CREATE A PERSONALIZED AND SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT FOR 9TH GRADE STUDENTS
Consider a schedule that offers 9th graders fewer transitions and fewer courses to manage each term.
Organize 9th grade into small learning communities where cohorts of students share the same courses and same set of teachers. This is especially helpful in larger high schools where multiple 9th Grade Success Teams are important to reach every 9th grader.
9th grade academies create unique learning communities for 9th graders which include their own area of the building, dedicated staffing of 9th grade teachers and support staff, and rite of passage experiences for 9th grade students. This requires training of teachers and support staff, high-priority master scheduling, and authentic family engagement.
9th grade advisories should utilize vetted SEL curriculum to teach students the SEL skills and competencies associated with education success: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision making. They should also teach students about how to be successful in high school through understanding graduation requirements, and how to access grades.
Conduct student-led conferences at least twice a year to showcase student performance (i.e. portfolio, student work samples) and incorporate student-driven academic, action planning, monitoring and reflection.
Every student is assigned to an adult who is responsible for monitoring and supporting that student's academic and personal progress.
Schedule and promote ongoing activities to engage 9th graders and create sense of belonging and group identity.
PROVIDE EARLY PREPARATION FOR HIGH SCHOOL ENTRY
Institute an 8th to 9th grade orientation for students to acclimate them to the school (facilities, programming options, extra-curricular opportunities), teach explicitly what high school "success" means (on-track), and how to access key programs and supports.
Institute a high-impact summer bridge program - a target 4-6 week 8-9th grade summer transition program aimed at strengthening preparation for high school for high-risk 8th graders; for optimal impact, the program should focus on foundational academic skills in ELA and Math while also building the SEL skills known to impact student achievement at the high school level. Students at high risk of 9th grade failure are required to attend the summer bridge program.
Provide an orientation for families to acclimate them to the school (facilities, programming options, extra-curricular opportunities), teach explicitly what high school "success" means (on-track) and how to access key programs and supports.
Conduct summer activities to help students get to know one another and the teachers they will have in 9th grade.
PROVIDE PROACTIVE SUPPORTS
Assign the strongest teachers to 9th grade.
Teachers are given data about incoming students in advance of the start of the school year. This is paired with professional development on how to use the data to create a supportive learning environment for all incoming students.
Provide supervised study hours to all students where they can get help with academic self-management skills (This can be integrated into advisories).
Collect and provide high schools with data on incoming 9th graders in the spring prior to entry.
Set high school admission timeline early enough in the spring so that high schools can receive data about incoming students well before the end of the prior school year.
School leadership, guidance, and key 9th grade team members review data on all incoming students and plan course work and supports accordingly.
Develop partnerships between middle and high school administrators and counselors to identify the collective and individual needs of incoming 9th graders and collaborate to ensure a successful high school transition for all students.
Counselors' work is based on a curriculum that addresses supporting the high school transition, developmental and academic supports, and post-secondary planning.