Capstone Education Group’s (CEG) history in the Achievement School District (ASD) began when Chris Barbic, the superintendent of the ASD at that time, and Dr. Kriner Cash, then superintendent of Memphis City School (MCS), announced on February 27, 2012, that Cornerstone Prep would join the ASD. MCS and the ASD agreed that CEG would begin working in the Lester School building during the 2012-2013 school year.
CEG’s presence with the ASD expanded two year later, when, in August 2014, CEG launched a new middle school, Lester Prep. Lester Prep was located on the same campus as Cornerstone Prep and provided CEG with the opportunity to serve students in grades prek-8th grade on one campus.
Then, based on the academic success of CEG’s two schools, the ASD authorized CEG to transform Denver Elementary, an existing prek-5th grade school located in the heart of Frayser. CEG opened Cornerstone Prep Denver Campus in August of 2015, opening with more than 600 elementary students.
The ASD is a statewide district committed to dramatically improving the education of every student regardless of zip code, race, or family income. By 2025, the ASD hopes to close the opportunity gaps long persistent in Tennessee’s public education. Click here to learn more.
In the past, Lester and Denver School each consistently performed in the bottom five percent of all schools in the state of Tennessee. All schools in the bottom five percent are eligible to become ASD turnaround schools. The ASD decided to convert these two schools into charter schools to give it the flexibility to provide innovative, student-centered learning opportunities while holding it accountable for significant growth in student achievement.
Capstone Education Group, Inc. applied and went through the rigorous approval process of the ASD. The process included completion of a lengthy application, interviews with a third-party authorizer and interviews and school visits from the ASD.
All students currently zoned to attend Lester School in Binghampton and Denver Elementary in Frayser that are in grades Pre-Kindergarten through fifth grade (elementary campuses) and grades six through eight (Lester Prep) can attend the campus relevant to them. In fact, all students fitting this description are assigned to Cornerstone Prep/Lester Prep as their neighborhood school. This guarantees that all students who would normally attend Lester School or Denver Elementary will be able to attend Cornerstone Prep/Lester Prep. Other students who live in Binghampton, Frayser or other ASD-eligible districts may also be able to attend Cornerstone Prep/Lester Prep based on state laws.
Cornerstone Prep Lester is located the Binghampton community, which is located between two major east-west arteries: Summer and Poplar Avenues on the north and south, with East Parkway and Holmes the east and west boundaries. Binghampton began as an independent and racially-integrated rural Memphis town in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Annexed by Memphis in 1919 when the city’s growth pushed to the east, Binghampton eventually came to be surrounded by more affluent neighborhoods. Binghampton proper has experienced shifting character as a result of
development, various stages of racial segregation, and a transition from owner-occupied to renter-occupied housing. The Binghampton neighborhood is located eight miles east of downtown Memphis at its very geographic center.
Currently, there are two public elementary schools in the Binghampton area, Cornerstone Prep Lester Campus and Brewster Elementary School. Both elementary schools feed into Lester Prep for middle school. After students complete the 8 th grade at Lester Prep, students have the opportunity to attend Shelby County Schools’ new T-Stem optional high school program located in the East High School building. As noted in The Commercial Appeal,
“For the first time, an all-optional high school is being established in Memphis under
Shelby County Schools’ competitive academic program geared toward students with
unique interests and aptitudes. East High School, open since 1948 and one of the city’s
most iconic schools, is officially on the list of optional programs being promoted this
month as the district prepares to receive applications beginning on Jan. 27. Starting with
the incoming freshman class, the school will shift this fall to a “T-STEM” program
focusing on transportation, science, technology, engineering and math. The transportation
aspect is unique and seeks to prepare workers to feed the growing transportation and
logistics industries in Memphis, home to distribution powerhouse FedEx and several
CEG believes this new program creates an ideal pathway for its graduating 8 th grade students and can complete a strong feeder pattern where Binghampton residents can enroll at Cornerstone Prep Lester Campus in pre-kindergarten, enjoy an outstanding education through 5 th grade at CPL, attend middle school at Lester Prep, (located on the same campus as the elementary school) and matriculate on to a strong high school in East High to finish preparing for college.
Cornerstone Prep Denver Campus is in the Frayser community, home to over 45,000 residents and located 8 miles north of Downtown Memphis, surrounded on 3 sides by the Mississippi river and its tributaries.
Established in 1877 as a small farming community sprinkled with a few summer estates of wealthy Memphians, Frayser slowly became a hub for immigrant farmers through the addition of nearby railroad stations. By 1900, Frayser had become a predominately Italian community. Shifting demographics came with the rise of the automobile and closure of the Frayser railroad stations. In 1958, the City of Memphis annexed the now industrial, working class, suburb which was home to several factories including International Harvester.
By 1983, the International Harvester plant closed which marked the final closing of many factories in Frayser. Within a month, the Firestone Tire plant in the nearby New Chicago neighborhood also shut down. This lack of industrial and business investment caused the dwindling of the population in Frayser, leading to negative economic conditions for the community.
The Frayser Community Development Corporation notes several strengths of the community and improving trends, stating "recently vacancies have declined, home ownership rates risen, and housing sales prices increased significantly. The Frayser community has some very real strengths. With a population that would make it the 4th largest city in Tennessee, Frayser is an exceptionally large community that exhibits a great deal of civic pride. It contains numerous churches, schools and community-wide activities that sustain the area's identity. Residents of Frayser love their community. With sprawl and fuel prices posing problems, the neighborhood's strategic location near Downtown and Midtown bode well for future investments."
The academic growth of students over the last six years has been amazing. For example, in Year 1, CPL’s highest grade served, 3rd grade, increased their reading levels by 2.5-grade levels in just one year and scored in the 95th percentile in math growth as measured by a national assessment. In Year 2, when CPL expanded to serve grades prek-5, student growth on the state assessment, TCAP, revealed double-digit gains in all subjects and prompted a celebratory visit from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Now, in the most recent academic year as a full elementary and middle school, Cornerstone Prep Lester Campus outperformed every other school in the ASD, earning the highest proficiency rates in both math and science on the 2017-2018 TN Ready assessment, while Lester Prep was the only ASD school to earn TVAAS 5 in every subject in 2016-2017 and earned another TVAAS 5 composite score in 2017-2018. Click here for more information on the academic results of our students.