Turnaround Case Study: Cornerstone Prep

19 Jan, 2016
  • Grades Served: PreK-5
  • Number of Students: 450
  • % of students who receive free or reduced meals: 99%
  • % of students with disabilities: 15%
  • % of English learners: 5%

​​Cornerstone Prep is a turnaround charter school in Memphis, Tennessee. The school is part of the Achievement School District, a statewide district committed to transforming underperforming schools, and is operated by the charter school management organization Capstone Education Group. The school opened in fall 2012 on the site of a closed traditional public school. Before Cornerstone Prep began its turnaround work, Lester School operated in the same building and served the same zone as a neighborhood school. On the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP), Lester consistently placed in the bottom 5% of all schools in Tennessee. Before Cornerstone Prep opened in the 2012-2013 school year, only 8% of students at Lester were at grade-level on the TCAP. Each year since Cornerstone Prep opened, the school has had double-digit gains in student achievement in math and reading, as measured on the TCAP.

The National Charter School Resource Center (NCSRC) recently had the privilege of visiting Cornerstone Prep. We invite you to view the four-part documentary below and consider the factors driving Cornerstone Prep’s remarkable and quick turnaround. The videos below present the points of view from school leaders, teachers, students, and parents.

1: Introduction to Cornerstone Prep

Cornerstone Prep emphasizes the following five priorities: 1) College prep begins in kindergarten, 2) High expectations support high achievement, 3) Every minute counts, 4) Leadership matters, and 5) Urban students deserve the best. This video describes how Cornerstone Prep has strengthened buy-in from the community to achieve its goals. An art garden is featured throughout the videos. The art garden is a great example of a school, school partners, and the community working together to serve children in the neighborhood. Once per week, dozens of students and other children in Binghampton, with community volunteers, engage in creative arts in the art garden. 

2: Community Relations

Most of Cornerstone Prep’s students come from the Binghampton neighborhood in Memphis. View below to see how Cornerstone Prep engages its community and how that involvement is contributing to the school’s success:

3: The Importance of Character

In addition to improving academic outcomes, Cornerstone Prep focuses on developing student character and leadership traits. Cornerstone Prep views character and academics as being a positive feedback loop. See how the school prioritizes character development and why the school’s staff thinks highlighting character is a critical piece of their turnaround model:

4: Keeping a Good Thing Going

Cornerstone Prep understands the importance of sustaining their school and staff; the school has implemented processes to support teachers in a way that manages the potential for turnover and burnout. See how school leaders have rolled out a number of effective practices to sustain and enlarge the positive gains Cornerstone Prep has made: