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Get to Know Our Schools

School-aged children have a variety of educational opportunities in the Greater Memphis metropolitan region, from private and charter schools to STEM and STEAM programs and those that cater to children with special needs.

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.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools

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 (available in MSCS)

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 (available in MSCS)

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 and STEAM Schools (available in MSCS)

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).

photo of children's hands practicing penmanship

Montessori Schools

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

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.

Tuition varies widely, but many also offer financial assistance. Popular private schools include Lausanne Collegiate School (Memphis's most well known secular private school), Hutchison School for Girls, Memphis University School and St. George's Independent School.

Schools for Students with Special Needs

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.

  • Bodine School (dyslexia and dyslexia-related reading differences)
  • Concord Academy (learning and social differences)
  • Harwood Center (autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, other developmental differences)
  • Madonna Learning Center (Down syndrome, developmental and learning delays, sensory processing differences)
  • Memphis Oral School for the Deaf (speech therapy)
  • Phoenix School for Creative Learning (ADD/ADHD, high-functioning autism, learning delays)
  • Shady Oaks School (ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, learning delays)
  • St. Francis of Assisi PLUS Program (ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, Asperger syndrome, processing differences)

Municipal School Districts in the Memphis Suburbs

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.

Additional Resources

Looking for more information or the latest news on schools in Greater Memphis? Check out these online resources:

Memphis School Guide

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.


The nonprofit news organization reports on education at a local level, and publishes a page dedicated to Tennessee’s school systems..