A successful entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist, Charles McVean had grown increasingly troubled by the poor performance of Memphis' public schools and believed that the American free enterprise system held the remedy. Combining a performance-based compensation model with the powerful effects of peer groups, he launched his unique student-to-student tutoring concept at East High School. The program was successful and soon evolved into Peer Power.
Today, Peer Power is active in several schools throughout Memphis and Mississippi, serving more than 1,000 students every year. The program's progress is consistent across all locations. In Shelby, Mississippi, standardized test passing rates leapt from 37% to 91% for students enrolled in the program. In 2010, five Peer Power tutors were valedictorians of their senior classes.
The rest of the country is starting to recognize our success as well. In 2011, Meah King, an English teacher and Peer Power Faculty Champion at East High School, won a Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. The U.S. Department of Education named Peer Power the Division Winner for Out-of-School programs for its 2012 National Education Startup Challenge.
In 2015, Peer Power announced the Memphis Model in partnership with Shelby County School and University of Memphis. The program employs over 100 University of Memphis “Success Coaches” (tutors) who are trained and deployed into classrooms at East High School and Whitehaven High School. Three coaches will work in each SCS teacher directed classroom. These classes are divided into three nine-member teams, each being led by its own respective “success coach”. The teams compete for meaningful rewards. This unique configuration reduces the student to teacher ratio from about 28 to 1 down to roughly 7 to 1. The focus courses will be English I, Algebra I and Biology.
While a number of worthy efforts are trying to gradually reform school districts across America, Peer Power is making progress now by placing students in leadership roles that prepare them for lifetimes of success. Now that we know the model works, we see a terrific opportunity for bringing it to more students in more schools, which will require additional funding from a greater diversity of sources. Peer Power seeks partners who are passionate about changing the lives of children today.