Ninth Grade Success
We know that ninth graders who end the year on track are four times more likely to graduate. It is a stronger indicator of future graduation than race, ethnicity, poverty, or test scores (Network for College Success).
Geared toward school leaders, you can learn more about why ninth grade success is important, best practices and strategies, frequently asked questions, and get resources to support your work.
Best Practices & Strategies
The best way to start getting ninth graders on track is to create awareness of why ninth grade is such an important year. You can also commit to creating an ongoing ninth grade success team. You can set the conditions for success and help eighth graders transitions to high school with strong relationships, relevance, and timely intervention.
Five Contributing Factors for Ninth Grade Success
Each of the following components are critical to implementing freshman on-track work. For each component, you will find a collection of strategies, materials, and resources organized to help you achieve freshman success goals!
Creating a culture of caring at school makes students feel welcome and connected. Consider ways that your school can make each student and family feel comfortable and included.
- Engagement Matters. Curriculum is more engaging with student voice and choice. Provide relevant tie ins to students’ lives, aspirations, and communities.
- Project-Based Learning
- High School & Beyond Planning Help students explore who they are, they want to become, and how to get there.
- Create a View of the Future
- Provide students opportunities to gain knowledge about and visit postsecondary options; such as colleges, skill centers, tech schools, military, job shadows, and apprenticeships. Provide opportunities for them to become aware of options and supports to help them get to their goals.
- Provide access to dual credit options and college & career readiness.
- Sponsor career and college fairs to share options with students.
- Make students and families aware of financial aid options and the timelines associated with them.
- Apply knowledge from the Since Time Immemorial Curriculum for your Native American and Alaskan Native students.
- Create access to academic tasks through Universal Design for Learning
- Relationships with caring adults and peers help students thrive.
- Weave Washington’s Social Emotional Learning Standards throughout the school day
- Review the Developmental Relationships Framework and share with staff.
- Participating in Tribal Consultation is a great strategy for involving Native American families.
- Measure perceptions using the Healthy Youth Survey results and follow up by re-asking target questions throughout the year to check for improvements.
- Educate your teachers, students, and community about why ninth grade is a critical year. Convince your strongest teachers to teach ninth graders; students will benefit from that foundation throughout the rest of high school. Research Summary for Students and Parents
- Staff ninth grade with your most experienced and inspiring teachers. Students will benefit throughout their high school experience as they carry their learning forward.
- Understanding and implementing fair grading practices helps teachers and students build a relationship of trust.
- Foundations for Young Adult Success
Moving up to high school a lot changes for students. Easing the transition can make a huge difference in a student’s engagement.
- Provide students and families with orientation to the school.
- Provide parents training on Student Information Systems so they can help their students succeed by tracking grades and attendance.
- Provide mandatory summer bridge / summer school programs to support students who are failing courses and adjust your school schedule to make time for additional supports.
- Engage middle school staff in vertical alignment so students who will need added supports (such as Wrap Around Intensive Services) have them in place the first day of school.
- Register students in March of the previous year.
- Partner with middle school staff to have High School and Beyond Plans created and transferrable to the high school.
- Use older students to mentor ninth grade students through ongoing Link Crew or mentoring opportunities.
- Build relationships to the school by recruiting for clubs and sports for all students and building time into the day for their participation.
Create a Success Team
A Success Team regularly reviews ninth grade academic, behavioral, and attendance data. This practice supports ninth grade students who are failing one or two of their classes. Teams use protocols to efficiently use their time, stay focused on asset-based student support, and assess the effectiveness of those supports. These teams are made up of an administrator, counselors, ninth grade teachers, graduation specialists, and attendance liaisons and other key support staff. Reserve time for this team to meet 3-4 times a month.
- Freshman Success Framework includes roles and responsibilities
- System Improvement Guide: Designed for teams to work though together, this guide covers: Why Ninth Grade, Understanding Your Data, Self-Assessment Tool, and Action Steps.
- Freshman On-Track Toolkit: An extensive resource to help your team thrive
- Evaluate Your Team Practices and Set Goals Tool
Apply Timely Interventions
Grow the green. Start with building in supports that will help all students. Move to small group supports that will move groups of students with one or two failing grades back into passing all classes.
- Regularly communicate progress with students & families using a BAG Report
- Extend deadlines for course completion up to 20 days to finish key projects with targeted support.
- Intervention Evaluation Flow Chart
- Use the Kid Talk Protocol to bring student voice into the conversation (document to be added)
- Connect to Community-Based Organizations that can help
Almost all students who have good attendance finish their ninth grade year on track. Students with poor attendance often lose credit in their classes. Attendance problems are often a symptom of larger problems that must be addressed for the student to experience success. Ideally, a Success Team should be focused on students who are attending 80% or more of the time. A Care Team, made up of Attendance and community liaisons, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors can help reduce barriers to attendance before the student is referred to the Success Team.
Great work gets better with friends. Learn what’s working for other schools once a quarter. If you’re interested in forming a group, get in touch with your Educational Service District or contact Kefi Andersen.
Meet with similar school leaders to:
- Check Ninth Grade Success Attendance, Behavior, and Coursework.
- Read about best practices
- Share ideas
- Set goals for next quarter