ERIC Identifier: ED284922
Publication Date: 1987-06-00
Author: Ascher, Carol
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Urban
Education New York NY.
The Ninth Grade--A Precarious Time for the Potential Dropout.
ERIC Digest No. 34.
The ninth grade, difficult for most students, is particularly hard for
students who are at risk. Students in the ninth grade are at an uncomfortable
stage of adolescence; they face less scheduling and rule flexibility; and are
tempted to indulge in the antisocial behavior of some of the upper-class members
at the high school where they are the youngest students. Further, they are in
search of ways to demonstrate maturity in spite of their class position.
Students most likely to drop out before completing the ninth grade are those
who have had attendance, discipline, and academic problems in the past, possibly
from the beginning of their school careers. Some are simply waiting until their
16th birthday so they can legitimately leave. Even students who move on to the
tenth grade and beyond are more likely to drop out before graduation if they had
an unsuccessful ninth grade year.
Schools can help retain at risk ninth graders through a variety of policies
and practices. Some that have proven to be successful are the following:
--Improving articulation between the earlier years of schooling and high
school, including counseling efforts, curriculum planning, and visits among
elementary, middle, and high school personnel.
--Deferring required courses, so that ninth grade students may take more
pleasurable courses and ones in which they are most likely to do well, and fewer
difficult required courses that may frustrate them to the point of giving up.
This strategy also ensures that upper-class members will have a full and
challenging course load.
--Decreasing alienation of the high school, by breaking down the school into
small, stable units to increase personal attention from the staff. Examples of
this strategy include:
--expanding the roles of a homeroom teacher to include mentor and personal
--extending class periods to 50 minutes or longer to limit the need for
students to move from class to class.
--creating clusters of students who remain together for several classes and
thus can more easily offer each other support.
--creating alternative schools and mini-schools that offer disaffected
students compensatory programs and more personalized attention.
--Sensitizing teachers to the problems of ninth graders, so the teachers can
be more helpful; and assigning to this grade more experienced teachers, rather
than the newest ones who are frequently assigned.
--Creating alternatives to retention before the ninth grade so students don't
begin high school with waning motivation, low self-esteem, and the stigma of
being overage. Earlier retention exacerbates a student's tendency to drop out.
Effective alternatives include allowing students in earlier grades to learn at
their own pace, but then helping them make up lost time before they begin the
--Offering special programs to orient middle students to the ninth grade,
thus helping to smooth the passage. Such programs include:
--after-school activities at the high school before middle students begin
--visits to the high school by small groups of incoming students, and
possibly assignment of a high school student mentor to each student.
--having a middle school student shadow a high school student to learn what
the high school day is like.
--orientation activities, preferably for small groups of ninth graders, that
range from a single session on the first day in school to an ongoing program
lasting up to a full semester, during which rules and expectations are
discussed, courses of study are described, and human awareness issues like
multicultural relations and drug use are explored.
--orientation activities for parents, that cover much of the same ground as
those for the ninth graders.
All of the suggestions for easing the transition to ninth grade presented
above have been successfully tested in school districts around the country.
Their attractiveness is enhanced by the fact that all of them can be implemented
without requiring vast changes in the basic structure of the high school.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bowen, J. and D. Lipkowitz. STAYING IN SCHOOL: THE DROPOUT CHALLENGE. Albany,
NY: New York State School Boards Association, 1985.
Clark, T.A. and R.A. Irizarry. CONSORTIUM ON DROPOUT PREVENTION: IDENTIFYING
SCHOOL-BASED DROPOUT PREVENTION STRATEGIES; A SURVEY OF HIGH SCHOOL AND MIDDLE
SCHOOL PROGRAMS IN NINE COOPERATING DISTRICTS. Paper delivered at the annual
meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco,
California, April 1986.
Kato, C. "Ninth-Grade Orientation Reduces Dropouts in Seattle." NETWORK NEWS,
New York: Academy for Educational Development, Fall 1986.
Rachal, J. and L.M. Hoffman. THE EFFECTS OF REMEDIATION AND RETENTION UPON
BASIC SKILLS PERFORMANCE AMONG ELEMENTARY STUDENTS PARTICIPATING IN A STATE
BASIC SKILLS TEST PROGRAM. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the AERA,
Chicago, Illinois, April 1985. ED 262 065.
Troob, C. LONGITUDINAL STUDY OF STUDENTS ENTERING HIGH SCHOOL IN 1979: THE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FIRST TERM PERFORMANCE AND SCHOOL COMPLETION. New York: New
York City Board of Education, Office of the Chancellor, 1985.
Williams, K.A. WHAT RESEARCH SAYS ABOUT GRADE RETENTION AND ACADEMIC
ACHIEVEMENT. ED 259 840.