Tracking ninth graders’ progress reduced dropout rates in Chicago schools, reports Education Week. Teachers intervened — calling home to report missed classes, helping with homework and other strategies — before students fell too far behind, according to Preventable Failure, a study by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research.
The number of students deemed to be “on-track” for graduation has risen from 57 percent in 2007 to 82 percent in 2013. Grades have improved for low, average and high achievers.
Following the graduation rates of students at 20 schools, the study found that student gains in the 9th grade continued through the 10th and 11th grades, resulting in increases in the graduation rate ranging from 8 to 20 percentage points in schools that saw early improvements, to up to 13 percentage points in schools that showed improvements later.
African-American males and students with the weakest skills improved the most.
An “on-track” ninth grader has failed no more than one core subject and earned enough credits to be promoted to the 10th grade.
Graduation rates are climbing in Chicago, notes Ed Week. “Last year the city trumpeted its 65.4 percent graduation rate, a figure that surpassed 2013’s 61.2 percent rate and was significantly higher than the 44 percent rate of nearly a decade ago.”
Ninth grade is the “make-it-or-break-it” year for high school students, concludes a second University of Chicago Consortium study, Free to Fail or On-Track to College.
All students struggle with the transition from middle school to high school, the study found. Grades decline significantly, often because students cut school more and study less. But closer monitoring makes a difference, researchers found.
(One) school rearranged the school day, scheduling the advisory period as the first class of the day so that tardiness would not become an issue. A teacher also called home every time a student missed class. And the school implemented a discipline policy that relied less on suspensions. Another school reached out to students who received Fs during the semester to find out why they were failing and craft a plan to get them back on track.
It’s easier for small schools to keep track of all students, but Chicago is doing it in larger schools too.