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    Schools in Shelby County aiming for 90 percent graduation rate

    Jane Roberts
    Three weeks after Shelby County Schools leaders impressed the county commission with a budget designed to meet some of its biggest needs, including a stronger workforce, the school board is ready to live up to its aspirations.
    Tuesday, it approved Supt. Dorsey Hopson’s 80-90-100 goal. If Hopson and the board can marshal community support to make it happen, when this year’s first-graders are seniors, 80 percent will have the scores, study skills and the know-how to succeed in work or college, up from the 30 percent ready to succeed today. It also means that 90 percent will graduate, a 20 percent gain, and that 100 percent of those ready to be successful will enroll in more schooling.
    By Dec. 1, Hopson and his staff are to present a plan, including the annual incremental goals it will take to get there. “My colleagues are going to be looking for the meat and listening very attentively for how we are going to make this a reality,” said chairman Kevin Woods.
    The first community meetings will be May 13 and 15 in yet-unannounced times and places.
    Neither Memphis nor the legacy Shelby County Schools had ever set such ambitious goals for what achievement will look like more than 10 years down the road. Hopson took a little heat Tuesday from an employee who asked what the plan was for 2014 and 2015, “because that is the present,” she said.
    Hopson later said that while the target is 2025, it doesn’t mean the structure won’t touch every current student.
    “Once we approve this, I would like to see other legislative bodies pass resolutions supporting this. That way our educational goals can be something that lives for years,” said board member David Reaves.
    Hopson said the board could embed the work in its policies, forcing future boards to honor the commitment, “but if the community buys in wholeheartedly, it will work regardless.”
    According to district budget presentations, doubling the number of students prepared to succeed injects $23 billion into the county’s economy. If the school district can set clear goals that lift the region economically, the board hopes it will be easier to get more school funding.
    Board member Chris Caldwell, an investment banker, asked that the “metrics” be clear, “so people can understand them.”
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