Ninth-grade gridlock is keeping boys out of college, writes Richard Whitmire of Why Boys Fail. Boys who fall behind and repeat ninth grade never catch up. For many, ninth grade is now the “dropout year.”
Nationally there were 113 boys for every 100 girls in ninth grade in 2007, according to the Southern Regional Education Board. A Johns Hopkins study finds 12 percent of boys and 9 percent of girls repeated ninth grade in 2006-07.
. . . Baltimore’s Patterson High School, located in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. If you showed up to recruit the Class of 2009 on graduation day, you would have found 164 female and 107 male students. A quirk of birthrates? Not exactly. Had you checked on the ninth-grade class there in September 2008, you would have found 278 girls and 400 boys.
. . . In the highest-poverty school districts, as few as 15 percent of students held back in the ninth grade make it to graduation day, according to other research from Johns Hopkins.
Of course, passing those failing boys (and girls) on to 10th grade is no guarantee of success. I think we need catch-up middle schools that prepare kids for high school. And we need a vocational alternative for kids who lack the skills and motivation to pass college-prep classes.