Preventable Failure: Improvements in Long-Term Outcomes when High Schools Focused on the Ninth Grade Year

Research Rundown Issue: March '21
Publisher: UChicago Consortium on Chicago School Research
Date Published: April '14


In 2007, Chicago Public Schools launched an “on track” initiative, centered on keeping more 9th-grade students on track to graduate from high school. Freshmen were considered to be on-track if they had enough credits to be promoted to 10th grade and received no more than one failing grade per semester in a core class—reading, math, science, or social studies. Using these on-track metrics, the district used data to monitor students’ dropout risk throughout 9th grade and encouraged teachers to implement strategies to help students get back on track. To examine the impact of the initiative, researchers used longitudinal data from 2007 to 2013, and found system-wide improvement in 9th-grade on-track rates, as well as grades and graduation rates. These increases were most significant for students of color. On-track rates increased by 28 percentage points for Black males, 21 percentage points for Black females, 25 percentage points for Latino males, and 19 percentage points for Latina females.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

Minnesota has the lowest graduation rates in the country for Black students, the second-lowest for Latino and Indigenous students, and is 40th for Asian students. Fifteen states currently use an on-track measure to help ensure more students graduate from high school on time and Minnesota can better support students by adopting a similar approach. There is currently a bipartisan bill (HF1712/SF1537) that would expand college and career measures in the World’s Best Workforce legislation to include a 9th-grade on-track measure, among others. The bill has received hearings in the House and Senate education committees and is included in the House’s education policy omnibus bill.

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