MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash wants to target the district's drop out rate by targeting the root problems - problems, he said, that start before kindergarten.
The drop out rate in Memphis City Schools is at more than 19 percent, almost twice as high as the state average of just over 10 percent.
At Manassas High School, the drop out rate is more than three times the state average.
"When you get into a dropout rate of 26.9, 34.0, 27.6, that means one in three students is dropping out of school. One in four students is dropping out of school, and that's too many students," Cash said.
Cash said he will target the dropout rate by starting at the beginning of a child's education. He plans to expand Universal Pre-K from 3,000 students to 5,000 students this year and to 9,000 next year.
Cash said the next step is making sure students are healthy and can learn without distractions.
"They're overweight, 35 percent. They can't see or have vision problems, 19 percent. They have high blood pressure, high sugar levels, delays in their speech," Cash said.
Cash plans to open up health clinics to treat students and their parents in each Memphis City Schools Region.
With 30,000 students who are overage for their grade, Cash is enlisting the help of Memphis' college students.
"They're offering to tutor our students who are overage for grade in the elementary years," Cash said.
Cash said when you help kids get a pre-K education and you make sure they're healthy, it will naturally reduce the number of students who are overage for their grade. He said fewer students overage for their grade will in turn reduce discipline problems which will then in-turn reduce drop-out rates.