The Angel Street Choir performs “Carry the Light” during the main show.

Someone asked me what my favorite moment was from the Back to School Spectacular the Achievement School District hosted on Saturday, September 3.   Honestly, I initially didn’t have an answer given the number of great moments that stood out to me.

I could say that it was the look on the faces of student performers as they stepped out onto that big downtown stage normally reserved for the city’s symphony orchestra.  It could also be the sound of five hundred proud parents and teachers as they cheered for our kids on stage.

I loved seeing parents, staff members, and students beaming under the glow of a bright stage spotlight as we celebrated their work in making our neighborhood schools better and for leading their peers by example.

Who could I forget the sheer joy of our Red Carpet Pre-Show where ASD families from all our schools in Memphis came together to dance to the jams the DJ was spinning, take fun group photos by our professional photographers and ooh and ahh at the impressive artwork of our students lining the walls of the entrance to the auditorium?

Highlights from the ASD Back to School Spectacular.

Highlights from the ASD Back to School Spectacular.

After some reflection, however, I did pinpoint a favorite moment.  And interestingly, I think it was a moment that I alone may have noticed given my vantage point when it occurred.  I was on stage sharing brief remarks, including individual shout outs to the ASD schools whose growth and achievement have catapulted them above the performance threshold for the Priority Schools list. Highlighting these schools and other ASD schools that are changing the odds for students was exhilarating in and of itself.  This is why we exist—to partner in the dramatic improvement of Priority schools that have historically failed to give students a fair shot at succeeding. We lean in with higher expectations, accountability, student-centered decision-making, instruction and support services by educators and community partners who are living out families’ goals for their children – justice for every student in their schools and in their lives.


The Martin Luther King Jr. College Prep cheerleaders prepare to hit the stage.

The moment that stood above all others at our Back to School Spectacular was the thundering applause and faces split wide open in smiles and hollers of pride as ASD families and educators wildly celebrated the schools and students who have met an important milestone that all ASD schools are  working hard to achieve: climbing out of the bottom 5% of the state and moving swiftly and surely toward higher, hard-earned accomplishments and opportunities to succeed.  In a day filled with inspiration, this brief moment was a reminder that we are all working in service to students.  Although each child, family, neighborhood, school, operator and district has differences that make us unique, we stand united in our fight for justice for students. I am inspired by all that we have done together to close opportunity gaps for Priority School students in just a few short years and all that we – arms locked in partnership – will do for and with our shining bright students well into the future.

This is the work, and September 3 was a reminder that we are not in it alone. Shine on, ASD!


ASD Back to School Spectacular Gallery

ASD Back to School Spectacular Highlight Video

ASD State of the Schools Book