Campaign for School Equity (CSE) is pleased to announce plans for a new book that will highlight Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work in education reform. Published by CSE with support from the National Civil Rights Museum as part of the yearlong MLK50 commemoration, An Education Dream will use interviews, speeches, and photographs to pay homage to Dr. King’s belief in education as a fundamental component of equality. The book will chronicle Dr. King’s efforts to place education at the forefront of the American civil rights movement, provide historical context for contemporary education advocacy, and profile modern endeavors to make Dr. King’s dream of equitable education access for all a reality.

Scheduled for release in January 2018, An Education Dream will include historical facts, anecdotes, interviews, and never-seen-before photographs of Dr. King; speeches by both Dr. King and other education advocates and civil rights leaders; an analysis of the state of public education in the U.S. and in Memphis over the last 50 years; profiles of significant milestones and achievements in education reform; and an evaluation of modern setbacks that will help shape tactics as the education reform movement continues. 

Visit to view the book website, and pre-order your copy today! 


Drum Roll….

CSE Executive Director Mendell Grinter released the following statement on the recent TNReady End of Course High School Test Results 

Memphis, TN – Campapign for School Equity (CSE) advocates for equal educational opportunity for all children, and remains committed to the equitable utilization of high quality educational options. Since our inception, we have worked to unite communities of clergy, parents and students to raise their voices to create effective change in our education system and promote improved outcomes for students. 

Yesterday, when Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced the district level end-of-course results for the second year of TNReady, we were encouraged to learn of the findings. Percentages of students across the state now scoring “on track or mastered” in high school math and English have increased. Additionally, nearly every school district also reduced the percentage of high school students who scored in the lowest performance level, which is called “below” – demonstrating widespread academic advancement.

At home here in Memphis, CSE has recently kicked off our direct student advocacy work. Starting this September, we will have presence in 8 local high schools working with students to develop personal advocacy skills and a collective agenda to improve education quality and outcomes for more students. 

We are optimistic about the potential for students across the state to continue making academic gains. And with the recent release of the TNReady end-of-course results, we are even more motivated to continue our work. CSE also recognizes the need to do more to ensure all children are achieving to their highest potential.  The gains that some Memphis high school students achieved are incremental, demonstrating a need to continue supporting interventions, innovation and school turn-around strategies that work while enhancing focus on areas for improvement. Our recent 2017 State of Equity report highlights those areas and mirrors our advocacy agenda for the upcoming year. Stay engaged with us as we forge ahead to advocate for equity in schools and higher achievement rates for all students.      

*TNReady is the statewide assessment administered to all students in grades 3-11. End of the Course (EOC) results from the Tennessee Department of Education can be viewed at 


Can’t we all just get along

When adults don’t play nice, who does it affect the most? I should say who suffers the most? In a city like Memphis where thousands of our students are attending low-performing schools we cannot afford to have adults stand in the way of progress. Both Shelby County Schools and the Achievement School District have a tough job to do. 

“We have been spending a lot of time behind the scenes trying to have a better relationship and clear the air with a lot of issues,”

Read more here

CSE Statement on Charlottesville

“As we reflect on the tragic events of the past weekend, it’s important that we take a moment to discuss how manifestations of hate and white supremacy impact our students, and how we should be talking about race relations in our community and our country. The work that education leaders and advocates engage in on behalf of children in the state of Tennessee to protect their future is critically important – now more than ever. However, It is not enough for us to continue to advocate for quality schools and equity in education, we must also champion the need for our students to live in this world freely and safely, and with robust encouragement and most importantly love.

We must continue to tell our children they are respected, valued, and loved. My fellow colleagues in education, we must speak up and stand up for our children and their rights. It’s time we have an open dialogue about the reality our students of color face every day. In speaking to our students they have to know that we care, and in the same manner that we fight for improved education, we must fight for our students to live.” 

– Mendell Grinter, Executive Director, Campaign for School Equity

CSE Releases 2017 State of Equity Report

Today, we are thrilled to announce the release of Campaign for School Equity’s inaugural 2017 State of Equity in Education report. The report outlines the current landscape of education equity and access for students of color, and low-income students in Tennessee as it relates to student achievement, access to high quality education options, school discipline, and teacher quality.

The state of Tennessee has made great advancements in its educational landscape with the development of the Achievement School District (ASD), the passage of the Individualized Education Act, an increase in the number of college credits attained among high school students, and an increase in the state’s graduation rate. Yet, there is still more work to be done; Alarming disparities still exist across the state in academic achievement, graduation rates, resource allocation, and school discipline.  

This inaugural report also marks the one year anniversary of CSE. As we begin our second year as an organization, we remain committed to our mission and to the children and families of Tennessee whom we serve. We hope that this report will provide an introduction to who we are, what we support, and why our work on behalf of students is critical. 

Download a copy of our report here. We also look forward to seeing you at our report launch events in Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville. If you haven’t done so, RSVP today! 

