Because ninth grade is a make-or-break year for increasing graduation rates, schools with high ninth-grade retention rates face many challenges in improving their graduation rates. In many of these schools there is a mismatch between the number of students who need help and the help available. Ninth-grade retention rates, however, can act as an early warning system for high schools in need of support and also as an early indicator that high school reforms are on-track to improving graduation rates. Reports based on fall enrollment numbers could, in theory, be available before the end of a given school year, providing school officials with real-time indicators of challenge, need, and progress. They would no longer have to wait four years for a graduation rate when it is too late to act.
With the nation’s governors signing the National Governors Association Graduation Compact, and the federal government and organizations such as the Data Quality Campaign, and other advocacy groups leading the efforts to standardize the way student success is measured, better data on graduation rates is on the way. In fact, some states have already begun to use and publish state- and school-level graduation cohort rates, and others will do so soon. While this is good news, a key piece of information is still lacking: annual published counts of the number of first-time ninth-graders at the school-level.
This report is designed to show the potential of what we could learn if ninth-grade retention data were made readily available by states. Because retention data and unadjusted counts of first-time ninth-graders are not yet available, it is still necessary to estimate. By introducing a new approach, the first-time ninth-grade estimate, this study provides state-level estimates of ninth -grade retention and examines school-level rates of ninth-grade retention by location, size, available resources, and socioeconomic and race/ethnic composition.
Download the full report, available here in pdf.