Realizing the region's failures to produce more college graduates and the potential devastating setbacks that could result thereof, Memphis Fast Forward in cooperation with the city of Memphis launched the "PeopleFirst" initiative. With a multifaceted strategy, PeopleFirst is a cradle-to-career effort with the mission to increase the number of Memphis college graduates. To reach their goal of creating a "college attainment pipeline," PeopleFirst has outlined an agenda with four objectives:
- Memphis children enter kindergarten "ready to learn."
- Memphis youth graduate high school "college ready."
- Adults earn degrees and certificates that prepare them for careers in local industry.
- Talent is attracted to/retained in Memphis/Shelby County.
Since its inception in 2007, PeopleFirst has helped make tremendous strides in improving the quality of Memphis' education system from PreK up through college:
- Tennessee won $500 million for K-12 reform in a federal Race-to-the-Top Competition.
- Memphis City Schools expanded the number of students in Pre-K by 50%, from 2,746 to 4,120.
- Memphis City Schools' new teacher recruitment partnership with The New Teacher Project increased the pool of high-potential teacher candidates from 21 in April 2010 to 1,800 in April 2011.
- Ready, Set, Grow! at the University of Memphis has assisted 17 childcare centers in primarily low-income neighborhoods in achieving the gold standard of national accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). These centers serve approximately 1,500 children.
- A $90 million grant from the Bill and Melina Gates Foundation, plus a $20 million match from local philanthropies has helped Memphis City Schools improve teacher recruitment, evaluation, support, and compensation.
Thanks to PeopleFirst, Memphis has seen qualitative transformations of the entire local education system; and it is only the beginning.
For more information on PeopleFirst and the numerous results they have seen come to fruition, please visit:
MFF Report 2007 - 2011 Final (pdf)