9th grade: dropout year

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.

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.