Citywide Education Progress Reports

MEMPHIS: Elevating High School Graduation Rates in Impoverished Communities

Because so many Memphis students live in poverty—over 40,000 students have an annual family income of $10,000—the vision for school improvement must also include addressing student needs. The city must come together with a vision and creative strategies to respond to the student achievement deficits, trauma, and struggles of families.

One new nonprofit is taking on this challenge. In late 2017, Whole Child Strategies (WCS), a new community-based nonprofit in Memphis, opened its doors to pilot a new model for improving students’ chances at graduating from high school.

The group is using a community model to improve student attendance and behavior, while decreasing the number of suspensions and expulsions. WCS created a Neighborhood Council made up of key local stakeholders, including small businesses, support organizations, school staff, parents, and the faith community. The model brings all of a community’s assets to bear while addressing the array of challenges students face outside of school. WCS provides supports and training for the council. In turn, the council is tasked with creating a long-term community engagement plan that coordinates resources and small grants in support of local students and their families.

View Memphis’ citywide education progress report.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education is a research and policy analysis center at the University of Washington Bothell developing systemwide solutions for K–12 public education. Questions? Email