TSS Blog

Hispanic Heritage Month: Compass Community Schools a model for ELL success

The Catholic Diocese of Memphis announced in January 2018 that the Jubilee Catholic Schools Network, along with St. Michael Catholic School, would be closing at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

After the announcement of the closings, a group of like-minded educators in Memphis formed New Day Schools to open a network of charter schools to fill the void the Jubilee Schools would leave behind.  In August of 2018, Compass Community Schools’ six charters were granted in an unprecedented move by the Shelby County School Board.

The Catholic Diocese of Memphis support these schools, whose focus is educating children residing in the neighborhoods in which these schools are located. The Diocese of Memphis has leased school buildings to Compass Community Schools to serve Jubilee students as well as other students from the surrounding neighborhoods as they operate schools at the following campuses: Berclair, Binghampton, Frayser, Hickory Hill, Midtown, and Orange Mound. Compass Community Schools is led by Executive Director Kristi Baird.

Compass Community Schools is a group of six K-12 tuition-free, public charter schools. Any student in Shelby County may attend a Compass school regardless of their assigned neighborhood school zone. A lottery process is used for any grade with more than 25 student applicants. After the lottery, any remaining seats are filled on a first come-first-serve basis. Compass serves over 1400 students across the six campuses; the schools are intentionally small to foster a family environment where teachers can focus on the individual child.

English Language Learners

Compass Community Schools places a large emphasis on providing a welcoming and supportive environment for English Language Learners (ELL) and their families. Because Compass’ student body is 63% Hispanic, it is key that all family communications and resources are provided in both English and Spanish. Compass also has teachers that reflect their student population and several Spanish-speaking staff at each campus and the Network office to accommodate ELL students and their families. This emphasis on a welcoming and supportive environment is what they believe helps them to attract English Language Learners to attend Compass.

At Compass, they have created an English Language Learner (ELL) Department led by ELL Director, Sara Musashe. Under her direction, each of their campuses is fully staffed with English Language Specialists who provide educational services for English Learners through a variety of educational settings (e.g., coteaching, pull-out). In addition, these English Language Specialists serve as the experts in the building and support other faculty members with ensuring that curriculum is accessible for English Language Learners through a variety of instructional scaffolds and accommodations.

The support doesn’t just stop with students in the buildings. They work with multiple community partners, such as Las Americas, Latino Memphis, and the Refugee Empowerment Program, to provide in school, as well as out-of-school programming for both students and families. These partnerships allow Compass to truly be a community resource for families because they can help identify needs a family may have and connect them with the resources that can help meet those needs.

To accommodate English Language Learners, other charter schools in Shelby County should look beyond the sole educational needs of the child and focus on fulfilling the needs of the whole child. Understanding this cannot be done in isolation, identifying community partners within the area of the school(s), whether that be churches, non-profit organizations, or local businesses, is essential for building a school community that supports students and families holistically.

Compass Makes the Grades

Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) measures students’ academic growth over time. Level 5 is the highest distinction. Four of the six campuses scored a 5, the other two campuses scored a 4 and two were named reward schools.

Compass incorporates a flex block into the daily curriculum. A flex block is a class period built into each school day where students receive instruction based on their individual level. This allows the student to receive additional help in mastering the skills needed to be proficient in a subject or to progress forward if they are proficient.

Compass graduated the first class of seniors just two years ago in 2020 with a 100% college/trade school/military acceptance rate. The Class of 2022 boasts a 73% college/trade school/military acceptance rate and received $1,156,565.00 in scholarships.

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