Aspire East Academy, Memphis, Tennessee
Not every child lives in a neighborhood with high-quality schools. Aspire Public Schools solves that problem by opening great schools in underserved communities, giving students access to a strong education that prepares them for success throughout their lifetime.
“We don’t water down the curriculum; we scaffold up expectations, then provide the children the materials and support they need to succeed. We aim to ensure that our students are performing at or above the level of students who are not economically disadvantaged,” says Allison Leslie, Area Superintendent of Aspire East Academy, Memphis, Tennessee.
When Memphis officials sought to revive the city, they recognized education gaps in some of their lower-income communities. As they looked for new ways to address the problem, they found a solution in Aspire.
“Tennessee has an initiative to address schools in the bottom 5%; we became part of their strategy,” Leslie explains.
The Aspire East Academy launched in Memphis two years ago, and the community was excited. “We had a parent who volunteered even though her daughter was still in preschool. She was that thrilled to have Aspire East in her backyard.”
Since 2016, BlueHub Capital, at first known as Boston Community Capital, has supported Aspire’s effort to grow their network and support their existing schools in Tennessee. Aspire exemplifies many of the qualities that BlueHub prioritizes when lending to educational institutions: high expectations for students, effective partnerships with the local community, authentic parent engagement and a mission of helping all students to thrive. Aspire cultivates students’ minds, perseverance and ability to thrive in college and the workforce.
“I appreciated BlueHub Capital’s diligence in investigating our track record of academic success,” Leslie says.
In a county in which fewer than 20% of the students hit benchmarks for proficiency in English Language Arts (ELA) and fewer than 8% hit benchmarks for math, Aspire students are excelling. “Two cycles of standardized testing show the highest growth score in the state,” Leslie declares. “Last year 84% of our students were above the national 50% mark for non-economically disadvantaged children in ELA and 83% of our students beat that mark in math.”