Mavis Jackson, City Schools’ Director of College Readiness, provides an overview of the district’s 9th Grade On-Track Initiative and the problem this project aims to address:
Imagine a student named Antoine. Antoine is transitioning to high school from an underperforming middle school. Antoine reads on a 5th grade level and computes on a 3rd grade level. In 8th grade, Antoine missed thirty-five days of school and passed all his classes with D’s. This is his first time in the 9th grade. In middle school, Antoine lined up against a wall to transition to classes, he ate lunch with his homeroom class in the cafeteria, and all of his classes were with the same students all day. Today, Antoine is starting his first day of high school. Antoine has an individualized schedule, he can sit where he would like in the cafeteria, he has four classes each semester and none of his classes have the same students in them. During the first month of school, Antoine heard presentations from his school counselor about attendance, grade point average (GPA), credits, and behavior, but he thought he had it under control. “I got through middle school, right?” Fast forward to the end of the school year. Antoine used the same habits from middle school to try to navigate high school. Antoine missed 45 days of school, but instead of D’s, he ended up with F’s. Antoine ended the year with a 1.2 GPA, only 2 high school credits, and not on track to being promoted to the 10th grade. Now Antoine is behind and he must spend the next three years trying to catch up on his course failures, hoping he doesn’t earn any new course failures and trying to change his habits of mind.
This fictional student tells the true story that many young people in Baltimore and across the country face in their transition to high school. The data shows that ninth grade is the most critical grade level in a student’s high school career. The academic, attendance, and behavior patterns students establish during that first year of high school not only have a direct impact on a student’s likelihood of graduating from high school on time, but also on their post-secondary attainment rates. This is why Baltimore City Public Schools has worked to ensure students receive the resources and help they need in 9th grade for success, and why we are grateful to announce a $12 million, multi-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support our work. Funding will be used to:
- Provide teachers with training on how to better connect with and listen to students; use data to identify challenges; and track progress as new ideas to fix the challenges are tested
- Purchase needed resources and programs to address school challenges
- Provide students with College and Career Coaching, beginning in ninth grade
- Support schools as they seek to more equitably serve their students
- Give teachers and school leaders opportunities to visit and learn from peer schools in other cities that have found success with ninth grade
- Strengthen our partnership with Continuous Improvement across additional schools
- Build on the existing literacy improvement community work
- Bring on new staff members to work on this project, and extend what they learn to other schools and programs
Through this project we hope to disrupt racial inequalities by empowering our ninth grade students to feel more connected and heard in school, having stronger relationships with their teachers, and having more access to the resources and programming they need for success. As a result, we believe more ninth graders will remain on-track to graduate and find success in their post-secondary educational journey.