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It happens to every company sooner or later: Wall Street sets a mark for quarterly earnings, and the company misses that goal. Sometimes, an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down. This is a "back to school" edition of Three Misses, so today we'll look at some dorm-room furnishings, stadium scoreboards, and even an actual school. Order in the classroom, please!

Isn't that Mumbai now?
Our first disappointment today comes all the way from Bombay (NYSE:BBA). The furniture and housewares offered in its stores might grace many a college dorm room, but its performance in early summer and late spring got a failing grade from the analyst community. Sales dropped 5.3% year over year to $121 million, slightly below the average forecast of $123 million, but the $0.55 net loss per share was a whopping 72% worse than the expected loss of $0.32.

The dismal performance was largely due to a huge summer clearance sale that cut into gross margins. On the plus side, the sale did deflate the bloated inventory left over after a slow spring. Management says the company is now in a better position for the fall season, thanks to the summer clearance campaign.

CEO David Stewart has been on board only since June of this year and hasn't had much time to put his mark on the company. He does have a long-term plan, though, focused on reducing costs and improving operational efficiency, with an eye to producing positive cash flow by 2007. Layoffs have started at the top, with three direct reports to Stewart, and the company will refocus on its main strengths and core items.

So Bombay is going through some pain right now to prepare itself for a better future. David Stewart comes from six years as the president of Blockbuster Canada, where he managed to grow revenues even as that company's U.S. operations were losing sales year after year. I like his chances with Bombay, given that pedigree, but let's give him a quarter or two to back up his tough talk.

Touchdown! No, wait, fumble?
Let's move on to lighted-display maker Daktronics (NASDAQ:DAKT), which reported strong sales of $92 million, up 27% over the year-ago period and in line with analyst estimates, but failed to follow through with a matching bottom-line performance. Net earnings landed at $0.12 per diluted share, clearly below the $0.16-per-share target Wall Street set. The order backlog grew nearly 50% greater than last year to $123 million, and the company is running at full capacity in an attempt to catch up with the order queue.

That should be easier to do from now on, though. New facilities in Sioux Falls and Brookings, S.D., are set to increase the manufacturing output by about 80% by the end of the year, with an emphasis on digital advertising billboards and sports scoreboards.

But what happened to the earnings? According to CFO Bill Retterath, the shortfall was a result of higher-than-expected costs of moving into the Brookings plant and a couple of troublesome sports projects. Management believes that these are one-time problems and estimates that margins will improve over the next few quarters.

Daktronics has been consistently profitable over at least the past six years, with positive free cash flow each of those years, too. The company even paid out a dividend in May and called it an "annual" dividend. Furthermore, you'd be hard-pressed to find any direct competitors on the U.S. stock market, save for traffic-control specialist Quixote (NASDAQ:QUIX). If you think huge scoreboards and easy-change gas-station price displays present a tasty market opportunity, Daktronics is as good an option, as you'll see. The growth engine is running; now the company just needs to tighten up operations a bit.

OK, lunch break's over
We'll round out this school-season roundup of misses with an actual school. DeVry (NYSE:DV) saw strong sales of $216 million this quarter, and $0.17 of net earnings per share certainly looks better than last year's breakeven results. But analysts had hoped for two more pennies, so the company landed on this list.

Undergraduate enrollment inched up by 2.6% to 37,100 students. The graduate-course volume saw a 10% boost, with 36% more online graduate courses than last year. I'm not sure exactly what the analysts were pinning their forecasts on, but this looks to me like a business with healthy organic growth. Apollo Group (NASDAQ:APOL) may be the market leader in for-profit education, but that company is fraught with shareholder-unfriendly practices, and the stock is on a mostly deserved fire sale right now. Corinthian Colleges (NASDAQ:COCO) looks like the closest comparable company to DeVry, sporting similar margins, sales, and market cap, but that company is seeing slower revenue growth and shrinking net income. Is DeVry worth its rich price-to-earnings ratio of 34? That's a call only you can make.

School's out!
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, and which really are stuck in the mud. Come back next Monday, and we'll take a look at another batch of mishaps and disappointments. It'll be fun and educational. Class dismissed.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in the companies discussed this week, but his son's bed is a Bombay Kids piece. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and you can see Anders' current holdings for yourself.