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Memphis Daily News
New Memphis Website Helps Guide Parents in School Selection
March 16, 2015
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

Education bends family trees in the direction of progress. It is a liberating experience that paves the way for the quality of life that proves beneficial to the individual, the family and the community.

In Memphis and Shelby County, with more than 375 schools educating students from preschool through 12th grade, how do you decide what school, public or private, is the best fit for your child? Where do you get the data about these schools – not opinions but relevant facts – that will serve as a springboard for making an informed decision? Once again, Memphis is leading the way in solutions.

It is well documented that there is a direct correlation between parents’ involvement in school issues, particularly in the choice of school, and the level of student success. Yet parents, even early on in the process, can experience a sense of information isolation at a critical time in the intent and quality of their involvement.

Just ask Ginger Spickler, the creator of the recently launched website Memphis School Guide, while created for parents by a parent who used her own school search experience, Spickler is no stranger to assisting parents in seeking the right school fit. She is the communications coordinator for Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust, a privately funded voucher program in Memphis that yearly awards scholarships to students who need financial assistance to attend a private school. Ginger has a clear understanding of parents’ needs to feel secure in their choice of school, but often lack the information to guide them through the process.

The site identifies all area schools and defines the four types of public schools in this area – traditional, optional, innovation zone, and charter – as well as private schools, both faith-based and independent.

For parents, the governance models are not as important as is school leadership and teacher quality. When parents turn their children over to strangers, they look for expressions of genuine interest in, and awareness of, their children’s academic, social and emotional needs. While the Memphis School Guide website does not endorse any school, it does allow for constituencies of the schools to rate their experiences. This site is not the end in this process; it’s the beginning.

Parents are guided through the process of choosing a school by being given a profile on each school that includes location, demographics, curriculum offerings, tuition, if any, extracurricular activities, school calendar, after school activities, special program and services, achievement data, diversity, parent involvement opportunities, and contact information.The information gives a sense of a school’s environment. After researching the options, school site visits are encouraged so that parents can ask questions and compare potential choices.

Test scores, while important, are just one indicator of school quality. High expectations for all students, monitoring progress, and the ability to adjust teaching methods to maximize learning are equally telling when it comes to successful students.

Kudos to Ginger Spickler for following through on a great idea! We all benefit, especially the children.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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