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Memphis plans ‘community conversation’ on improving schools, closing the achievement gap

NLC 600WASHINGTON, D.C. – Memphis plans to partner with the National League of Cities (NLC) and the U.S. Dept. of Education to hold a "community conversation" to discuss strategies to advance learning, enhance student engagement and improve schools.

Three goals for cities to focus on – early childhood education, afterschool and postsecondary attainment – were outlined Monday in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NLC and the Dept. of Education. The MOU was unveiled at NLC's Congressional City Conference in Washington.

"We understand that increasing our educated workforce in specific areas directly improves Memphis' economic future," said Mayor A C Wharton Jr. "This partnership with the City of Memphis, the National League of Cities, the Department of Education and America's Promise with support from AT& T will assist the City of Memphis in creating pathways to prosperity for more of our citizens."

Memphis will host a session focused on college and career ready standards that lead to viable employment in the Memphis region. The convening will be part of America's Promise's GradNation Community Summits initiative and will reflect the input of senior U.S. Department of Education officials and the National League of Cities with support from AT&T.

The convening is designed to serve as a vehicle for a "results-focused discussion" mainly among business leaders. It also will include educators, parents and community partners. Together they will explore how they can improve opportunities for local young people through college- and career-ready standards.

"We are proud to partner with the Department of Education in this extremely important effort to provide better educational opportunities to children nationwide," said NLC President Chris Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, Minn. "This 'memo of understanding' expands a local-federal partnership that is focused on supporting local efforts to improve schools and close the achievement gap. Through our 'community conversations' with local leaders, families and community organizations, we can formulate actionable strategies that improve educational opportunities for all."

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said strong schools are at the heart of strong communities.

"That's why we're excited about this new effort with the National League of Cities to help local leaders form partnerships with families and educators, which will better ensure that every child has the opportunity to access a high-quality education, and, ultimately, that every American has the chance to pursue their dreams."

Community conversations will initially occur in 14 cities to bring together local leaders, educators, families and community leaders to discuss strategies for providing children with the foundational skills needed to enter school ready to learn, access to high-quality afterschool learning experiences and achieving postsecondary attainment. The conversations will also focus on closing achievement gaps (including for young men of color) and increasing student outcomes, including non-academic outcomes, with specific focus on social-emotional skills.

The MOU announcement was made at NLC's annual Congressional City Conference being held at the Marriott Wardman Park through Wednesday. More than 2,000 local elected officials and leaders are in attendance.

In addition to Memphis and Mayor Wharton, the Community Conversation Participating Cities & Mayors are:

Avondale, Ariz. – Mayor Marie Lopez Rogers
Berkeley, Calif. – Mayor Tom Bates
Dayton, Ohio – Mayor Nan Whaley
Gary, Ind. – Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson
Hattiesburg, Miss. – Mayor Johnny Dupree
Kansas City, Mo. – Mayor Sly James
Louisville, Ky. – Mayor Greg Fischer
Madison, Wis. – Mayor Paul Soglin
Phoenix, Ariz. – Mayor Greg Stanton Pittsburgh, Pa.
Mayor William Peduto Saint Paul, Minn.
Mayor Chris Coleman Salt Lake City, Utah
Mayor Ralph Becker Savannah, Ga.
Mayor Edna Branch Jackson

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