Memphis City Schools Boosted Graduation Rates With Gates Grant

After receiving more than $90 million in support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Memphis City Schools has succeeded over the last two years in raising graduation rates and teacher effectiveness, reports.

Awarded through the foundation's Intensive Partnership for Effective Teaching program, the grant enabled the school district to evaluate teachers more closely and, as part of a new model for teacher effectiveness, classify them as masters, professionals, or novices. In addition, the grant supported prep academies that assist at-risk students and provide others with opportunities to begin taking college courses while finishing high school.

Indeed, the grant has already made a difference, with Booker T. Washington High School graduating 82 percent of its seniors in 2010 — up from 55 percent in 2008.

"We were a neglected school system, we were a hemorrhaging school system, we were a failing school system," said Memphis City Schools superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash. "I don't think we would have gotten this far this fast [without the grant], I'm sure of it."