Counting Graduates and Dropouts 

One of the toughest math problems in Memphis City Schools is counting the students. Under pressure from school board members to make good on its policy of "Every Child. Every Day. College Bound," school officials presented a report on graduates and dropouts at the board meeting Monday. Among the highlights:

There were 5,442 graduates in 2007 from the 115,321-student system.

The graduation rate has improved from 60 percent to 67 percent in the past four years. The graduation rate is the number of students who get a regular diploma in four years plus a summer, divided by the number of entering freshmen.

A significant but undetermined number of students don't report for class until after Labor Day. Board member Martavius Jones thinks the number is close to 50 percent, but Bill White, director of student accounting, says it is probably closer to 5-10 percent, although he concedes that MCS has not been able to get an accurate count on the first few days of school. He dismissed a report showing only 32,867 students came to the first day of school last year as highly inaccurate.

A total of 1,633 graduates in 2007 received college scholarships. Board member Wanda Halbert said that number should be higher.

About 94 percent of MCS students say they expect to go to college. Board member Kenneth Whalum Jr. has questioned whether sending every child to college is realistic, given the graduation and dropout rates.

There were 3,570 students in grades 6-12 who dropped out, including 635 12th-graders. White said one of the most frustrating things for high school principals is that middle-schoolers who are supposed to enroll but never show up for a single day are counted as dropouts from their school "even though they may have never known that kid."

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