Ninth grade: Make or break

Ninth grade is the make or break year for students, reports the Portland Oregonian. Of those who earn 5.5 credits of a possible six, 78 percent will go on to earn a diploma. Only 20 percent of students who finish ninth grade with 5 or fewer credits will graduate.

Portland schools are offering “smaller classes, reinforcement in reading and math and personal follow-ups with students who miss class the most” in hopes of keeping low-performing ninth graders on track.

Samantha Steadman goes to Tigard High, which enrolled her in summer school before ninth grade.

. . . she has David Tolbert, a teacher who sees her for a support class every other day.  . . . He knows Sam’s story, including her history of getting in fights and trying drugs, her struggles with spelling and reading.

Tolbert preaches a constant drumbeat of what Sam needs to do and offers her advice and help to complete assignments, turn in homework and work out conflicts with teachers.

Finally, Sam has linguistics class with Marc Jolley.

. . . Jolley’s class targets a hard-core group: Students who’ve reached high school after years of frustration and failure because they read and write at only about a fifth-grade level.

Sam and 18 other students spend 90 minutes with Jolley every day — twice as much as other students spend in freshman English classes.

. . . The material is unrelenting. But these students are on it. Jolley says that’s because they quickly figure out that nose-to-the-grindstone learning in this class pays off.

It’s helping, claims a BridgeSpan report.  Here’s the podcast.

Is ninth grade too late? Failure starts in fourth grade, says an educator of dropouts in this AP story.