Many students lose their way academically in ninth grade, never recover, and never graduate high school. Ninth Grade Academies aim to ease the transition into high school by creating smaller learning communities for ninth-graders. This report evaluates one urban school district’s effort to implement this complex reform districtwide.
Urban high schools are in trouble — high dropout rates, low student achievement, and graduates who are unprepared for the world of work are just some of the disappointing indicators. However, this policy memo, part of our “Looking Forward” series, explains how recent research has uncovered a number of approaches to improving student outcomes and reforming underperforming schools.
Lessons from Research on Three Reform Models
Recent MDRC evaluations of three high school reform models — Career Academies, First Things First, and Talent Development — offer hope that comprehensive programs can improve low-performing high schools. This research synthesis for policymakers and practitioners offers practical lessons for creating personalized learning environments, helping struggling freshmen, improving instruction, preparing students for the world beyond high school, and stimulating change in overstressed high schools.
Implications for High School Reform
A Commentary from Chicago
In this paper, prepared for MDRC’s 2005 high school reform conference, Melissa Roderick, Co-Director of the Consortium on Chicago School Research, contends that the primary goal of high school reform should be to close the gap between the high aspirations of minority and low-income public high school students — most of whom want to go to college — and the low numbers who graduate with the skills they need.
An Exploratory Analysis
This analysis of data collected in MDRC’s evaluation of the First Things First reform initiative confirms that high school students’ engagement in school and perceptions of their own academic competence influence their mathematics achievement. The study also suggests that perceived academic competence may be more influential than engagement in boosting achievement in both mathematics and reading.