Alton Elementary School,
Alton Elementary School is a neighborhood "choice" school in the Memphis City Schools. Located in
an older neighborhood of primarily single-family homes, one can reach Alton from the downtown area
by way of Beale Street, Home of the Blues. The neighborhood is primarily working-class, and many parents
and some grandparents of students attended this school as children themselves. Approximately 90% of
the parents are high-school graduates, but only about 15% have completed college.
Total Number of Students: 690
In 1995 Dr. Gerry House (National Superintendent of the Year, 1998) introduced a process and funding incentives for all "low-performing" Memphis City Schools. The intent was to engage in a process of comprehensive school reform for the purpose of raising student achievement. With only 6% of students achieving a score of "proficient" or higher on the state writing test, Alton Elementary School was among the schools eligible for reform funding.
Alton could have elected to design their own approach. However, the faculty members realized that developing a "home-grown" model would require conducting their own research into proven methodologies, deciding on the right combination of best practices to support student learning needs, determining their professional development needs, and establishing a process for evaluating their progress ? all in addition to their normal teaching load. It seemed to make better sense to seek outside assistance. With this in mind, teachers from the school attended a "design fair" organized jointly by MCS and New American Schools, a national network of reform models. A site-based management team from Alton, made up of both faculty and parents, attended this fair and met with representatives of the various New American Schools "design teams."
After reviewing the available options, the Alton team decided that Co-nect, a national school assistance organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, had the model most closely aligned with the school's own goals and educational philosophy. Co-nect's emphasis on the "sensible" use of technology was another important factor. The previous year, Alton had joined a cohort of 25 Memphis City schools selected to participate in the state's "Twenty-first Century Schools" program. The program had been used to fund the purchase of new computers and other technology resources. The faculty now hoped that Co-nect staff would be able to help them make better use of these new resources in the classroom. For these and other reasons, more 90% of faculty voted to adopt the Co-nect model and work with Co-nect staff for at least a three-year period.