Researchers recommend analyzing existing school district data to understand students’ dropout patterns and what school-related factors might be associated with students’decisions to leave school. In a recent study of Philadelphia high school students, researchers found that a history of retention was a strong predictor of dropping out.
Among students who dropped out, 46 percent were in ninth grade and 33 percent in 10th grade. Although almost half the students who dropped out were ninth graders, it was not their first year in high school. The largest number of dropouts left during their third year, without ever having accumulated enough credits to make it into 10th grade.
When students get past ninth grade, they are far less likely to drop out. In the Philadelphia study, just 11 percent of students who made it to 10th grade were listed as dropouts and 20 percent as possible dropouts. Most students who reached 11th grade graduated from high school.
High-school transition programs may be essential for at-risk ninth-grade students. Such programs include summer bridge programs to help prepare rising ninth graders for the demands of high school. Within a regular high school, a self-contained program that has its own space and faculty and intensive coaching for students who fall behind can help at-risk students succeed. Researchers recommend tracking a group of students over a sustained period of time to pinpoint which school-related factors, such as course choice, increase retention and decrease graduation rates.
“Getting to Tenth,”, Harvard Education Letter, Volume 20, Number 6, November/December 2004, p. 8.
Published in ERN February 2005 Volume 18 Number 2