Research has shown that students who complete their freshman year on track — earning at least a quarter of the credits needed for graduation with no more than one “F” in a core course — are four times more likely to graduate on time than their off-track peersIn fact, freshmen success is more predictive of high school graduation than race, ethnicity, poverty level, and previous test scores combined. By focusing on the academic success of ninth-grade students, we can substantially increase graduation rates in our community. 

That’s why we established the Memphis Freshman Success Network (FSN), first as a pilot project in 2017 and then as a full program beginning with the 2018-2019 school year. We provide school leaders and ninth-grade educators with professional development, job-embedded coaching, access to an advanced data platform, and the technical assistance needed to develop and implement highly effective programs and practices for keeping ninth-grade students on the path to on-time graduation.

Earlier this month, we recognized the great efforts of the 13 high schools in the 2018-2019 Memphis FSN cohort and celebrated their successes at a special luncheon featuring guest speaker Janice Wells, CEO of Sankofa Education Group who, as Chicago Public Schools’ deputy chief of high schools, pioneered successful strategies that resulted in 24 schools in her designated area outperforming other high schools across the district in freshmen on-track, graduation, and college enrollment rates.

We’ve worked diligently with the Memphis FSN school teams this past year and, as a result, schools in the network saw an overall (combined) 30 percentage point increase in the number of freshmen who are on track to graduate at the end of the third quarter than at the same point in the previous school year, with the percentage point increases at individual schools ranging from 16 to 61. Kudos to each school team for such remarkable and rewarding outcomes for the first year!

Although the 2018-2019 school year is drawing to a close, our work with the Memphis Freshmen Success Network is still moving at full speed. This summer, we will add nine new schools into a second FSN cohort for the 2019-2020 school year. Encouraged by what we’ve seen so far, we look forward to collaborating with all of our teams, current and new, toward even greater improvements in ninth-grade success rates in the new year.

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