“Still a freshmen” – the impact of 9th grade retention on grad rates

Administrators and educators know the importance of freshmen year.  It is a make-or-break year for increasing graduation rates.  A new report recently released by the Everyone Graduates Center at John Hopkins University shows that in 2004-05, more than 90,000 students from six states – 16 percent of all freshmen – repeated their freshmen year.  In South Carolina, it was nearly 30 percent.  The study findings highlight the necessity for states to track and publish the number of first-time ninth graders in their data reporting, enabling better tracking of ninth grade retention.  The ninth-grade retention rates can act as an early warning system for high schools and also as an early indicator that reforms are effective or in-effective.  In essence, schools would not need to wait four years for a graduation rate to implement the necessary reforms. 

The report highlights that NCLB has helped focus schools on creating student-level data systems and that many large organizations (i.e. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) are indeed helping states implement such systems.  As of March 2009, 41 states and the District of Columbia have received at least one grant to develop and implement a longitudinal data system.

The hope is that the data will help schools focus on early intervention strategies.  The most logical option seems to be a proactive strategy – offer (or mandate) bridge programs for incoming freshmen in key areas (i.e. algebra) to prepare them for success as well as offer early remediation programs when students start to slip away (as measured by academic performance, attendance, motivation, discipline issues, etc.).  Does your high school do all that it can to ensure freshmen success?