Initiatives to Improve the 9th Grade Year
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Initiatives to Improve the 9th Grade Year

While most "ninth grade academies" and other efforts to improve grade nine are district-level initiatives, a small number of states have adopted policies or recommendations to help students make a successful transition into high school.

Why does it matter?
  • Moving from middle school to high school — the 9th grade — is one of the riskiest times for students, particularly those who already demonstrate some characteristics of being "at risk." There is a need for student support systems that target kids who might otherwise fall through the cracks.

  • Eight states have developed recommendations or established policies or programs aimed to improve the 9th grade transition.

Methodology: This information was collected from state statutes, rules and regulations, and state education agencies, and will be updated as new policies and programs are enacted.

Sources for all data points are available through this link.

Last updated: July 22, 2008

Research conducted by Michael Colasanti. Please contact Jennifer Dounay, 303.299.3689 or with comments or questions about this database.

Initiatives to improve the ninth grade year
Hawaii The 2006-2010 P-20 strategic plan from the state's P-20 Council includes a recommendation to "ensure that ninth-grade students receive the instructional and support services necessary for successful completion of high school." The main components of the recommendation include utilizing smaller "learning communities," increasing access to tutoring and academic summer camps and creating a Web site to provide "one-stop" access to information about postsecondary institutions. 
Louisiana The purpose of the Commission on High School Redesign is to make recommendations that will ultimately create high schools that graduate all youth prepared to succeed.

One of the commission's major proposals is to improve the 9th grade year for Louisiana students. The 2006 commission report states that, "this effort [of school redesign] should focus first on getting things right in the ninth grade- especially putting into place strategies and structures that will create more personalization as well as provide more and better instruction for students who are behind." The commission recommends that policymakers pay attention to how high schools support incoming freshmen. They suggest that each incoming student be put into a small learning community, a "ninth grade academy," and work with an adult mentor. Students who are falling behind in middle school should also receive extra attention in 9th grade, the commission report suggests. The commission additionally recommends that the department of education develop an Early Warning System by examining the LEAP and iLEAP test results to determine if students need extra instruction in literacy and/or mathematics in grades 9 and 10.

To this end, the 2008 legislature approved a measure requiring the state board to develop specific methods of targeted intervention or identify appropriate existing methods for districts with a four-year cohort graduation rate below 70%. The legislation provides that these measures may include early intervention for students who are at risk of failing Algebra I or any 9th grade math class. The bill also directs the state board to gather specific data to ensure that all programs are research-based and data-driven, and to use such data for continuous program improvement. Among these data are the total number of students who have failed Algebra I or English I, the total number of students who are repeating the 9th grade, and the total number of students required to repeat a 9th grade course.
Nevada The board of trustees of each school district must develop policies to ensure that all high schools with 1,200 students or more provide small learning communities within the school. Policies must require guidance counselors, at least one licensed school administrator, and appropriate adult mentors to be assigned to ninth graders. The school must also:

  • Designate a separate area within the high school for ninth graders to attend class.
  • Collect and maintain information on ninth graders, including credits earned, attendance, truancy and other risk indicators.
  • Identify special needs of ninth graders with respect to remediation and counseling.
  • Develop methods to increase parental involvement in the education of their ninth grade student.
  • New Mexico At the end of the eighth grade, a student who is not academically proficient will be retained for no more than one school year to become academically proficient. If the student assistance team determines that retention of the student in the eighth grade will not assist the student to become academically proficient, the team must design a high school graduation plan to meet the student's needs for entry into the workforce or a postsecondary education institution.

    If a student is retained in the eighth grade, the student assistance team must develop a specific academic improvement plan that clearly delineates the student's academic deficiencies and prescribes a specific remediation plan to address those academic deficiencies.
    Rhode Island Legislation directs the department to "develop specific methods of targeted intervention or identify appropriate existing methods for school districts that have a dropout rate" over 15%. Legislation provides that these methods may include "early intervention for students who fail Algebra I or any ninth grade math class and have insufficient credits to be promoted[.]"

    January 2008 state board rules direct schools to "strive to integrate the [high school] curriculum, especially during the ninth and tenth grades. Teachers are encouraged to work in teams to plan and deliver instruction."

    The rules also encourage schools to use students' 8th grade EXPLORE scores "and other appropriate assessments" to identify students unprepared for 9th grade. "Schools are encouraged to experiment with ways to accomplish this including but not limited to:

    • high school readiness programs during the summer prior to 9th grade
    • extended time to master challenging courses, with elective credit given for the additional units
    • tutoring by teachers, peers or community volunteers during school, before and after school, and on weekends
    • an accelerated program to bring 9th grade students up to grade level
    • computer assisted programs."
    Vermont According to a 2002 department of education publication on high school reform, "students learn best when they are in a physically, emotionally and intellectually safe and respectful environment." As such, one of the recommendations of the report is to develop freshman academies and transition programs to assist entering 9th graders. 
    Washington Project Graduation is an initiative from the office of the superintendent to identify the commonalities that represent the most effective practices for schools to improve student achievement. Project Graduation includes:

    9th Grade Transitions & Extra Help Programs:
  • Gearing up program – Identify 7th and 8th grade students needing help
  • Four to six week summer program for identified incoming high school students
  • Extra help – double doses of math and reading/literacy
  • Monitoring through meaningful advisory programs – Advocate for every family
  • Increase annually the number of students taking Algebra 1 in 8th grade
  • Lower teacher student ratio in 9th grade – Best teachers in 9th Grade
  • 9th grade teachers with common planning time
  • Transition classes for English, mathematics using a block schedule structure
  • Career and technical education courses in 9th grade using a block schedule structure
  • West Virginia

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