is slated to merge its public school system with the county’s public schools. More than a few panelists and attendees said the media will play an even more vital role in explaining the issues at stake to parents given the scale and complexities of the impending union, especially for immigrant parents who may be unfamiliar with the American public education system, much less the key elements of education reform.

Mark Sturgis, Memphis Director, Stand for Children, said, “Media has a moral responsibility around this issue to advocate for a system to provide equity and equality for all children, and, if the media is not doing that, it’s a problem.”
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