Read on to find out more about Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS), the largest school system in the area, along with options in nearby Arkansas and Northern Mississippi communities, as well as inTennessee’s Fayette and Tipton counties.
DISCLAIMER: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Inc. does not endorse any of the schools mentioned here. Inclusion in this publication is for informational purposes only; it cannot and should not be construed as an endorsement of any particular business or school. This quick-reference guide is not intended to take the place of an individual’s own judgment and preference.
The district includes more than 200 schools serving more than 100,000 students, with of them 11,700 enrolled in optional schools.
MSCS administrators and teachers are focusing on an initiative called Destination 2025, the goal of which is to ensure that by 2025, 80 percent of students will be college-or career-ready, 90 percent of seniors will graduate on time, and 100 percent of graduates will enter college or a career. Students who do not want to attend the MSCS school in their district have the option of enrolling in a charter school or entering a lottery to attend another nearby school.
Optional schools offer unique programs that allow students to pursue their specialized interests while excelling academically. Optional schools may offer specialized programs in areas like aviation, the performing arts, dual language immersion and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Students not zoned for an optional school can apply to enroll. Applications for admission are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.
While some optional programs can include International Baccalaureate and college preparatory programming (rigorous academics), others focus on niche subjects such as creative arts, public service or health science. Placement is based on individual assessment.
Charter schools are public schools that operate more independently from the school district than traditional public schools. They may vary widely in curriculum, teaching style and length of school day and school year. Charter schools do not have attendance zones and any child within the area may apply. Applications for admission are due to the school and, once spaces are filled, admission is determined by lottery.
The charter school program includes Newcomer International Center, a TSEL charter school (Teaching English as a Second Language). There are dozens of charter schools, but popular programs include The Soulsville Charter School, Power Center Academy, Memphis School of Excellence, Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory, KIPP Memphis, Freedom Preparatory Academy, and Crosstown High School.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) schools are also optional schools. These are schools with a rigorous curriculum specifically designed to meet the growing demand for those who work in the STEM field, especially in Memphis where we support huge manufacturing, engineering and transportation industries.
Popular STEM and STEAM programs in Memphis include Maxine Smith STEAM Academy, East High School T-STEM Academy and Arlington High School (municipal school district).
Montessori schools use an approach which engages children in exploration through interactions with their environment. Founder Dr. Maria Montessori believed that children, given a developmentally appropriate and stimulating learning environment along with balanced amounts of guidance and freedom, are innately driven to reach their full potential.
There are several in the Memphis area; most are privately operated.
Popular programs in the Memphis area include the Maria Montessori School, Olivia’s Montessori Preschool, First Class Montessori, and Double Tree Montessori School (MSCS)
Private schools are not funded by the state and depend on tuition to operate. They are exempt from state oversight and mandated testing so they have the freedom to choose their own standards and educational approach. Many are represented by either the Memphis Association of Independent Schools or the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.
Most are religiously affiliated, but not all. Tuition varies widely, but many also offer financial assistance. Popular secular private schools include Lausanne Collegiate School, Hutchison School for Girls, Memphis University School and St. George’s Independent School.
Memphis’ most well-known secular private school is Lausanne Collegiate School, while Hutchison School for Girls, Memphis University School, and St. George’s Independent School are popular non-sectarian, but not secular, schools.
MSCS and municipal school districts offer special education programs for children with special needs, but there are also several private schools in the area that may be more beneficial, depending on a child’s specific needs.
Some parts of Shelby County may be zoned for both a Memphis-Shelby County School and a school within a municipal school district. Kids may attend either one. In most cases, students not zoned for a municipal school district may apply to attend a school within the municipal district, though there might be an added tuition fee for children outside of the district or county.
Looking for more information or the latest news on schools in Greater Memphis? Check out these online resources:
Originally created for parents by parents, the site is now run by the nonprofit Memphis Education Fund, a group committed to the success of public schools of all models. MemphisSchoolGuide.org
The nonprofit news organization reports on education at a local level, and publishes a page dedicated to Tennessee’s school systems.. TN.Chalkbeat.org.