Memphis-Shelby County, TN

Relentless collective efficacy and trusted partnerships reshaped two schools. Learn more about pathways to improvement with membership in the Cognia global network.


Memphis-Shelby County Schools’ Hawkins Mill Elementary and Trezevant High are urban schools in underserved, low-income areas of Memphis, Tennessee. The two schools struggled with chronic absenteeism and their students’ academic performance ranked in the state’s bottom 5%. As a result, both had been on the state’s list of Priority schools since the list was created in the 2011-12 school year.


When Tennessee enacted its School Turnaround Pilot Program Act of 2021, Hawkins Mill and Trezevant were selected to be pilot schools. The four-year program required each school to select a state-approved external partner that would conduct a comprehensive school analysis, develop a school turnaround plan, and assist in implementing that plan. Each school selected Cognia because of its proven two-pronged approach to comprehensive improvement: a diagnostic review and turnaround work.

After the diagnostic review team uncovered the root causes of underperformance by analyzing the schools’ data, conducting observations, and interviewing stakeholders, the turnaround team—along with each school’s turnaround committees—developed strategic plans to guide improvement efforts. Then, they collaborated with school leaders to “chunk” these longer-term plans into 30-, 60-, and 90-day Action Improvement Plans. Every quarter, the schools’ principals reported their progress to the Department of Education.


Between 2020 and 2022, Hawkins Mill’s chronic absenteeism rate dropped from 29.2% to 13.6%. In 2022, the school exited Tennessee’s Priority status list and was named a 2022 Reward School, Tennessee’s designation for schools that show strong growth.

Trezevant High met the state-required graduation rate of 67% during the 2021-22 school year, the highest in more than ten years. In addition, the percentage of chronically absent students fell from 38.3% in the 2020-21 school year to 29.4% in the 2021-22 school year. In 2023 Trezevant met exit criteria and was also removed from Tennessee’s Priority status list.

Cognia’s team is working to ensure that the schools’ improvement processes will continue after the pilot program ends. Their collaborative approach with the educators in Hawkins Mill and Trezevant sets the foundation for school faculty and leadership to keep moving forward in a unified manner.

Create your optimal environment with improvement solutions.

The exceptional partner support we receive for our two turnaround pilot schools is a true testament to what can be achieved with teamwork and collaboration. The dedication and commitment shown by the Cognia team have been instrumental in our schools' transformational journey. Their unwavering support in providing innovative educational resources, professional development opportunities, and responsive customer service have significantly contributed to improving student outcomes. Cognia's cooperative approach, tailored solutions, and continuous engagement with our educators have empowered us to overcome challenges and achieve remarkable progress. We are immensely grateful for their partnership and look forward to continued success in our mission to provide quality education to our all students regardless of the zip code.”
Thomas D. Rogers, Ed.D.
Assistant Superintendent
Memphis-Shelby County Schools (TN)
School Turnaround

Read more details about Memphis-Shelby County School's success and share with your teams.