In its continued transformation from a newspaper to a multi-media communication business, The New Tri-State Defender (TSD) has entered into a dynamic and strategic partnership with New America Media (NAM), the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of over 2000 ethnic news organizations.
TSD is collaborating with NAM to support the research, development and publication of the first Greater Memphis School Choice Guide, an idea conceptualized by TSD President and Publisher Bernal E. Smith II. NAM is supporting TSD's project through a contract with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help ethnic media in four Southern cities expand coverage of education.
Branded as "ACHIEVE: A School Choice Guide for Parents and Students (SCG)," the publication will be introduced and initially distributed in March of 2013. It will coincide with an Education Empowerment Expo, where parents can receive the guide, engage with and learn about area schools and attend empowerment seminars designed to foster discussion and best practices around educational and parenting issues.
"As a founding board member of a charter school (Memphis Academy of Health Sciences) and a passionate advocate of education, I understand the importance of helping parents and students navigate the ever changing landscape of public education and educational options overall," said Smith.
"Over two years ago as I was developing our plan of reinvention and reinvigoration, specialty publications emerged as a key strategy and the School Choice Guide was the primary product given my interest and experience. I knew inner city parents needed tools to more easily assess schools and decide which one(s) are best suited to effectively educate their children given the vast changes taking place in Memphis and Shelby County. I also understood that information had to come from a trusted source, with the TSD providing the perfect platform given its unique and long-standing positive relationship with the African-American community of Greater Memphis."
"ACHIEVE (SCG)" will contain a profile of public, charter, private and independent schools in the area, as well as an aggregation of performance data on the schools to allow for a high-level, side-by-side comparison of schools. A research team will compile the data and format it for publication. The goal is to create the most comprehensive analysis of area K-12 schools and present it in an easily understood and digestible format for parents.
This kind of tool will allow parents to better determine which schools might provide the best environment for their particular child or children to learn. The guide will contain special editorial content and stories of success in improving student performance, resource information on tutoring and mentoring programs, emerging trends and expert advice on parenting and other pertinent topics.
K-12 schools, colleges and universities and education-related businesses will also be able to do targeted advertising within the SCG. A minimum of 25,000 copies will be printed and distributed to parents initially, beginning with the Education Empowerment Expo in late March of 2013. A dynamic web version of the SCG will also be built to allow both print and digital access to the information.
TSD's partnership with NAM includes helping coordinate a Memphis-metropolitan-wide essay writing contest for high school students and adults entitled "The Teacher Who Changed My Life." Awardees – both writers and teachers – will receive cash prizes.
TSD also will join with NAM and other media partners to host three breakfast focus groups with inner city parents. The idea is to gather the parents' direct input, views and needs relative to the various changes taking place with public education.
During a special roundtable session, various ethnic media outlets will interact with education stakeholders who will have the chance to pitch stories that will enhance the level of communication engagement and information flow going forward.
"Our focus as a media outlet is to inform, inspire and elevate (quality of life)," Smith said. "This partnership with New America Media will contribute in a significant way to our continued fulfillment of that focus and allow us to contribute clarity and connectivity to families seeking the best educational options in a rapidly changing landscape.
"I hope that this is a catalyst for other local partners to join this effort and support us in its execution. We appreciate Sandy Close, Vivian Po, the entire NAM team and partners for seeing our vision and engaging with us to empower families here in Memphis!"
"When Bernal Smith suggested the idea of a Parents' Guide, we were thrilled," said NAM's Education Project director Vivian Po. "It's not only a resource but a way for media to engage directly with parents. It could be a model for our media partners in other cities."
Preliminary work has already begun on the SCG and related initiatives and will continue over the next six months, culminating with its official distribution at the spring 2013 Education Empowerment Expo.