“The Memphis Model” — a unique partnership of a major university, a large urban school district and a community foundation. The partners are the University of Memphis (24,000 student), Shelby County School System (110,000 students) and Peer Power. It also combines market-based approaches with youth empowerment and educational practices. Peer Power, which targets schools in neighborhoods of deep poverty, It began in two schools and has grown to involve students from across the city and in neighboring Mississippi. More than 12,000 students have taken part.
The results have been impressive. In one school, pass rates on standardized tests rose from 37 percent to 91 percent for students in the program. Such gains, officials say, are consistent across the program’s locations. According to Kela Jones, Peer Power’s director of development, ACT scores for participants in the program have increased by an average of 3.3 points. At East High, whose middle school feeders are among state’s lowest performers, Peer Power participants scored in the 55th percentile among all Tennessee students in Biology; nonparticipants at East scored in the 13th percentile. Likewise, in English II Peer Power scholars ranked in the 57th percentile statewide, compared to the 12th percentile for nonparticipants.