Mendell Grinter
Founder and Executive Director
Campaign for School Equity

3 Tips for parents to keep their children engaged for the summer

Summer break from school presents kids of all ages with many opportunities to play outdoors, hang with friends, kick back and relax. While children need time to play and deserve to relish in their break from school, it’s important for parents to remember the importance of also helping your children retain the knowledge and skills gained during the school year. As with all things in life, balance and moderation is key. By keeping your children’s brain active over the summer, he or she will have less difficulty getting back into the swing of things, and being an engaged learner and active student when school resumes in the fall.. Encouraging and challenging your children to remain academically focused over the summer, will allow them to return to school without having lost any ground.

Here 3 tips from Campaign for School Equity (CSE) on how to prevent student brain drain over the summer:

1. Reading is Fundamental.

 Summer is the perfect time for children to set and smash reading goals! Encourage your child to read at least two or three books over the summer Studies show that consistent reading keeps children’s minds working during the summer months and beyond. More engagement means less re-teaching and re-learning come fall. The U.S. Department of Education found that, generally, students that practiced reading got higher testing scores. Research also shows that the more parent involvement a child has, the higher their scores will be. Places like Barnes & Noble, Scholastic and of course your local library have reading programs over the summer to help and make reading fun and interesting for children!

 2. Traveling & Experiential Learning.

 Summer can get dull really fast if you stay indoors without access to any creative outlets or new things to see, do, and explore. To make your child’s summer memorable and productive, engage them in experiential learning activities, like visiting museums, parks, art galleries, and other places that promote family-friendly fun. Many of these places will have programs and events especially designed for children that will help to promote social/emotional skills development and creative thinking, allowing for a more enriched summer break experience.

  3. Writing

 Some teachers request or require that students keep a journal over the summer and have them reflect on what they’ve written and experienced at the start of the school year. However, journal writing doesn’t have to be for a verbal or written school report., Encourage your children to practice and strengthen their writing skills by writing a funny short story to share just with family, or creative expressions like poetry or songwriting. These writing activities can help flex the muscles in the brain to get in the habit of writing for school assignments when the summer concludes.

    These three tips have been shown to be the most effective to maintain academic productivity and progress for children over the summer. Try one or try them all and share your tips for keeping your children’s brain active outside of the traditional school year!

Mendell Grinter is the Founder & Executive Director of Campaign for School Equity –  nonprofit organization committed to the equitable utilization of high quality educational options. Grinter is also a member of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30.


5 Tips for Summer College Prep for Millennials

As the summer season sets in and the last high school graduates walk across the stage, we all remain hopeful for new experiences that the fall season and the start of a new school year will bring. For most graduating seniors, the thrill and exhilaration of high school graduation will wane as the summer break concludes while eagerness and possible anxiety will commence as you await the beginning of your college journey.  Incoming college freshman can be proactive in ensuring you are prepared to succeed in college and beyond. Follow these 5 useful tips to help prepare for your new life on a college campus.  


1) Understand the layout of your campus.

    Knowing how your campus is set up can be very important for success during your college years. If you can choose which dorm to stay in make sure that you find one that is close to where most of your classes are going to be. Take time to explore the campus and find out where each of your classes is held. Unlike high school, not all of your classes will be in the same building Residing close to your class locations means you won’t always have to be in a rush if your morning routine happens to take an extra 5 minutes. We all know how getting up in the morning can sometimes be a pain.

You will also want to know where the dining hall and restaurant options are in relation to your dorm and classrooms. Making a mad dash to get lunch at the same time as 1,000 other students won’t be too much of a hassle if you’re eating near your next class or dorm. In my experience, I have also used the knowledge of my campus to find the perfect spots to study or do assignments. Finding that right environment that encourages you to be productive is also key. I could never study or do work in my dorm room, but you could catch me on the 4th floor of the library any day of the week. Know your campus layout so that you can use it to your advantage.


2) Use your resources.

    There are a plethora of resources to get support and assistance for students on most college campuses. These resources can help you with a range of issues that you may run into as a student from a physical injury to help on that bio lab. It is important to know what resources are available to you and where they may be found. Sometimes emergencies happen, and they can be resolved faster and more efficiently if you know exactly where to go. Academically, the best thing you can do is at least occasionally attend tutor sessions for some of the classes that you have and build a relationship with an academic advisor and/or career counselor. Going to tutoring sessions and maintaining communication with your academic advisor are great ways to remain academically astute and get any unanswered questions addressed. You may also get lucky and have a tutor who is willing to help you with your homework as well. Never be afraid or ashamed to go in and get help from your academic advisor either. As adults, we like to be independent and figure things out on our own, but your academic advisor has been hired by your college or university so that you don’t have to do that. Always remember that there is help for you during your college journey if you know where and how to access it.


3) Keep an eye out for financial aid.

