More Grads, More Dropouts

The state lottery-funded Hope Scholarship, first available to Tennesseans entering college in fall 2006, has achieved the desired affect of retaining more qualified residents for Tennessee schools. This year's entering class at the University of Tennessee, for example, had an average high school GPA of 3.79 and an average ACT score of 26.5, compared to 3.75 and 26.6 for last year's freshmen. Forty percent of this year's incoming freshmen had GPAs of 4.0 or higher, which is twice as many as in 2004.

But the promise of lottery scholarships apparently isn't linked to achieving acceptable graduation rates for Knox County high school students. In the same three years since 2006, local schools have managed to increase graduation rates by more than 2 percent, but are still a full 10 percent below the state goal of 90 percent. Attendance rates at local high schools also tanked in the same time period, dropping below the state goal the year after the Hope Scholarship was implemented, and accompanied by ever-increasing drop-out rates since then. Here are the county figures:

Attendance and Graduation, Knox County, 2008 (Grades 9-12)

2006 / 2007 / 2008 / State Goal

Attendance Rate (%)

94 / 92.9 / 91.6 / 93

Cohort Dropout (%)

12 / 13.5 / 14.6 / 10

Graduation Rate (%)

77 / 79.2 / 79.3 / 90

Source: Tennessee Department of Education Report Card 2008