Monday, May 30, 2011

God's Heart for Urban Education 3

David Waters was at our gathering the night David Montague spoke. Afterwards he wrote a great article on MTR. Here's part of that article.

Virginia Boyd wants to serve God and Memphis by becoming the best math teacher any city school kid has ever had.

David Montague and Robin Scott want to serve God and Memphis by helping Virginia do that.

"You don't have to talk about the love and compassion and mercy of Christ to demonstrate it," said Montague, a former stockbroker turned public school evangelist. "Becoming the best math teacher a kid's ever had is a valid response to the gospel."

Montague and Scott are leading the Memphis Teacher Residency, one of many nonprofit organizations that have responded to the Gates Foundation's $90-million challenge to put an effective teacher in every Memphis City Schools classroom.

Like Teach for America and the Memphis Teaching Fellows, MTR seeks to recruit, train and support outstanding urban educators in Memphis. What makes MTR different is its mission to do that "within a Christian context."

MTR's "Christian context" comes in the motivation, not the implementation.

"It's a shared mission, that's the heart of it," said Scott, a former Indiana public school teacher and MTR's director of education. Teaching in large, urban systems "is too hard, too demanding not to have a sense of mission about it," Scott said. "You have to see urban education as a calling."

MTR recruits and accepts only candidates who believe that teaching in large, urban public schools systems is a Christian calling, not just a career. But candidates also must believe they should not discuss their faith in a public school setting.

"America is not short on information about the gospel," said Montague, a former Christian missionary who directs MTR's work from offices in the basement of Union Avenue Baptist Church. "It is short on demonstrations of the power of the gospel."

MTR's mission is to demonstrate the love of Christ by recruiting Christians who are committed to transforming the city's public schools into bastions of academic excellence for all children.

Christians committed to seeing academic achievement gaps as biblically unjust.

Christians committed to sacrificing their own standards of living to improve those of others.

Christians committed to serving their neighbors' children and not just their own.

"Twenty years from now," said Dr. Maxie Dunnam, pastor of Christ United Methodist Church, "when our educational system is more effectively and fairly serving the children of our city, we will look back and realize that David Montague and Memphis Teacher Residency Program played a major role in getting us to that place."

Read more here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God's Heart for Urban Education 2

And now for some good news...God is up to something in Memphis!

Before diving into what that "something" is, let's hit a couple of theological points. The Bible speaks of a God who is not only capable of doing extraordinary things, but also one who desires to do so. In other words, our God is not only strong but also loving. If you believe this, then there's another point that the Bible makes clear over and over, and it's this: God loves to do the impossible, and He loves to use weak, desperate and dependent people in the process.

Everybody knows that Memphis has some BIG problems. Several times it has ranked at the top of various "worst cities" reports. So what a great place for God to do something extraordinary! As David pointed out, the richest man in the world has given $90 million to Memphis schools, and the most powerful man in the world has given $500 million to Tennessee, much of which will make its way to Memphis.

Oh yeah, and it was just announced that this same most powerful man in the world will be heading to Memphis in a couple of weeks to give the commencement speech at Booker T. Washington High School!!!

David believes that the epicenter for urban education reform is our city. All of the education reform organizations are now making their way to Memphis, and the world is watching to see what will happen next.

And what about the Church? Well, we get the opportunity to be the subversive community that we were meant to be. As David reminded us, the Roman Empire came to believe that Jesus was supreme not because the Christians were the most powerful political organization. It was actually just the opposite. The Christians had no political clout. They had actually been persecuted for 300 years. Instead, they were living out their beliefs in radical ways. They entered into the problems and saw God do the extraordinary through them living their ordinary lives with Gospel intentionality.

Today let us too enter into the big problems of our city, and together dream God-sized dreams, and then let us watch God do what only He can do!

Monday, May 09, 2011

God's Heart for Urban Education 1

Last night David Montague, director of the Memphis Teacher Residency, spoke at NC on the topic of God's Heart for Urban Education. You can listen to the talk here. In my opinion David has one of the voices that needs to be heard when it comes to education reform in our city. Below are some of the notes I took while listening to him.

First, some stats ('cause everybody loves stats, right):
  • Memphis is the 24th largest school district in the U.S.
  • There are 8-10 million students in those 25 largest districts
  • Of those, 50% (4-8 million) will not graduate
  • In 2010, the average ACT score in the city school district was 16.6
  • In the county, the average is 28.3
  • The injustice issue, according to David, is this 70% gap between the rich and the poor
  • Average income for someone who doesn't graduate from high school is $17,000
  • Average income for someone who doesn't graduate from college is under $25,000
  • 90% of public school students in these 25 largest school districts will make under $25,000 for the rest of their lives. This is not sustainable.
David next talked about the role of the church in the history of education reform. He started with the 1800's, during which time it was illegal to educate slaves. He drew heavily from Frederick Douglass' autobiography, which is a free Kindle download. In the 1890's Jim Crow laws emerged, which supposedly gave "separate but equal" status for African-Americans, but in reality was anything but. One of the worst things about all of this is that the people who were passing these laws were sitting in pews on Sunday mornings, not seeing any discrepancies.

Fast forward to 1954, when Brown vs. Board of Education ordered desegregation, and you see another big shift. Now children of different races could go to school together. However, this was not to be the case, because it was during this time that many private schools, many of them opened by churches, began to come into existence. David was quick to point out that the injustice issue was not the opening of these private schools, but the fact that once again we were not putting the same resources into the schools in neighborhoods of choice that we were in neighborhoods of poverty. Check out the recent Memphis Flyer article for more on this.

That's the sad and bad news. Fortunately, David did not stop there. But since this is turning into a rather long blog post, I will. Tomorrow you get the good news!