Education briefs for May 19, 2016

SCS decides on two closures

Faced with tough budgetary decisions, the Shelby County School Board has voted to close Messick Adult High School and Memphis Health Careers Academy. Northside High will linger for another year. The board suspended Carver High School from the list of closings to allow time to consider community plans to keep it open.

Performance-based pay raises instead of blanket pay raises will be in place for teachers, drawing union criticism.

The $954 million budget now goes before the County Commission, and at least one commissioner has already expressed disapproval.

David Reaves posted on Twitter Monday: “Board punts on key school closures. I punt on SCS budget until schools are closed.”

DoE weighs in on transgender bathroom rules

On May 13, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance to schools explaining how federal law prohibits sex discrimination and how this affects schools’ obligations toward transgender students. National news recently focused on which bathrooms transgender students are allowed to use, and the guidance addresses that as well as broader information about educational records, harassment, and addressing the concerns of other students and parents without infringing on transgender students’ civil rights.

The goal is to create a safe and respectful learning environment. A DoE blogpost noted that these documents show that protecting transgender students’ right to be who they are does not harm other students; instead, they show that equality for transgender students is not only required by law but achievable through common-sense approaches that foster safety and a positive learning environment for all students.

The blog post was written by Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education, and Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

In part, the guidance states, “The Departments interpret Title IX to require that when a student or the student’s parent or guardian, as appropriate, notifies the school administration that the student will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records, the school will begin treating the student consistent with the student’s gender identity. Under Title IX, there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.”

Regarding restrooms and locker rooms, the guidance states, “A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity. A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so. A school may, however, make individual-user options available to all students who voluntarily seek additional privacy.”

The guidance reiterates that Title IX does not prohibit medically and scientifically sound requirements to ensure physical safety and competitive fairness in school sports.

Read the nine-page guidance online at

Tenn. students below average on physical activity

Tennessee high school students ranked below the national rate for being both physically active and attending physical education class in data released this month, which is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. The data is based on a 2013 national survey of high school students’ health-related behaviors.

Three new infographics from the Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) take a close look at physical education and physical activity in Tennessee’s schools.

Approximately 25 percent of Tennessee high school students indicated they were physically active for one hour per day; the national rate was 27.1 percent. The national rate for high school students who attended physical education class at least once per week was 48 percent; Tennessee’s rate was 40.1 percent. The Comptroller’s infographics also explain the differences between physical activity and physical education.

For the purposes of this data, physical activity is defined as including activities such as recess or walking. Tennessee law currently requires that elementary and secondary students receive at least 90 minutes per week of physical activity, but beginning on July 1, state law will begin requiring the equivalent of 225 minutes per week for grades K-1 and 160 minutes for grades 2-6.

The current requirement for grades 7-12 of 90 minutes per week will remain unchanged. Schools are prohibited by law from counting walking between classes toward meeting the physical activity requirement.

Unlike physical activity, which includes free play during recess, physical education is a standards-based program of instruction. Tennessee schools must provide P.E. programs annually, though a minimum number of minutes or days per week is not currently required.

The nationally recommended amount of physical education for high school students is 225 minutes per week. No states currently meet the recommended amount, though some specify a minimum number of minutes per week.

Tennessee students must obtain a one-half credit of physical education in order to graduate from high school.

The three infographics are available on the Comptroller’s website.

Blue Mountain College kicks off fundraising

Three thousand attendees celebrated the inaugural scholarship gala at Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Miss., with Tim Tebow on April 12. The college netted $150,000 through the event. The Peoples Bank of Ripley was the lead sponsor.

President Barbara C. McMillin also unveiled the college’s seven-year enrollment enhancement plan, “Grow BMC.”

Blue Mountain projects a 25 percent enrollment increase of about 100 students this fall and has added new scholarship programs, a band, drum line, yearbook staff, college newspaper staff and expanded athletic squads. The college also has set a $3 million fundraising goal over the next three years.

The fundraising kicked off with an anonymous challenge pledge of $250,000, and Blue Mountain anticipates having a half million dollars committed by the start of its fiscal year on July 1. Learn more about Grow BMC at

3 Westminster students rank high in National Latin Exam

MEMPHIS — Three students at Westminster Academy in Memphis earned high honors on this year’s National Latin Exam. Jake Hickman, Lucy Jones, and Hannah Newsome each earned the Silver Medal – Magna cum Laude.

Each year over 154,000 students from all 50 states and 14 foreign countries participate. The three honorees are among the 11 Westminster Academy students who took the Prose IV exam.

6 locals chosen as Presidential Scholars

Six Mid-South high school students are among the 160 Presidential Scholars named nationwide.

They are Jordan Lee of Jonesboro, Ark. (Nettleton High School); Bryan Conston and Ryan Conston of West Memphis, Ark. (West Memphis High School); Emma Knight of Corinth, Miss. (Corinth High School); Sneha Mittal of Collierville (Collierville High School); and Swarna Sakshi of Collierville (Saint Mary’s Episcopal School).

DSCC receives USDA grants for paramedic and tech programs

DYERSBURG — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) presented a grant in the amount of $22,250 on May 3 to Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC). The grant will be used to help fund the College’s new Paramedic to RN program and the Critical Care Paramedic program.

The USDA also presented a $10,000 grant to DSCC President Karen Bowyer on April 19. The grant will be used to help fund new equipment to upgrade the College’s Advanced Manufacturing and Advanced Integrated Industrial Technology programs.