Focus on Freshmen for Long-Lasting Impact

Graduation success is one of the four platform areas that we focus on in our Momentum Memphis campaign. Research conducted by the University of Chicago revealed that student success in the first year of high school is a critical indicator for graduation. Studies showed that ninth graders who had high absentee rates or failed one or more core courses were more likely to drop out even if they had started high school with high grades and test scores.

In contrast, students who successfully completed the first year of high school were almost four times more likely to graduate. These research findings prompted Chicago Public Schools to partner with the University of Chicago’s Network for College Success to create a Freshman Success program that encourages the use of data to help school teams evaluate students’ progress throughout the year and refine interventions to better meet their needs. The results have been phenomenal, with on-track graduation rates for participating schools consistently surpassing the district average for the past four years.

Encouraged by the success in Chicago, we at Stand for Children Tennessee worked with Network for College Success to implement the Freshman On Track program in Memphis at Mitchell High School and Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School during the 2017-2018 academic year. Using best practices gleaned from the Chicago program, our team of teachers, administrators, and counselors was able to achieve academic gains at both schools and a reduction in chronic absenteeism at Mitchell. 

For the 2018-2019 academic year, we are building on this idea and using the NCS capacity-building model to create a local Freshman Success Network aimed at dramatically improving graduation rates at 14 schools: 

  • Douglass High School
  • Freedom Preparatory Academy
  • Hamilton High School
  • Manassas High School
  • Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School
  • Melrose High School
  • Memphis Rise Academy
  • Mitchell High School
  • Power Center Academy High School
  • Raleigh-Egypt High School          
  • Sheffield High School
  • Soulsville Charter School
  • Trezevant High School
  • Westwood High School

This is an exciting collaboration – the first such local network to include both public traditional and charter schools. Shelby County Schools even committed $65,000 to support the Freshmen Success plans at its participating schools.

Over the course of the year, Dr. Nina Reed, Stand Memphis’ Freshman Success Coach, and Habib Bangura, Stand for Children’s National Freshman Success Director, will help each school integrate the strategies and tools provided by NCS. Stand will also host a Freshman Success Institute on September 27-28, which will provide each school team with an opportunity to hear from experts, learn best practices, and connect with educators in other schools.

By coordinating an ongoing, mutual flow of ideas, resources, feedback, and support throughout the network, we hope to see improvement in ninth-grade achievement for the year and, ultimately, higher graduation rates and post-secondary success for students. 

Want to know more about our Freshman Success Network? Join us on October 25 at 6 p.m. for the next discussion in our Memphis Education Equity Learning Series. 

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