    Most departments within a college or university have scholarships and financial assistance that they will provide to students who apply and meet requirements. It is important to talk to your professors and department staff to stay in the know about scholarship opportunities. Going to tutoring, as was discussed in the previous tip, can also help you get your foot in the door for scholarships. You will be able to connect with older students who can help you as well. You will also need to visit your actual financial aid office and check to see what they can do for you. They may also recommend that you apply to a work-study program. These programs will allow you to make money to help pay for tuition while also working on campus. Money is out there, but it is important to know where and how to obtain it.


4) Invest in the right technology.

    Today’s educational environment can be very saturated with tech. In some classes, you won’t even see a piece of paper because the professor has decided to convert her/his whole teaching style to digital. In this case, certain devices are becoming necessary for the modern student to thrive. Number one gadget: A LAPTOP. This might be the most important for a student today besides their brain (up for debate). And when paper is being used in the classroom, it might also be a good idea to invest in a printer. One of the excuses I’ve heard the most for being late in college was something along the lines of “My paper wouldn’t print at the library.” If you have your own printer then know where else you can go to print. Some computer labs around campus may be able to provide free printing and use of computers in the event you are not able to secure your own. Consider your technology needs when requesting and/or applying for financial aid as well. It is also likely that financial aid for some students will include refund money. Remember that your refund money shouldn’t be used for a shopping spree or a night on the town. Investing your financial resources wisely is essential to set yourself up for success – and technology needs should be part of your investment.


5) Get to know your professors.

    On day one it is very important to speak to all of your professors and at least tell them your name so they can put a name to a face. Some professors do not even see some of their students at all. That student is then reduced to a name, an ID Number, and her/his grades. Don’t be a number. Show your professor that you are a person who takes their education seriously, and they will be very willing to get to know you. There is so much help on class concepts, homework, and tests that can be received from your professor if you know them on a more personal level. Everything that you will apply for from here on out will require at least one letter or recommendation. Who better to talk highly of you than your professor that you have befriended over the course of the semester? Getting to know your professor from the start has nothing but positive outcomes. You never know what kind of opportunities they may open up for you in the future.

Mendell Grinter is the Founder & Executive Director of Campaign for School Equity –  nonprofit organization committed to the equitable utilization of high quality educational options. Grinter is also a member of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30.

Despite Insults and Condescension, Parents Remain Undeterred

Parents want choices. Black or white, rich or poor, moms and dads all share one simple truth: they want to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing the right school, the best school, for their children.

PBS News Hour recently highlighted the increasing division within the black community around charter schools and school choice. 

As we all know, monopolies don’t go quietly into the night and no place is that truer than in public education. While families clamor for more and better options, powerful interest groups who benefit from there being no choices are pushing back. We see it with unions at the national and local level. We see it with the NAACP. And we see it in states like Massachusetts and Georgia where myths about money have crowded out honest conversations about quality.

Cue the Audacity and Arrogance

We hear all the time that parents aren’t engaged enough. It’s often a default response from status quo protectors looking to make excuses for the subpar performance of their schools.

But as the PBS piece confirms, when parents’ engagement comes in the form of a demand for choice, they are insulted and caricatured as somehow being unfit to make decisions about their own children’s education. The powers don’t want real parent engagement. They want parent compliance.

Meet Mr. Keith Williams, the Executive Director of Tennessee’s largest local teacher’s union. His comments during the following exchange are appalling but sadly, also very common. The damage that people like him do is incalculable.  

Keith Williams: I don’t think they have the full understanding and exposure of what a proper, adequate education is for their children.

Reporter:  But it sounds to me like you’re saying parents shouldn’t have a choice, aren’t smart enough to know where their kid should go to school.

Keith Williams: I’m saying that some parents are not capable of determining venues that will be the most advantageous for their children. And that’s a fact.

Sarah Carpenter is a parent and grandparent who lives in North Memphis and her voice is a powerful one. In her role as leader of Memphis Lift, she brings passion, wisdom, and experience to the conversation around school choice; she and her organization are fighting people like Mr. Williams and others like him to ensure that parents (and grandparents) like her — black and poor — are able to access high quality schools for their children (and grandchildren.)

I feel so sad, because we shouldn’t have to fight for our kids to get a quality education. Why do we have to keep fighting as a race of people, black people? And what’s wrong with us wanting what’s best for our kids? Just because we are black and poor do not mean that we don’t want what’s best for our kids.

Kimberly McNeal is a mom who has made her choice for her daughters and it is not the local district. In fact, she moved just so they could attend Vision Prep, a nearby charter school.

Me coming from a Memphis city school, I wanted something different, something more challenging for my children.

It’s important for anybody to have a choice, whether it’s public, private or charter. Everybody should have a choice in where they feel like their children would do better and succeed.

It is difficult for the families caught in the divide that has taken shape within the black community. But Sarah Carpenter doesn’t really even see herself in the black people or black organizations against whom she finds herself fighting.

Most of these people live in suburban areas. They look like me, but they are not connected to me.

If one thing is clear, it’s that neither the Memphis parents featured in this PBS report nor the dissatisfied parents across the country are going to stand down on the issue of accessing the best possible school for their children.

And that’s a good thing. That’s America.